During the summer outages of 2012, large numbers of nearly-laminar indications were found in the core shells of the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactor pressure vessels (RPV). As a consequence, both units remained in cold shutdown with their core unloaded. A series of examinations, tests and inspections were performed leading to the conclusion that the indications are hydrogen flakes and that they do not affect the structural integrity of the RPV, regardless of the operating mode, transient or accident condition. All this was documented in the Safety Case reports issued in December 2012 and in the Safety Case Addenda issued in April 2013 . Based on those reports, the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) authorized the restart of both units which went back on-line in June 2013.
A key input required for this Safety Case was the definition of the appropriate material properties, in particular fracture toughness, for the RPV shells affected by hydrogen flakes. A material testing program on non-irradiated materials evaluated aspects like the possible effects of macro-segregations and local segregations (ghost lines) and of specimen orientation on the fracture toughness. The irradiation embrittlement sensitivity of the zone of macro-segregation in which the flakes are located was evaluated on the basis of the maximum enrichment in Cu, P and Ni in macro-segregations based on literature data. This was the basis of the trend curve of RTNDT evolution vs. fluence used in the Safety Cases submitted in 2012–2013.
The restart authorization in 2013 was accompanied by a number of “mid-term” requirements, to be completed during the first operating cycle after the restart. One of these requirements was the mechanical testing of irradiated specimens containing hydrogen flakes, in order to confirm the conservativeness of the RTNDT trend curve used for the structural integrity analyses.
After a first irradiation campaign of a material containing hydrogen flakes in the BR2 reactor of the Belgian Nuclear Research Center SCK.CEN, atypical results were obtained and the utility decided to shut down the units in March 2014. Detailed investigations involving three additional irradiation campaigns in BR2 including other reference materials, among which another material affected by hydrogen flakes, were performed in order to characterize this atypical behaviour and to derive a new conservative RTNDT trend curve. The resulting trend curve was accepted by the FANC and was used in the 2015 Safety Cases . An overview of the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 safety cases is given in .
The paper summarizes the results of the material investigations on non-irradiated and irradiated materials and the process leading to the definition of this conservative RTNDT trend curve.