Continuous improvement of the structural integrity evaluation methodology in the plant life management (PLM) evaluations is of increasing importance for aged light water reactors. In PLM evaluations, structural integrity evaluations are required for degradation mechanisms considered in the subject equipment and components. Austenitic stainless steels used in reactor internal components are known to show decreases in ductility and fracture toughness due to accumulated neutron irradiation damage. In Japan, “Rules on Fitness-for-Service for Nuclear Power Plants of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers Code (JSME FFS Code)” provides fracture evaluation method and criterion, based on the linear elastic fracture mechanics, for irradiated stainless steels of boiling water reactor (BWR) internal components. The fracture toughness criterion, however, was developed with limited materials testing data and knowledge available at that time and it has not been revised since the code originally established.

In this study, fracture toughness criteria for structural integrity evaluation were discussed and developed with the latest database on fracture toughness of irradiated austenitic stainless steels, including additional material testing data obtained in this study for the neutron fluence range of interest from 1 to 3 dpa. First, the fracture toughness data of austenitic stainless steels irradiated in BWR conditions were compiled to evaluate the correlation between fracture toughness and neutron fluence. Material characteristics potentially affecting fracture toughness, such as chemical composition and specimen orientation, were also considered and discussed in the development of the fracture toughness criteria. Based on the results, the fracture toughness criteria for irradiated austenitic stainless steels were proposed for fracture evaluation of the BWR internal components.

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