United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Assessment of Void Swelling in Austenitic Stainless Steel Core Internals (NUREG/CR-6897, ANL-04/28)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: December 2004
Date Published: January 2006

Prepared by:
H.M. Chung

Energy Technology Division
Argonne National Laboratory
9700 South Cass Avenue
Argonne, Illinois 60439

W.H. Cullen, Jr., NRC Project Manager

Prepared for:
Division of Engineering Technology
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

NRC Job Code Y6388

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As many pressurized water reactors (PWRs) age and life extension of the aged plants is considered, void swelling behavior of austenitic stainless steel (SS) core internals has become the subject of increasing attention. In this report, the available database on void swelling and density change of austenitic SSs was critically reviewed. Irradiation conditions, test procedures, and microstructural characteristics were carefully examined, and key factors that are important to determine the relevance of the database to PWR conditions were evaluated. Most swelling data were obtained from steels irradiated in fast breeder reactors at temperatures >385°C and at dose rates that are orders of magnitude higher than PWR dose rates. Even for a given irradiation temperature and given steel, the integral effects of dose and dose rate on void swelling should not be separated. It is incorrect to extrapolate swelling data on the basis of “progressive compounded multiplication” of separate effects of factors such as dose, dose rate, temperature, steel composition, and fabrication procedure. Therefore, the fast reactor data should not be extrapolated to determine credible void swelling behavior for PWR end-of-life (EOL) or life-extension conditions.

Although the void swelling data extracted from fast reactor studies is extensive and conclusive, only limited amounts of swelling data and information have been obtained on microstructural characteristics from discharged PWR internals or steels irradiated at temperatures and at dose rates comparable to those of a PWR. Based on this relatively small amount of information, swelling in thin-walled tubes and baffle bolts in a PWR is not considered a concern. As additional data and relevant research becomes available, the newer results should be integrated with existing data, and the worthiness of this conclusion should continue to be scrutinized. PWR baffle reentrant corners are the most likely location to experience high swelling rates, and hence, high swelling at EOL, especially in internal regions of small volume where irradiation temperature is high. However, it is considered unlikely that void swelling in a reentrant corner will exceed the threshold level of ≈4% beyond which the swelling rate reaches the steady state rate of 1%/dpa. However, this estimation is only preliminary, and a more accurate quantification of maximum temperature of reentrant corners at EOL and life-extension situations would be useful.

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