A Review of the Effects of Radiation on Microstructure and Properties of Concretes Used in Nuclear Power Plants (NUREG/CR-7171)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: August 2013
Date Published: November 2013

Prepared by:
Kaspar William
University of Houston
Department of Civil and Environmental
Houston, TX 77204-4003

Yunping Xi
University of Colorado
Department of Civil, Environmental
and Architectural Engineering
Boulder, CO 80309-0428

Dan Naus
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Materials Science and Technology Division
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6069

Herman L. Graves, III, NRC Technical Monitor

NRC Job Code N6978

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

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The current understanding of the effects of radiation on concrete materials is summarized. Much of the research related to this topic was conducted from the 1960s into the 1970s in support of development of prestressed concrete reactor vessels for high-temperature reactors and radioactive waste storage facilities. From the 1970s until 2012, the efforts addressed development of computational models of radiation damage to concrete and assessment of the effects of radiation on concrete durability. Concrete structures used as biological shields and as support for the reactor pressure vessel in current light-water reactor plants are subjected to two types of radiation, gamma and neutron. Gamma and neutron radiation are described, and their interactions with concrete constituents are noted. A summary of the effects of neutron and gamma radiation on the mechanical and physical properties of concrete is provided. Information is presented on thermal effects due to gamma heating of the concrete. Coupling effects of mechanical loading, thermal effect, moisture content, and radiation are described, and an example provided using a computational model to indicate radiation damage in a shield for a next-generation nuclear facility. Nondestructive testing methods are identified for assessment of the condition of reinforced concrete structures. Radiation limits for neutron and gamma exposure are listed. Finally, recommendations are provided to (1) expand the very limited database on the effect of neutron and gamma radiation on concrete’s microstructure and mechanical and physical properties, (2) conduct calculations to establish the neutron and gamma fields that develop in concrete shields and support structures after various operating periods, and (3) quantify the interaction of temperature and irradiation effects.

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