Reliability Assessment of Remote Visual Examination (NUREG/CR-7246, PNNL-27003)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: November 2017
Date Published: August 2018

Prepared by:
P. Ramuhalli
P. G. Heasler
T. L. Moran
A. E. Holmes
M. T. Anderson

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
P.O. Box 999
Richland, WA 99352

Carol A. Nove, NRC Project Manager

Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington DC 20555-0001

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Remote visual testing (RVT) is a commonly used nondestructive examination method for inservice inspection (ISI) of reactor internals to detect cracking and gross component failures. Despite widespread use, the detection reliability of RVT and the factors that impact overall RVT performance have been unresolved issues. This report describes the results from an assessment sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in cooperation with the Electric Power Research Institute, for evaluating the reliability of RVT methods currently being used for [reactor] in-vessel visual inspection.

The goal was to assess the performance of commercially applied RVT examination procedures implemented by qualified personnel, as well as to identify and qualitatively assess enhancements to examination procedures for detecting flaws in test specimens. The assessment was performed over three phases of research, with the results of the first phase used to identify key controllable parameters impacting RVT performance and to design the next two phases (round-robin testing). Participants in the round-robin tests included teams of inspectors from commercial nuclear power ISI vendors. Participants were asked to determine if a specimen contained a crack and its approximate location, orientation, and length. The detection and location information were used to compute estimates of the probability of detection and false call probability for various scenarios such as the placement and orientation of the flaw on the specimen, team-to-team variations in detection performance, and effects of secondary review on RVT detection.

Results showed that crack opening displacement (COD) is the dominant factor in the reliability of crack detection using commercially applied RVT procedures, with crack length being weakly correlated with detection probability. The implication is that RVT detection is likely heavily dependent on the contrast produced by the crack opening, with crack detection becoming less reliable as the COD decreases. Further, the results indicated RVT will be challenged when cracks are located in the vicinity of surface features such as scratches or weld ripples, or close to the edge of welds where shadowing and/or the presence of weld undercuts may complicate the ability to detect the crack. The assessment also reinforced earlier findings on the importance of lighting in flaw detection and appeared to align with other studies that find improved reliability when using multiple inspectors or analysts. Finally, the results pointed to the importance of practice with specimens that mimic conditions likely to be found in the field. Based on the findings and limitations of the assessment, a number of recommendations are made regarding best practices for improving the reliability of RVT in a field setting and for addressing remaining informational gaps.

This report describes the design and noted limitations of the three phases of research, the analysis methodology for each phase, and the results of the research. The results of this assessment provide a benchmark set of data on the reliability of RVT for detecting cracking, assuming the implementation of field-like inspection procedures. The likely impact of several uncontrolled factors on RVT detection performance are discussed, and recommendations regarding the use of these results to assess field performance are provided. Finally, recent advances in RVT technology are briefly discussed and point to the potential need for continued research to evaluate the capability and effectiveness of the technique as improvements are implemented.

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