Probability of Fracture and Life Extension Estimate of the High-Flux Isotope Reactor Vessel

[+] Author and Article Information
S.-J. Chang

Research Reactors Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, MS 6399, P.O. Box 2008, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6399

J. Pressure Vessel Technol 120(3), 290-296 (Aug 01, 1998) (7 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2842060 History: Received February 04, 1997; Revised April 21, 1998; Online February 11, 2008


The state of the vessel steel embrittlement as a result of neutron irradiation can be measured by its increase in ductile-brittle transition temperature (DBTT) for fracture, often denoted by RTNDT for carbon steel. This transition temperature can be calibrated by the drop-weight test and, sometimes, by the Charpy impact test. The life extension for the high-flux isotope reactor (HFIR) vessel is calculated by using the method of fracture mechanics that is incorporated with the effect of the DBTT change. The failure probability of the HFIR vessel is limited as the life of the vessel by the reactor core melt probability of 10−4 . The operating safety of the reactor is ensured by periodic hydrostatic pressure test (hydrotest). The hydrotest is performed in order to determine a safe vessel static pressure. The fracture probability as a result of the hydrostatic pressure test is calculated and is used to determine the life of the vessel. Failure to perform hydrotest imposes the limit on the life of the vessel. The conventional method of fracture probability calculations such as that used by the NRC-sponsored PRAISE CODE and the FAVOR CODE developed in this Laboratory are based on the Monte Carlo simulation. Heavy computations are required. An alternative method of fracture probability calculation by direct probability integration is developed in this paper. The present approach offers simple and expedient ways to obtain numerical results without losing any generality. This approach provides a clear analytical expression on the physical random variables to be integrated, yet requires much less computation time. In this paper, numerical results on 1) the probability of vessel fracture, 2) the hydrotest time interval, and 3) the hydrotest pressure as a result of the DBTT increase are obtained. Limiting the probabilities of the vessel fracture as a result of hydrotest to 10−4 implies that the reactor vessel life can be extended up to 50 EFPY (100 MW) with the minimum vessel operating temperature equal to 85°F.

Copyright © 1998 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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