Materials Degradation in Light Water Reactors: Life After 60,???

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Nuclear reactors present a very harsh environment for components service. Components within a reactor core must tolerate high temperature water, stress, vibration, and an intense neutron field. Degradation of materials in this environment can lead to reduced performance, and in some cases, sudden failure. A recent EPRI-led study interviewed 47 US nuclear utility executives to gauge perspectives on long-term operation of nuclear reactors. Nearly 90% indicated that extensions of reactor lifetimes to beyond 60 years were likely. When polled on the most challenging issues facing further life extension, two-thirds cited plant reliability as the key issue with materials aging and ... continued below

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Busby, Jeremy T; Nanstad, Randy K; Stoller, Roger E; Feng, Zhili & Naus, Dan J April 1, 2008.

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Nuclear reactors present a very harsh environment for components service. Components within a reactor core must tolerate high temperature water, stress, vibration, and an intense neutron field. Degradation of materials in this environment can lead to reduced performance, and in some cases, sudden failure. A recent EPRI-led study interviewed 47 US nuclear utility executives to gauge perspectives on long-term operation of nuclear reactors. Nearly 90% indicated that extensions of reactor lifetimes to beyond 60 years were likely. When polled on the most challenging issues facing further life extension, two-thirds cited plant reliability as the key issue with materials aging and cable/piping as the top concerns for plant reliability. Materials degradation within a nuclear power plant is very complex. There are many different types of materials within the reactor itself: over 25 different metal alloys can be found with can be found within the primary and secondary systems, not to mention the concrete containment vessel, instrumentation and control, and other support facilities. When this diverse set of materials is placed in the complex and harsh environment coupled with load, degradation over an extended life is indeed quite complicated. To address this issue, the USNRC has developed a Progressive Materials Degradation Approach (NUREG/CR-6923). This approach is intended to develop a foundation for appropriate actions to keep materials degradation from adversely impacting component integrity and safety and identify materials and locations where degradation can reasonably be expected in the future. Clearly, materials degradation will impact reactor reliability, availability, and potentially, safe operation. Routine surveillance and component replacement can mitigate these factors, although failures still occur. With reactor life extensions to 60 years or beyond or power uprates, many components must tolerate the reactor environment for even longer times. This may increase susceptibility for most components and may introduce new degradation modes. While all components (except perhaps the reactor vessel) can be replaced, it may not be economically favorable. Therefore, understanding, controlling, and mitigating materials degradation processes are key priorities for reactor operation, power uprate considerations, and life extensions. This document is written to give an overview of some of the materials degradation issues that may be key for extend reactor service life. A detailed description of all the possible forms of degradation is beyond the scope of this short paper and has already been described in other documents (for example, the NUREG/CR-6923). The intent of this document is to present an overview of current materials issues in the existing reactor fleet and a brief analysis of the potential impact of extending life beyond 60 years. Discussion is presented in six distinct areas: (1) Reactor pressure vessel; (2) Reactor core and primary systems; (3) Reactor secondary systems; (4) Weldments; (5) Concrete; and (6) Modeling and simulations. Following each of these areas, some research thrust directions to help identify and mitigate lifetime extension issues are proposed. Note that while piping and cabling are important for extended service, these components are discussed in more depth in a separate paper. Further, the materials degradation issues associated with fuel cladding and fuel assemblies are not discussed in this section as these components are replaced periodically and will not influence the overall lifetime of the reactor.

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  • Report No.: ORNL/TM-2008/170
  • Grant Number: DE-AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/938766 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 938766
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc900274

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Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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Creation Date

  • April 1, 2008

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

Description Last Updated

  • Oct. 28, 2016, 2:27 p.m.

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Busby, Jeremy T; Nanstad, Randy K; Stoller, Roger E; Feng, Zhili & Naus, Dan J. Materials Degradation in Light Water Reactors: Life After 60,???, report, April 1, 2008; [Tennessee]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc900274/: accessed November 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.