Ever-increasing requirements for reliability and safety of equipment in nuclear power plants (NPP) dictate a necessity to obtain reliable and validated information about the condition of materials in the most safety-relevant and economically vital systems structures and components (SSC). Thus it is a state of science and technology approach to use one method, one methodic and one methodology to facilitate these goals with the purpose of keeping NPPs operating safely by virtue of knowing the state of ageing they are in (with respect to design limits and margins). Method of the control/measurement/testing - how to conduct measurements; methodic - how to interpret the results of measurement; methodology - the program of the control/inspection and testing programmes: localities to conduct the tests, how often, and to follow evolution of test results with the aim of acting before a failure occurs. Such methodology should be based on the use of specimen-free nondestructive method of the inspection (control), which could be used successfully at all stages of life cycle of the equipment: manufacturing, construction, installation of NPP, operation and during the NPP operation through integration into the Plant Life Management (PLiM) programme [1]. It will facilitate a real picture of change (degradation) of a SSC material’s condition in the zones subjected to the harschest stressors (neutron irradiation, erosion-corrosion/flow, thermal fatigue, vibration etc). Currently, there are various approaches used in the world to follow NPP ageing degradation, but until now, no specific methodology is used that could supply all the necessary information [2]. Therefore, there is no way to use various results. Thanks to considerable advances over the last 20 years or so, the science of hardness testing offers an elegant, non-destructive way to obtain vital materials properties — even in-situ on operating SSC [3–6]. In particular, the material’s elastic-plastic condition may be measured, giving indications on tensile yield stress elevation due to hardening and also loss in ductility. The work-hardening index may be easily obtained, giving information on the ability of the material (e.g. pressure vessel steel and weld) to deform plastically without brittle fracture. Taking into account the experience of the Center of Material Science and Lifetime Management Ltd. (CMSLM Ltd.) in the use of methods of hardness testing for the inspection of the equipment of NPP of Russian manufacture in Russia, Germany, Czech, Slovakia, Bulgaria [7], and also similar successful works in this direction in USA (Oakridge) [8], to Czech (NRI Rez) and other countries, it can be seen that the most promising direction in the field of specimen-free inspection of mechanical properties by use of hardness and hardness-related characteristics is use of the kinetic indentation method (KIM, ABIT). This method is based on recording the process of elastoplastic deformation caused by the indentation of a ball indenter. This method allows one to obtain, besides hardness values, tensile properties, elongation, work hardening coefficient, true-stress/true strain diagrammes which normally required the destructive testing of small specimens. However, till now there is no universal method of interpreting the information obtained, although it is generally known that irradiation causes a loss in ductility and increase in hardness and lowering of the work-hardening coefficient. Thus, it is necessary to develop a uniform methodology of using KIM, ABIT with reference to the inspection of materials which will allow to unify the inspection of materials of various classes of the equipment of NPP over all stages of life cycle. With the purpose of introduction of such a methodology it is necessary to develop and realize the program in the frames of IAEA with the above name.

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