The increasing age of the European NPPs and envisaged lifetime extensions up to 80 years require an improved understanding of RPV irradiation embrittlement effects connected with long term operation (LTO). Phenomena which might become important at high neutron fluences (such as late blooming effects and flux effects) must be considered adequately in the safety assessments. Therefore the project LONGLIFE was initiated within the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission. The project aims at: i) improved knowledge on LTO phenomena relevant for European reactors; ii) assessment of prediction tools, codes, standards and surveillance guidelines. In the paper, we give an overview of the project structure and the related tasks. Furthermore we present two examples for the experimental evidence of LTO relevant phenomena: the first example is related to the flux dependence of defect cluster formation in a neutron irradiated weld material. We have found that the size of the irradiation induced defects exhibits a flux effect whereas the mechanical properties are almost independent of the flux. The second example refers to the acceleration of irradiation hardening after exceeding a threshold fluence. This effect was observed by means of both small angle neutron scattering (SANS) and tensile testing for low Cu RPV steels irradiated at a temperature of 255 °C. These examples demonstrate that LTO irradiation effects have to be investigated in more detail to guarantee the applicability of the embrittlement surveillance guidelines beyond 40 years of operation.

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