Measurements of the inside diameter of the pressure tubes in CANDU reactors have shown that the diameter has been increasing over time, and this phenomena has been explained as a creep phenomenon which is a kind of aging process of the pressure tube owing to the operating conditions of irradiation by neutron flux, high pressure, and high temperature over the plant life. The diameter expansion of the pressure tube has been regarded as a principle aging mechanism governing the heat transfer and hydraulic degradation within the primary heat transport system of the CANDU reactor. Diametrical expansion results in a reduction of the fuel cooling owing to the increased bypass flow, which increases the possibility of a fuel dry-out and thus limits the operating power of the reactor.
In order to explain the mechanism of the creep phenomena of the pressure tube, traditionally the creep deformation has been modeled as a combination of thermal creep, irradiation creep and irradiation growth. However, this modeling approach is too complex to determine all parameters and constants which are relevant to the equation.
In this research, we proposed a very simple approach for modeling the pressure tube diameter deformation in which the pressure tube diameter was modeled based on the measured data, flux distribution of each fuel channel and temperature variation inside the pressure tube.
New rules were derived to determine the effect of flux and temperature distribution on the diameter expansion based on the measured data of pressure tube diameter. Results from applying the methodology show a dramatic improvement of the prediction accuracy of pressure tube diameter compared to the previous modeling results.