Surface scratches and flaws encountered in CANDU nuclear pressure tubes must be evaluated to ensure that a cracking mechanism, called delayed hydride cracking (DHC), is not initiated. The stress concentration due to a flaw can cause diffusion of hydrogen and precipitation of zirconium hydride at the flaw tip. The presence of a hydride results in reduced fracture resistance in a local region where high stress prevails. In many cases, flaws exist for an extended period of time before the hydrogen content in the base material is sufficient to form a hydride. In this situation high stress creep can significantly relax the local stress at the flaw tip. The assessment of flaws on the basis of local stress distribution not considering creep is expected to be overly conservative, and may result in unnecessary remedial action in reactor operation and maintenance procedures. An experimental program has been developed to isolate and quantify the effect of creep on DHC in irradiated Zr-2.5%Nb pressure tube material. As part of this program, the thermal and load histories relevant to reactor operating conditions have been considered, and initial experimental results indicate that the action of creep increases the threshold load for crack initiation. Finite element analysis of creep relaxation around a hydride also supports the experimental results, and a fracture initiation model is applied to the experimental conditions in order to establish an analytical trend for the effect of creep. The quantitative effect predicted by the model is in reasonable agreement with the experimental results, and an improved, less conservative assessment procedure that accounts for creep is deemed to be practical.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.