Nuclear reactor pressure vessel (RPV) steels degrade due to neutron irradiation during normal operation. As a result, the ductile-brittle transition curve of the steel shifts to higher temperature which decreases operation margins in both the temperature and pressure. The loss of these margins however can be offset somewhat by appealing to arguments based on constraint of potential/postulated shallow cracks. In this paper, we demonstrate that the fracture toughness values for ASME postulated shallow flaws are higher than those determined from high constraint, standard deep cracked test specimens. The J-A2 three-term solution is used to characterize the crack-tip stress field where J represents the level of loading and A2 quantifies the level of constraint. It is shown that shallow (deep) flaws have lower (higher) constraint and A2. Based on the RKR cleavage model, procedures to quantify the temperature shift between specimens with different constraint levels are developed. The experimental data by Sherry et al. [1] for the A533B RPV steel are used to demonstrate the procedure and it is shown that the ductile-brittle transition curve shifts to lower temperature from high constraint to low constraint specimens.

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