This paper deals with the evaluation of material properties of safety-related components of the primary circuit of nuclear power plants (NPP) such as reactor pressure vessel (RPV), primary piping (PP) or steam generator (SG).
The main degradation mechanism of NPP’s components is radiation damage, but these processes are situated only in the core region of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV). The main mechanical loading of all individual parts of NPP’s primary circuit are the influence of high pressure at elevated temperature till 300°C. These processes lead to the fatigue damage of structural materials, which is characterized as the thermal fatigue or thermal ageing.
The reactors in Slovakia have been behind several decades in operation. Therefore, to ensure the safe and reliable operation of NPP, it is necessary to monitor and evaluate these changes.
While the monitoring of the radiation degradation is standardly performed using surveillance programs during all plant life operation, the monitoring of thermal ageing at primary circuit components was realized only after few years of all NPP units operation.
The concept of the thermal ageing assessment was divided into two possible approaches to evaluation. The first is long-term exposition of surveillance specimens. And the second approach is a direct surface sampling of heavy components after several years of operation.
The Small Punch Test (SPT) methods are mainly used for evaluation of materials actual state. By the SPT technique it is possible to evaluate the basic tensile properties as the ultimate tensile strength and the yield stress of the tested materials from a very small amount of obtained material.
The details of the original VUJE design program of thermal ageing monitoring of NPP primary circuit materials in Slovakia is described in this paper.