Zr-2.5Nb pressure tubes in CANDU 1 reactors are susceptible to hydride formation when the solubility of hydrogen in the pressure tube material is exceeded. As temperature decreases, the propensity to hydride formation increases due to the decreasing solubility of hydrogen in the Zr-2.5Nb matrix. Experiments have shown that the presence of hydrides is associated with reduction in the fracture toughness of Zr-2.5Nb pressure tubes below normal operating temperatures. Cohesive-zone approach has recently been used to address this effect. Using this approach, the reduction in fracture toughness due to hydrides was modeled by a decrease in the cohesive-zone restraining stress caused by the hydride fracture and subsequent failure of matrix ligaments between the fractured hydrides. As part of the cohesive-zone model development, the ligament thickness, as represented by the radial spacing between adjacent fractured circumferential hydrides, was characterized quantitatively. Optical micrographs were prepared from post-tested fracture toughness specimens, and quantitative metallography was performed to characterize the hydride morphology in the radial-circumferential plane of the pressure tube. In the material with a relatively low fraction of radial hydrides, further analysis was performed to characterize the radial spacing between adjacent fractured circumferential hydrides. The discrete empirical distributions were established and parameterized using continuous probability density functions. The resultant parametric distributions of radial hydride spacing were then used to infer the proportion of matrix ligaments, whose thickness would not exceed the threshold value for low-energy failure. This paper describes the methodology used in this assessment and discusses its results.

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