Flaws found during in-service inspection of CANDU(1) Zr-2.5Nb pressure tubes include fuel bundle scratches, debris fretting flaws, fuel bundle bearing pad fretting flaws and crevice corrosion flaws. These flaws are volumetric and blunt in nature. Crack initiation from in-service flaws can be caused by the presence of hydrogen in operating pressure tubes and resultant formation of hydrided regions at the flaw tips during reactor heat-up and cool-down cycles. Zr-2.5Nb pressure tubes in the as-manufactured condition contain hydrogen as an impurity element. During operation, the pressure tube absorbs deuterium, which is a hydrogen isotope, from the corrosion reaction of the zirconium with the heavy water coolant. In addition, deuterium ingresses into the pressure tube in the rolled joint region. The level of hydrogen isotope in pressure tubes increases with operating time.
Over the years, Canadian CANDU industry has carried out extensive experimental and analytical programs to develop evaluation procedures for crack initiation from in-service flaws in Zr-2.5Nb pressure tubes. Crack initiation experiments were performed on pressure tube specimens with machined notches to quantify resistance to crack initiation under various simulated flaw geometries and operating conditions such as operating load and hydrogen concentration. Predictive engineering models for crack initiation have been developed based on understandings of crack initiation and experimental data. A set of technical requirements, including engineering procedures and acceptance criteria, for evaluation of crack initiation from in-service flaws in operating pressure tubes has been developed and implemented in the CSA Standard N285.8. A high level review of the development of these flaw evaluation procedures is described in this paper. Operating experience with the application of the developed flaw evaluation procedure is also provided.