During the 2012 outages at Doel 3 and Tihange 2 Nuclear Power Plants, a large number of quasi-laminar indications were detected, mainly in the lower and upper core shells of the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs). The observed indications could subsequently be attributed to hydrogen flaking induced during the component manufacturing process. As a consequence, both units remained core unloaded pending the elaboration of an extensive Safety Case demonstrating that they can be safely operated.

The Structural Integrity Assessment of the RPVs, through the Flaw Acceptability Assessment, aimed at demonstrating that the identified indications do not jeopardize the integrity of the reactor vessel in all operating modes, transients and accident conditions. This demonstration has been done on the basis of a specific methodology inspired by the ASME B&PV Code Section XI procedure but adapted to the nature and the number of indications found in the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 RPVs.

As requested by Article IWB-3610(a) of ASME B&PV Code Section XI, one of the parts that have to be addressed through the Flaw Acceptability Assessment is the Fatigue Crack Growth (FCG) Analysis of the flaws in the core shells until the end-of-service lifetime of the RPVs. Due to the large number of flaws in the core shells, a specific methodology has been developed in order not to perform the FCG Analysis of each flaw separately.

The paper describes this simplified approach aiming at distributing the flaws according to their inclination and at defining envelope flaws covering the actual flaws to carry out FCG Analysis. Furthermore, the paper highlights and quantifies the conservatisms of this analysis leading finally to demonstrate that the FCG of hydrogen flakes is not a concern in Doel 3 and Tihange 2 RPVs.

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