Thermal embrittlement of cast austenitic stainless steels (CASS) can occur at reactor operating temperatures potentially leading to a reduction in their fracture toughness. Some aged CASS materials have the potential to have exceedingly low toughness and also show high toughness variability due to the nature of their microstructure. The experimentally measured JIc values for CASS materials showed a large scatter when plotted against ferrite number (FN) or chrome equivalent number (Creq). Because of their low aged toughness with such a large variability, flaw evaluations of CASS material needs to be done carefully, especially since most US PWR nuclear plants have been given plant-life extensions for 60-year operation, and consideration of further extension to 80 years is underway. However, the ASME Section XI Appendix C flaw acceptance criterion currently does not have a recommended procedure for flaw evaluation for CASS materials with FN ≥ 20, and the Working Group recognizes that the changes might also be needed for CASS with FN less than 20.
In this paper, a flaw evaluation procedure for fully aged CASS materials is presented using JIc values at LWR operating temperatures predicted from several existing thermal-aging toughness degradation models. All available thermal aging models for CASS materials were evaluated which predict fully aged (lower saturated toughness condition) fracture toughness of CASS based on their chemical compositions. A set of 20 experimental test data was analyzed by using all models to find the most accurate thermal aging models. Using the most accurate models, correlations between predicted JIc values and French Creq-Fr and ASTM A800 FN were developed from a database of 274 pipe/elbows in US PWR plants whose chemical compositions were known. Finally, the correlation was used to determine the elastic-plastic fracture correction factor (Z factor) for CASS pipe and fittings as a function of pipe diameter and their chemical compositions from material certification sheet using the Dimensionless-Plastic-Zone-Parameter (DPZP) analysis. The DPZP analysis is a relatively simple curve-fitting procedure through full-scale circumferential surface-cracked pipe tests developed in pipe fracture projects funded by the USNRC, and was checked against a full-scale aged CF8m pipe fracture test. After determining the chemical composition specific Z factor for CASS materials, the flaw evaluation can be performed according to the ASME Section XI Appendix C procedures.