Defect tolerance assessments are carried out to support the demonstration of structural integrity for high integrity components such as nuclear reactor pressure vessels. These assessments often consider surface-breaking defects and assess Stress Intensity Factors (SIFs) at both the surface and deepest points. This can be problematic when there is a high stress at the surface, for example due to the stress concentration at the root of a screw thread. In the past this has led to the development of complex and costly 3D finite element analyses to calculate more accurate SIFs, and still resulting in small apparent limiting defect sizes based on initiation at the surface point.
Analysis has been carried out along with supporting materials testing, to demonstrate that the increased SIF at the surface point is offset by a reduction in crack-tip constraint, such that the material exhibits a higher apparent fracture toughness. This enables a more simplistic assessment which reduces the effective SIF at the surface such that only the SIF at the deepest point needs to be considered for many defects. This then leads to larger calculated limiting defect sizes. This in turn leads to a more robust demonstration of structural integrity, as the limiting defect sizes are consistent with the capability of non-destructive examination techniques.
An overview of the supporting materials testing is provided in an accompanying paper. The accompanying paper details how it was not possible to demonstrate the required material response with conventional tests, such as those using shallow-notched bend specimens. Instead it was necessary to develop modified specimens in which semi-elliptical defects were introduced into a geometry which replicated the notch acuity at the root of a screw thread. These tests were used to quantify the stud materials sensitivity to constraint. Conventional three-point bend tests were also seen to confirm these values.
A series of R6 constraint modified assessments have been considered to understand the benefit from including a loss of constraint, particularly when assessing the surface breaking SIF. This has necessitated a series of complex finite element analyses to define the elastic SIF as well as the elastic constraint parameter, T-Stress, T. Further verification analyses have also been performed to determine the equivalent elastic-plastic J and Q parameters. These have been used to provide guidance on how best to assess surface breaking defects within studs. This has shown that the increased perceived toughness at the surface location means that under the majority of conditions, the assessment can simply be based upon the SIF at the depth location using high constraint fracture toughness.
This paper provides an overview of the process undertaken to provide simplified guidance on assessing defects within studs that allows benefit from constraint loss.