Low alloy steels are extensively used in pressure boundary components of nuclear power plants. The structural integrity of the components made of low alloy steels can be evaluated by the procedure of flaw evaluation provided by Section XI of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. According to the Code, the range of stress intensity factor ΔK can be used to determine the fatigue crack growth rates of the material. However, it has been reported that crack closure behavior also strongly influence the fatigue crack growth rate under strong compressive load cycles.
This paper discusses the relation between ΔK and the fatigue crack growth rate for cracks in low alloy steels exposed to air. Compressive-tensile cyclic loadings were applied to center-notched plates to obtain the fatigue crack growth curves. The test data demonstrated that effective SIF range ΔKeff more accurately described the crack growth property due to plasticity induced crack closure. Comparing the test results with the reference crack growth curves in the ASME Code Section XI, it may seem that the crack growth prediction based on the Code underestimates the crack growth rates for compressive-tensile cyclic loadings under high stress level.