During the 2012 outage of the Belgian nuclear power plants (NPP) Doel 3 and Tihange 2 non-destructive testing (NDT) measurements revealed a high quantity of indications in the upper and lower core shells of the reactor pressure vessels (RPV). A root cause analysis leads to the most likely hypothesis that the indications are hydrogen flakes in segregated zones of the RPV ferritic base material. The laminar and quasi-laminar orientation (0° – 15° inclination to the pressure retaining surface) of the hydrogen flakes, the interaction of several adjacent flakes and the mechanical loading conditions lead to a mixed-mode behavior at the crack tips.

In the framework of an ongoing research project, experimental and numerical investigations are conducted with the aim to describe the failure behavior of such complex crack configurations. The experiments are carried out using two ferritic materials. One is a non-irradiated representative RPV steel (SA 508 Class 2) and the second material is a special lower bound melt of a modified 22NiMoCr3-7 steel (FKS test melt KS 07 C) containing hydrogen flakes. A material characterization is done for both materials including tensile specimens, notched round bars, shear-, torsion- and compact-tension-shear (CTS) - specimens to investigate different stress states. Furthermore, flat tensile specimens with eroded artificial crack fields are used to investigate the interaction between the cracks in different arranged crack fields. Numerical simulations are carried out with extended micromechanical based damage mechanics models. For the description of ductile failure an enhanced Rousselier model is used and an enhanced Beremin model to calculate the probability of cleavage fracture. To account the sensitivity for low stress triaxiality damage by shear loading, the Rousselier model was enhanced with a term to account for damage evolution by shear. The Beremin model will be enhanced with a term to account for different levels of triaxiality. For the numerical simulations in the transition region of ductile-to-brittle failure a coupled damage mechanics model (enhanced Rousselier and Beremin) will be used. In this paper, the current status of the ongoing research project and first results are presented.

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