Non-destructive testing measurements in the Belgian nuclear power plants Doel 3 and Tihange 2 revealed a high quantity of indications in the upper and lower core shells of the reactor pressure vessels. The most likely explanation is that the indications are hydrogen flakes positioned in segregated zones of the base material of the pressure vessel. These hydrogen flakes have a laminar and quasi-laminar orientation to the pressure retaining surface. Under mechanical loading the crack tips undergo predominantly mixed mode loading conditions, where the induced stress and strain fields of the single crack tips influence each other. Due to these specific loading conditions, the assumptions for classical standardized fracture mechanical methods are not met. Currently, there is no verified concept for the evaluation of such kind of crack fields.

Therefore the mechanical behavior of components with laminar crack fields and the interaction of cracks in such crack fields are investigated in an ongoing research project. Relevant parameters to describe crack fields in terms of crack size, crack location and crack orientation are derived from literature and own nondestructive measurements. Damage mechanical approaches are used in finite element calculations to investigate the interaction of cracks. Advanced damage mechanical models will be used to investigate crack initiation, crack growth and coalescence of cracks in crack fields. According to the results, representative parameters for crack fields will be derived and critical crack formations determined. The results will be evaluated and compared with state of the art approaches and standards.

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