Miniature compact tension (Mini-C(T)) specimen can be an effective tool by utilizing together with Master Curve (MC) methodology for fracture toughness evaluation of irradiated reactor pressure vessel (RPV) steels. Recently, Mini-C(T) specimen has been incorporated into the Japanese standard test method related to MC methodology, JEAC4216-2015 and several studies were found focusing on applicability of Mini-C(T) specimen to irradiated RPV materials. However, there exist some other issues to be resolved considering application to irradiated materials. One of them is violation against the limitation criteria for ductile crack growth (DCG) specified in the standards. In general, upper shelf energy (USE) of RPV materials tends to decrease as well as shift in Charpy transition temperature due to neutron irradiation embrittlement. It may cause reduction in resistance of material against DCG and this leads to the problem peculiar to low USE materials such that the limitation for DCG might be dominant rather than that for KJclimit. Therefore, it is possible to fail to obtain valid KJc data even within valid temperature range of MC methodology, i.e. −50°C ≤ T-To ≤ 50°C, for low USE materials using Mini-C(T) specimens.
In this study, the RPV steel with USE lower than 68J was made simulating reduction of USE due to neutron irradiation. Fracture toughness tests were performed using Mini-C(T) specimens as well as the standard 1T-C(T) specimens. Based on the test results, the validity for DCG limitation was also evaluated for each datum by post-test observation of fracture surface. Additionally, effectiveness of added side grooves and double thickness of specimen was examined as a countermeasure for Mini-C(T) specimen.