Regions of higher-than-normal carbon content due to carbon macro-segregation have been found in large, pressure retaining forged ferritic steel components in some nuclear reactors. Higher carbon content in ferritic steel can decrease the resistance to fracture from the presence of flaws in the material. Acceptable margins against failure of pressurized components in nuclear safety systems must be maintained throughout their service life to ensure core integrity for all operational and postulated transient loading events. Should carbon macro-segregation substantially reduce the material resistance to fracture in safety components, then the margins against through-wall flaw propagation may fall below those specified by regulatory requirements to ensure adequate component and reactor core integrity.
Probabilistic fracture mechanics (PFM) analyses were performed to assess the risk and structural significance of postulated carbon macro-segregation in large, forged pressure retaining components in pressurized water reactors (PWRs). The risk assessment was performed to evaluate several forged components and two classes of loading events. The forged components include the ring and head forgings in the reactor pressure vessel (RPV), steam generator (S/G) and pressurizer. The loading events used in the risk evaluation include pressurized thermal shock (PTS) transient events and a normal RPV cooldown event. The analyses included a range of component dimensions, surface and embedded flaw distributions, various levels of carbon macro-segregation up to and beyond the maximum measured values for the components, and the effects of neutron irradiation, including the effects of potential copper and phosphorus co-segregation. The PFM analyses were performed using the software, Fracture Analysis of Vessels, Oak Ridge (FAVOR).
The results from the risk assessment indicate that: acceptable margins against failure are maintained through an 80-year operating interval even if carbon macro-segregation were to be present in RPV, S/G and pressurizer ring and head forgings in PWRs; and the risk associated with the presence of carbon macro-segregation in PWR ring and head forgings is significantly lower than regulatory risk related acceptance criteria.