Pressurized pipes in hot water environment are subject to ageing mechanisms such as fatigue and environmental-assisted fatigue. These ageing effects limit the in-service time of components due to the possibility of crack formation, initiation and growth. Furthermore, uncertainties in life time assessment evolve as a consequence of increased scattering and resulting deviations in material properties. The lack of appropriate information requires safety-oriented design and conservative margins in the acceptable operation time.

In this contribution, investigations on methods for an improved assessment of fatigue life assessment based on microstructural aspects (specifically in the view of piping systems) are presented. The focus is on the metastable austenitic steel AISI 347 (X6CrNiNb18-10) under boiling water reactor operational conditions. In addition to strain-controlled fatigue tests and the hysteresis information, microstructural characterizations of the damage evolution are performed. Fatigue tests are equipped with magnetic and resistometric sensors to measure a different kind of material response correlated with the damage states.

The information obtained is used for an improved derivation of fatigue life evaluations of piping systems. The StrainLife approach and its specific instrumentation is proposed and discussed. In this approach, the number of strain-controlled fatigue tests is basically reduced by an order of magnitude when compared to traditional procedures. A software tool (as a module of the structural analysis code PROST) has been developed to assist users in evaluating and incorporating the respective data and to derive the subsequent fatigue life curves. As an outlook, further development is addressed to transfer the methodology to the assessment of residual fatigue life of components being exposed to ageing in operation.

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