The fatigue assessment of pressure boundary components is of importance for the aging management regarding safety and reliability in nuclear power plants with light water reactors. For the evaluation of cyclic loading conditions, different country specific design codes and standards are applied to consider various mechanical and thermal loadings as well as geometrical and material effects. Those different influencing factors have also to be taken into account in the fatigue design curves. Current state of the art methods account for life time influencing factors such as temperature, surface finish, stress multi-axiality and loading history by the application of reduction factors for fatigue lives (penalty respectively margin factors) determined from fatigue design curves which are derived from laboratory test data. Other effects, such as environmental effects or hold times, are often considered with high levels of conservatism or are not taken into account at all. On the one hand, this may lead to non-conservative predictions of the materials fatigue behavior, while on the other hand, there are often large discrepancies between calculated fatigue life and practical experience from power plant operation, where the operating experience reveals much higher fatigue lifetimes as their predictions based on laboratory tests and conservative consideration of major influencing factors (plastification by Ke-factors, Environmentally Assisted Fatigue (EAF) by FEN-factors) in the calculation approach.

Therefore, Framatome GmbH, Erlangen, and the Material Testing Institute MPA Stuttgart currently conducting a cooperative research program which aims to improve the understanding of environmental and loading effects as well as of welds on fatigue life time and to improve fatigue lifetime assessment methods in the framework of the well established engineering approach. Based on the results of a previous research project of the same project partners, an experimental program is performed to investigate the effect of loading parameters and hold times on environmentally assisted fatigue (EAF). Experiments on specimens of ferritic and austenitic stainless steels and austenitic stainless steel welds as well as component tests are performed under laboratory and operating conditions to improve fatigue assessment and serve to bridge the gap between specimen behavior and component fatigue in operation.

Emanating from previous and ongoing cooperative research projects, the experimental results will contribute to the proposal of an engineering fatigue assessment concept, allowing more specific differentiation in the influencing factors for component fatigue life prediction. Furthermore, hold time effects are simulated based on further developed material models.

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