Potential structural-integrity benefits or liabilities of the stainless steel cladding on the inner surface of a reactor pressure vessel (RPV) are important considerations in the effort to refine or improve safety assessment procedures applied to RPVs. Clad-beam tests were carried out to investigate and quantify effects of the clad structure on fracture initiation toughness of through-clad shallow surface flaws in RPV material. A cruciform beam specimen was developed at ORNL to introduce a prototypic, far-field, out-of-plane biaxial stress component that provides a linear approximation of the nonlinear stress distribution generated by thermo-mechanical loading transients in an RPV. The cruciform specimens (102-mm-thick test section) were fabricated from RPV shell segments available from a canceled pressurized-water reactor plant. The specimens were tested under biaxial load ratios ranging from 0.0 (uniaxial) to 1.0 (full biaxial), the ratio being defined as the total load applied to the transverse beam arms divided by that applied to the longitudinal arms. The test results imply that biaxial loading is effective in reducing the shallow-flaw fracture toughness of the clad/heat-affected zone/structural-weld region of the RPV shell below that determined from uniaxial loading conditions. The lowest toughness value from the clad cruciform specimens tested under biaxial loading is only slightly above the ASME Section XI KIc curve. For all biaxiality ratios, the test results imply that shallow-flaw fracture toughness data from the RPV structural weld material are significantly lower than that obtained from a high-yield strength plate material.

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