The concept of leak-before-break (LBB) is often used in safety cases for pressure systems, particularly, in the nuclear industry. An important factor in making a LBB case is in the prediction of the leak rate of fluid through a crack. This paper presents a summary of a program of work, which had the aim of improving guidance on leak rate evaluation for the LBB procedures in the R6 defect assessment methodology. Methods of calculating leak rates have been reviewed, and this has led to a crack morphology model being proposed, which represents single-phase isothermal compressible flow through a crack. In the crack morphology model, the flow is assumed by default to be fully rough turbulent, and the effective roughness to vary between a local roughness value for narrow cracks and a global value (i.e., the overall crack contours) for wide cracks. The effect of pressure drops due to changes in the flow direction at crack turns has also been included. Calculations using the model show that the friction factor relation due to Spence et al. (1991, “Leakage Flow Through Small Cracks—Report of Second Stage of Experimental Work,” unpublished) gives better agreement with measured flow rates than that due to Button et al. (1978, “Gas Flow Through Cracks,” ASME J. Fluids Eng., 100, pp. 453–458), which tends to overestimate the flow rate for the examples studied. The inclusion of an inertial pressure term arising from changes in overall flow direction appears to be justified.

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