Volume 1, Issue 4 (April 2004)
The Effect of Neutron Flux on Radiation-Induced Embrittlement in Reactor Pressure Vessel Steels
The effect of neutron flux level is a longstanding concern for determining the applicability of test reactor data or high lead-factor surveillance data to the prediction of embrittlement in commercial reactor pressure vessels (RPV). However, as operating reactors reach higher fluences, the question of flux effects is becoming increasingly relevant for situations such as embrittlement attenuation through the (RPV) and the comparison of boiling and pressurized reactor RPVs. In spite of its technological importance and extensive experimental and theoretical investigation, the issue of neutron flux effects on radiation-induced embrittlement in RPV steels remains unresolved. For neutron fluxes much greater than RPV operating conditions (>100 times higher), a regime exists in which the effects of flux are well defined experimentally and are well predicted by current models. These same models predict that the effect of flux should be relatively weak for values near those obtained in commercial RPVs, but may increase at lower fluxes. However, it is difficult to obtain sufficient data at low to intermediate fluxes to unambiguously determine the effects of flux since the time required to reach the desired fluences is necessarily long. In order to demonstrate the potential effects of flux on RPV embrittlement, and to help interpret the available experiments, a kinetic embrittlement model has been used in an analysis of the primary variables involved. The results of the analysis are consistent with a modest effect of flux on embrittlement for fluxes near those typical of commercial RPVs.