A theoretical model is used to investigate the relative importance of point defect clusters (PDC) and copper-rich precipitates CRP) in reactor pressure vessel (RPV) embrittlement and to examine the influence of a broad range of irradiation and material parameters on predicted yield strength changes. The results indicate that there are temperature and displacement rate regimes wherein either CRP or PDC can dominate the material's response to irradiation, with both interstitial and vacancy type defects contributing to the PDC component. The different dependencies of the CRP and PDC on temperature and displacement rate indicate that simple data extrapolations could lead to poor predictions of RPV embrittlement. It is significant that the yield strength changes predicted by the composite PDC/CRP model exhibit very little dependence on displacement rate below about 10−9 dpa/s. If this result is confirmed, concerns about accelerated displacement rates in power reactor surveillance programs should be minimized. The sensitivity of the model to microstructural parameters highlights the need for more detailed microstructural characterization of RPV steels.
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