During operation, reactor components experience a range of static and cyclic loading that have the potential to result in environmental-fatigue crack initiation and growth. Recent experimental work has indicated that the ASME XI fatigue ‘in air’ design curves are non-conservative for fatigue cracks propagating in primary water environments at fixed temperatures of relevance to the plant. The approach adopted to assess these tests has, to date, followed current best practice: in which global Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM) loading parameters are used to quantify crack growth rates.
To help establish an improved understanding of these data, and to assist in their application to assess plant components, a local crack-tip finite element model has been developed. The model incorporates material constitutive behavior that simulates cyclic deformation of austenitic steel, can take account of plasticity-induced crack closure and can take into consideration cracks in structurally-representative geometries via the T-stress constraint parameter.
The results of studies using the model suggest that highly compressive values of the T-stress constraint parameter tend to promote less severe reverse loading of the crack tip compared with high constraint geometries such as pre-cracked compact tension and bend test specimens. These findings indicate that rates of corrosion-fatigue in actual structural geometries might be different from those observed in pre-cracked test specimens.