In nuclear plant piping systems thermal fatigue damage can arise at locations where there is turbulent mixing of different temperature flows. The severity of this phenomenon is difficult to assess via plant instrumentation due to the high frequencies involved. NESC report EUR 22763 EN, published in 2007, defines the “Level 1” screening criterion for the design of austenitic stainless steel mixing tees, based on recorded incidents of fatigue cracking in civil power plants. The experimental data indicates that damage due to High Cycle Thermal Loading (HCTL) is unlikely to occur if the temperature difference between the hot and cold inlet streams is less than 80°C.

The “Level 2” approach outlined by NESC provides a methodology for the calculation of a fatigue usage factor based on the assumption of a sinusoidal thermal loading at the most damaging frequency for a given ΔT. Advice is given on selection of heat transfer coefficient, fatigue curves, fatigue strength reduction factors and plasticity correction factors. Experience shows that these methods can be overly pessimistic when compared with plant operational experience.

This paper describes a case study using the more detailed NESC “Level 3” evaluation of HCTL at a Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) mixing tee using a coupled Computational Fluid Dynamics and Finite Element Analysis (CFD/FE) analysis to evaluate the complete load spectra together with the ASME 2010 fatigue S-N curve. The CFD model used is “conjugate”, ie it calculates temperatures in both the fluid and the metal. Large Eddy Simulation (LES) was used to investigate HCTL effects using an appropriate mesh size to accurately predict the rapid fluctuations in metal temperature local to the surface. Metal temperature predictions using conjugate CFD analyses provided the input to finite element analysis, utilising rain-flow techniques, in order to derive fatigue usage factors in the areas of interest.

This study found that the severity of HCTL is influenced by various factors such as flow conditions, local geometry including bore match features, integral conical reducers that allow progressive change in pipe radius as well as branch pipe swirl penetration.

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