CANDU pressure tubes carry nuclear fuel and belong to the primary heat transport system. They are fabricated from cold-worked Zr-2.5Nb alloy prone to deuterium ingress under normal operating conditions. Increased hydrogen equivalent concentration and reactor pressure-temperature transients result in development of a brittle phase, hydride, changing mechanical behavior. The hydride downgrades fracture toughness properties in the transition region and reduces material ductility.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission founded a two-phase project to improve understanding of the parameters governing fracture toughness properties and load carrying capacity of Zr-2.5Nb pressure tubes with elevated hydrogen equivalent concentrations. This paper presents preliminary results obtained in the first phase. The fracture behavior of a curved compact tension specimen (CCTS) and a pressure tube burst specimen (PT) with axial through-wall crack used in destructive burst test were studied in details. The intention was to identify any differences between fracture behavior of the CCTS and the PT potentially affecting fracture toughness estimates.

The stress and deformation states ahead of the crack front, calculated fracture toughness parameters including J-integral and crack tip opening displacement (CTOD), as well as fracture constraint by means of elastic T-stress have been discussed.

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