Article

Annealing of nuclear reactor pressure vessels

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Abstract

The neutron embrittlement that occurs in the beltline of reactor pressure vessels (RPV) can be managed by various techniques such as fuel management, but only thermal annealing can reverse the effects and result in a restoration of RPV beltline material toughness. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has recently revised the Code of Federal Regulations to include the use of thermal annealing of RPV for recovery of material toughness. The Annealing Rule, 10 CFR Part 50.66, has an associated Regulatory Guide 1.162 that describes the format and content of a thermal anneal report that must be submitted to the NRC prior to performing an anneal. This paper will describe the thermal annealing process including regulatory requirements in 10 CFR Part 50.66, techniques for predicting and measuring the toughness recovery, and NDE requirements. Although 14 Russian-designed RPVs have been annealed, there are sufficient differences between the Russian and US designs to question the ease of thermal annealing without producing any unwanted dimensional changes in the RPV and associated piping. The paper will discuss the ongoing annealing demonstration project supported by the Department of Energy which performed a thermal anneal on a canceled pressured water reactor at Marble Hill, Indiana. The associated NRC programs also will be described. This annealing demonstration will be used to bench mark the expected thermal and stress distributions created by thermal annealing and minimize the possible dimensional changes in the RPVs. The paper also will discuss the first possible implementation of thermal annealing for a US commercial nuclear power plant and some important issues that will need to be addressed.

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... Thermal annealing of LWR pressure vessels to extend their operational life has been demonstrated in Europe, Russia, and the United States [41,75,76]. The Nuclear Regular Commission has approved an annealing process for LWR pressure vessels following the guidelines set forth by the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code [77]. The main areas of concern for LWR pressure vessels are in the weld joints in particular the beltline region. ...
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Fig. 6. Effects of thermal anneal (450°C, 168 h) on furnace simulated coarse-grained heat-affected-zone material
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