An analysis of the cyclic crack growth rate data generated so far for pressure vessel materials in simulated light water reactor environments suggests a strong dependence on frequency, load ratio, waveform, temperature and material composition. To account for these observations a mechanistic crack growth model has been advanced based on hydrogen-induced cracking, where anodic dissolution creates the conditions for hydrogen absorption at the crack tip. Hydrogen-induced cracking starts from the manganese sulfide inclusions, which act as strong hydrogen traps. The hydrogen-induced crack growth around the manganese sulfide inclusions generally spans several prior austenite grains. At high hydrogen input rates brittle crack growth also occurs, this being unrelated to inclusions. When the crack growth exposes manganese sulfide inclusions, these dissolve and the crack tip environment becomes aggressive and conducive to hydrogen absorption. This hydrogen-induced cracking model explains why inclusions form a preferred crack path, and accounts for the effect of sulfur on crack growth rate both in PWR and BWR conditions. Based on the model, the observed crack growth rate dependence on different testing variables can also be explained.
- nuclear reactors