The pressure tubes in CANDU reactors have been operating for times up to about 25 years. The in-reactor performance of Zr-2.5Nb pressure tubes has been evaluated by sampling and periodic inspection. This paper describes the behaviour and discusses the factors controlling the behaviour of these components in currently operating CANDU reactors. The mechanical properties (such as ultimate tensile strength, UTS, and fracture toughness), and delayed-hydride-cracking properties (crack growth rate Vc, and threshold stress intensity factor, KIH) change with irradiation; the former reach a limiting value at a fluence of <1 × 1025 n m-2, while Vc and KIH reach a steady-state condition after a fluence of about 3 × 1025 n m-2 and 3 × 1024 n m-2, respectively. At saturation the UTS is raised by about 200 MPa, toughness is reduced to about 40% of its initial value, Vc increases by about a factor of ten while KIH is only slightly reduced. The role of microstructure and trace elements in these behaviours is described. Pressure tubes exhibit elongation and diametral expansion. The deformation behaviour is a function of operating conditions and material properties that vary from tube-to-tube and as a function of axial location. Semi-empirical predictive models have been developed to describe the deformation response of average tubes as a function of operating conditions. For corrosion and, more importantly deuterium pickup, semi-empirical predictive models have also been developed to represent the behaviour of an average tube. The effect of material variability on corrosion behaviour is less well defined compared with other properties. Improvements in manufacturing have increased fracture resistance by minimising trace elements, especially H and Cl, and reduced variability by tightening controls on forming parameters, especially hot-working temperatures. Crown Copyright © 2008.
Rodgers, D. K., Coleman, C. E., Griffiths, M., Bickel, G. A., Theaker, J. R., Muir, I., … Resta Levi, M. (2008). In-reactor performance of pressure tubes in CANDU reactors. Journal of Nuclear Materials, 383(1–2), 22–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnucmat.2008.08.037