Recent Advances in Understanding Radiation Damage In Reactor Cavity Concrete


License renewal up to 60 years and the possibility of subsequent license renewal to 80 years has resulted in a renewed focus on long-term aging of materials at nuclear power plants (NPPs) including concrete. Large irreplaceable sections of most nuclear generating stations include concrete. The Expanded Materials Degradation Analysis, jointly performed by the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Nuclear Industry, identified the urgent need to develop a consistent knowledge base on irradiation effects in concrete (Graves et al., (2014)). Much of the historical mechanical performance data of irradiated concrete (Hilsdorf et al., (1978)) does not accurately reflect typical radiation conditions in NPPs or conditions out to 60 or 80 years of radiation exposure (Kontani et al., (2011)). To address these potential gaps in the knowledge base, the Electric Power Research Institute and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, are working to better understand radiation damage as a degradation mechanism. This paper outlines recent progress toward: 1) assessing the radiation environment in concrete biological shields, defining the upper bound of the neutron and gamma dose levels expected in the biological shield for extended operation, and estimating adsorbed dose, 2) evaluating opportunities to harvest and test irradiated concrete from international NPPs, 3) evaluating opportunities to irradiate prototypical concrete and its components under accelerated neutron and gamma dose levels to establish conservative bounds and inform damage models, 4) developing improved models to enhance the understanding of the effects of radiation on concrete and 5) establishing an international collaborative research and information exchange effort to leverage capabilities and knowledge including developing cooperative test programs to improve confidence in data obtained from various concretes and from accelerated irradiation experiments.

In: Transactions, SMiRT-23