2023 journal article

Irradiation of ultrasonic sensors and adhesive couplants for application in light water reactor primary loop piping and components


By: J. Wall*, C. Parish*, J. Dixon*, A. Hawari n, M. Liu n & L. Breon*

Source: Web Of Science
Added: October 30, 2023

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Nuclear Sector and US Department of Energy Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program are committed to engaging in research and development endeavors to address materials aging issues specific to long term operation of light water power reactors. To this effect, EPRI launched an industry initiative to develop nondestructive evaluation systems for online monitoring of existing cracks in light water reactor primary coolant loop piping and components. One of the goals of this initiative is to develop a sensor system (or systems) that can determine nondestructively if cracks are growing or arrested and, in the case of the former, to characterize their growth rates. A missing component of this initiative is an experimental assessment of how sensors and adhesive couplants will perform in service when exposed to chronic energetic neutron radiation, particularly at the primary coolant loop hot and cold leg dissimilar metal welds, which join the primary loop piping to the reactor pressure vessel and reside in the vicinity of the reactor core. The objective of this experimental study was to determine how ultrasonic transducers and adhesive couplants perform when exposed to irradiation in a test reactor to simulate and accelerate in-service exposure. To achieve this objective, the signal stability of piezoelectric transducers and performance of adhesive couplants as a function of accumulated fast neutron fluence were characterized by collecting ultrasonic data in-situ during irradiation. Of particular interest were the ultrasonic signal quality and time decay of the amplitude of acoustic reflections as a function of fast neutron fluence. The results of the study showed that, of the 8 transducer/substrate sample assemblies tested, only 3 generated usable ultrasonic signals through the conclusion of the irradiation campaign. It was found that high temperature epoxy tends to ultrasonically couple the sensors to the substrates better than three types of refractory ceramic cements studied, as is supported by post irradiation examination. The results obtained through this experimental study will be utilized in the achievement of the overall goal of development of a sensor system to perform online monitoring of primary loop components. This manuscript has been authored in part by UT-Battelle, LLC, under contract DE AC05-00OR22725 with the US Department of Energy (DOE). The publisher acknowledges the US government license to provide public access under the DOE Public Access Plan (https://energy.gov/downloads/doe-public-access-plan [energy.gov]).