Overview of strength, crack propagation and fracture of nuclear reactormoderator graphite

R Moskovic, Peter J Heard, Peter E J Flewitt, M Wootton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Nuclear reactor moderator graphite is an aggregate of needle coke filler particles within a matrix of fine coke flour particles mixed with pitch binder. Following extrusion in green condition, impregnation with liquid pitch binder and graphitisation, a polygranular aggregate with orthotropic properties is produced. Its mechanical properties under several different loading conditions and associated cracking behaviour were examined to establish crack initiation and propagation behaviour. Both virgin and radiolytically oxidised material were examined using optical and electron optical microscopy, focused ion beam microscope and digital image correlation. The appearance of force vs. displacement curves varied with type of loading. Mostly linear elastic traces occurred in uniaxial tensile and flexural tests. Large departures from linear elastic behaviour were observed in standard uniaxial and diametral compression testing. Digital image correlation has shown that the initiation of cracking involves formation of a process zone which grows to a critical size of approximately 3–5 mm before a macro-crack is initiated. Cracks straddle a torturous path which zigzags between the filler particles through the matrix consistent with crack propagation along the filler matrix interface. This paper provides an overview of strength, crack propagation and fracture of nuclear reactor moderator graphite. It reviews the physical processes and mathematical approaches that have been adopted to describe the behaviour of brittle materials and then considers if they apply to reactor core graphites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-442
Number of pages12
JournalNuclear Engineering and Design
Volume263
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2013

Keywords

  • Fracture behaviour
  • Cracking initiation and growth
  • Different loadings configurations
  • Fracture mechanisms

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