High temperature water environments typical of LWR operation are known to significantly reduce the fatigue life of reactor plant materials relative to air environments in laboratory studies. This environmental impact on fatigue life has led to the issue of US-NRC Regulatory Guide 1.207 [1] and supporting document NUREG/CR-6909 [2] which predicts significant environmental reduction in fatigue life (characterised by an environmental correction factor, Fen) for a range of actual and design basis transients. In the same report, a revision of the fatigue design curve for austenitic stainless steels and Ni-Cr-Fe alloys was proposed [2]. This was based on a revised mean curve fit to laboratory air data and revised design factors to account for effects not present in the test database, including the effect of rough surface finish. This revised fatigue design curve was endorsed by the NRC for new plant through Regulatory Guide 1.207 [1] and subsequently adopted by the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel (BPV) Code [3]. Additional rules for accounting for the effect of environment, such as the Fen approach, have been included in the ASME BPV Code as code cases such as Code Case N-792-1 [4].

However, there is a growing body of evidence [5] [6] [7] and [8] that a rough surface condition does not have the same impact in a high temperature water environment as in air.

Therefore, application of Fen factors with this design curve may be unduly conservative as it implies a simple combination of the effects of rough surface and environment rather than an interaction. Explicit quantification of the interaction between surface finish and environment is the aim of a number of recent proposals for improvement to fatigue assessment methods, including a Rule in Probationary Phase in the RCC-M Code and a draft Code Case submitted to the ASME BPV Code as described in References [9] and [10]. These approaches aim to quantify the excessive conservatism in current methods due to this unrecognised interaction, describing this as an allowance for Fen effectively built into the design curve. A number of approaches in various stages of development and application are discussed further in a separate paper at this conference [11].

This paper reports the results of an extensive programme of strain-controlled fatigue testing, conducted on two heats of well-characterised 304-type material in a high-temperature simulated PWR environment by Wood plc. The baseline behaviour in environment of standard polished specimens is compared to that of specimens with a rough surface finish bounding normal plant component applications. The results reported here substantially add to the pool of data supporting the conclusion that surface finish effects in a high-temperature water environment are significantly lower than the factor of 2.0 to 3.5 assumed in construction of the current ASME III fatigue design curve. This supports the claim made in the methods discussed in [9] [10] and [11] that the fatigue design curve already incorporates additional conservatism for a high-temperature water environment that can be used to offset the Fen derived by the NUREG/CR-6909 methodology. At present, this observation is limited to austenitic stainless steels.

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