High-Temperature Ultrasound NDE Systems for Continuous Monitoring of Critical Points in Nuclear Power Plants Structures


  • Petar Mateljak
  • Marko Budimir
  • Mario Koštan
  • Abbas Mohimi




nuclear power plants, high temperature ultrasound, phased array, guided waves, signal analysis


High temperature pipe cracks are the root of a steam power failure in the EU typically every 4 years, resulting in loss of human life, serious accidents and massive financial losses. According to IAEA’s Reference Technology Database, such an event on a nuclear power plant has an average cost of €120 million, including outage costs, emergency repair costs, insurance and legal costs. Since only one growing crack is needed to cause a major failure, they have to be inspected and monitored thoroughly. Breakdowns at extreme conditions (e.g. 580°C, 400 bar) are a result of two major weld failure modes: a) creep cracks near pipe welds; b) fatigue cracks on pipe welds. Current maintenance practice is to proceed with repairs on a detected crack according to its severity. For cost reasons, cracks that are not judged as severe enough will not be repaired. Crack severity judgement is based on its probability to cause a failure and this probability is derived taking into account the crack size and operational lifetime. More variables such as operating temperature and vibrations may rarely be found in other studies. Recent data from fracture mechanics statistical studies shows this connection between the size of a crack on a nuclear power plant pipe and its probability to lead to a failure. To deal with the above problems two Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) systems have been developed and they are presented in this work. These systems are able to achieve continuous operation for an extended time period at operating temperatures of nuclear power plants. The developed systems employ novel phased array (PA) ultrasonic and ultrasound guided wave (UGW) probes able to withstand and continuously operate even up to 580 °C. The systems are designed to be permanently mounted on superheated steam pipes, at locations of known defects and to continuously monitor their size. However, this supposes that defects will have already been detected by a traditional method during an outage. The PA transducers are placed according to the Time-of- Flight Diffraction (TOFD) technique’s topology, thus creating a novel configuration, while the UGW transducers are placed on a stainless steel ring in a circular array configuration. These configurations can enable continuous tracking of cracks growth with high accuracy, enabling maintenance crews to estimate the severity directly and not through statistics.


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