In recent years, there has been increasing concern for safe long-term operation of existing European nuclear power plants.
The ultrasonic inspection of corrosion resistant alloys used in these plants – in particular claddings, austenitic welds and cast austenitic steels – is a long standing issue in the field of nuclear non-destructive testing and evaluation (NDT and NDE). For these materials, a complex microstructure is responsible for both structural noise and attenuation, thus degrading the performance of ultrasonic non-destructive testing.
At the same time plant owners wish to replace radiographic inspections by ultrasound as a less disruptive, safer and faster technique.
To address these issues and thereby keep on improving safety and reliability of Generation II and III reactors, there are still a number of technical breakthroughs to overcome, including the need to improve NDE techniques for complex structured material.