Ultrasonic inspection of cast stainless steel components from primary and auxiliary cooling circuits of French Nuclear Power Plant has to face with major difficulties due to the coarse grained structure of these materials. Attenuation losses and structural noise are encountered, which limits the performances of defect detection ability, mostly in terms of degraded signal-to-noise ratio and poor sensitivity. To overcome such problems, theoretical and experimental studies have been achieved at the French Atomic Energy Commission, with support from the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety.
Experimental studies have been performed over stainless steel specimen of known coarse structure (equiaxial grains and/or elongated grains), containing artificial reflectors (cylindrical holes and electro-eroded surface breaking notches). Those mock-ups have been inspected using contact probes of different array designs (linear or matrix splitting), and using pulse echo or dual-element techniques. Such arrays allow to control the ultrasonic beam so as to investigate different inspection angles and focusing depths. Experiments were carried out using oblique longitudinal waves, using delay laws computed by a specific model, taking account of acoustical and geometrical properties of the probes and the inspected component.
In addition, specific reconstruction techniques have been investigated to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio as well as spatial resolution. These techniques are based on beam-forming summation and multi-angle inspections. Experimental results show that such techniques allow to reduce the speckle noise and to optimise the beam resolution. Those increased performances allow to detect and to size small planar defects located at the inner wall of a thick specimen, using corner and tip diffraction echoes.
Steve MAHAUT*, Jean-Louis GODEFROIT*, Olivier ROY*, Gérard CATTIAUX**
* Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique, LIST/SISC, CEA Saclay, Bât. 611, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette cedex, France
** Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, DES/SAMS, BP 17, 92262 Fontenay-aux-Roses cedex, France