Compact heat exchangers (CHX) fabricated using the diffusion bonding process will be useful in the design and operation of Generation IV nuclear power plants. The NDE challenges posed by diffusion-bonded compact heat exchangers (DBHE) are quite different from those of their more familiar shell-and-tube cousins. The examination scope encompasses three parts: the welds joining the headers to the CHX body; the body’s solid perimeter, serving as the pressure boundary; and the channeled interior. Current investigations are in support of a Section III Code Case including CHX fabrication rules and post-fabrication nondestructive evaluation (NDE) requirements to ensure adequate initial quality. In-service examination methodologies are also considered to inform code developers, regulators, and vendors exploring use of CHX in advanced reactor designs.
The welds joining the headers to the CHX body likely will be full-penetration set-on welds of conventional design. Standard fabrication examinations, namely visual, dye penetrant and hydrostatic examinations will likely suffice. Additional methods should be specified for the purpose of ensuring that the weld stresses have not caused degradation or separation of individual layers within the adjacent diffusion-bonded core. The channeled core of the CHX is geometrically complex and does not allow application of traditional NDE methods from the outside. Radiography permits imaging of small demonstration scale components. Meanwhile, identifying bond failures within larger components may require embedded strain sensors. A theory for employing strain sensors to detect failures within the core is introduced here along with early experimental results. The diffusion-bonded solid perimeter should be examined to ensure that any presence of bonding failures is allowable. Ultrasonic examination results are presented, obtained from test blocks containing simulated bond failures and from high-pressure CHX used during lab studies.