During the refueling and maintenance outage in August 2011 at Leibstadt Nuclear Power Plant in Switzerland, the inspection of the hydrostatic bearings of the two identical recirculation pumps revealed a deep circumferential erosion groove on the inside surface of each of the bearing journals. The bearing journals are made of austenitic stainless steel. The cylindrical journal is welded to the back shroud of the impeller and surrounds the internal stationary heat exchanger of the pump by forming a narrow fluid filled annulus. The location of material removal was the same as in the year 2004 when similar wear damage was fixed by build-up welding.
The plant decided to repair the damage during the subsequent outage in 2012. However, the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate in return required the plant to identify the precise erosion mechanism, to ensure the structural integrity of the journals by taking into account the rate of material removal from 2004 up to the 2012 outage, and to include provisions for the early detection of a journal failure.
This paper summarizes the previous as well as the latest results of different inspections, investigations, evaluations, and analyses done to meet the requirements of the Swiss regulatory authority. The results show that, from a safety-related and an operational availability perspective, it is acceptable not to repair the damaged bearing journals prior to the 2012 outage.