Determination of radiation embrittlement in nuclear reactor pressure vessels is crucial to assessing safe operative lifetimes for many aging nuclear power plants. Conservative nuclear fluence estimates and trace impurity diagnosis of the weldment material are the basis of radiation embrittlement analysis. Copper is thought to be a key impurity contributing to radiation embrittlement. In this paper, the application of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) as a means to assess radiation embrittlement by the detection and quantification of copper in A553b steel was investigated. A LIBS configuration completely coupled by fiber optics was attempted, but because of low laser power and fiber losses, fiber-optic delivery of the laser beam was unsuccessful. Consequently, hard optics (lenses and mirrors) were employed for laser beam delivery. The plasma emission was delivered successfully via fiber optics to the detection apparatus. Copper measurements were made from custom-fabricated steel samples. Comparison of the LIBS results to an independent atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS) analysis showed LIBS to be of comparable accuracy, especially in low-level copper samples.

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