Natural-draught cooling towers are used in nuclear power plants as heat exchangers. These structures are submitted to environmental loads such as wind and thermal gradients that are stochastic in nature. A probabilistic framework has been developed by EDF (Electricite´ de France) for assessing the durability of such structures. In this paper, the corrosion of the rebars due to concrete carbonation and the corresponding weakening of the reinforced concrete sections is considered. Due to the presence of time in the definition of the limit state function associated with the loss of serviceability of the cooling tower, time-variant reliability analysis has to be used. A novel approach is proposed to take into account the random “initiation time”, which corresponds to the time necessary for the carbonation to attain the rebars. Results are given in terms of the probability of failure of the structure over its life time.

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