This paper points out some important shifts in the basic expectations in the performance requirements for containment structures and discusses the areas where the containment structure design requirements and acceptance criteria can be integrated with ultimate test based insights. Although there has not been any new reactor construction in the United States for over thirty years, several designs of evolutionary and advanced reactors have already been certified. Performance requirements for containment structures under design basis and severe accident conditions and explicit consideration of seismic margins have been used in the design certification process. In the United States, the containment structure design code is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section III, Division 1, Subsection NE-Class MC for the steel containment and Section III, Division 2 for reinforced and prestressed concrete reactor vessels and containments. This containment design code was based on the early concept of applying design basis internal pressure and associated load combinations that included the operating basis and safe shutdown earthquake ground motion. These early design criteria served the nuclear industry and the regulatory authorities in maintaining public health and safety. However, these early design criteria do not incorporate the performance criteria related to containment function in an integrated fashion. Research in large scale model testing of containment structures to failure from over pressurization and shake table testing using simulated ground motion, have produced insights related to failure modes and material behavior at failure. The results of this research provide the opportunity to integrate these observations into design and acceptance criteria. This integration process would identify “gaps” in the present knowledge and future research needs. This knowledge base is important for gleaning risk-informed insights into the design basis and severe accident behavior of containments.

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