In recent times there is a renewed worldwide interest in the development and application of advanced nuclear power plants (NPPs). Decisions on the construction of several NPPs with evolutionary light water reactors have been made (e.g. EPR in Finland and France, AP1000 in China, etc.) and more are under consideration for licensing in several countries. Innovative NPPs are designed to be built with very broad siting conditions; therefore the safety aspects related to the external events might follow new scenarios and failure modes, different from those well known for the currently operated reactors. In this paper, the intent is evaluating the structural integrity of a nuclear containment system subjected to dynamic loadings due to a Design Base Earthquake and an aircraft impact (large size civilian jets or military aircrafts impact), which represent the two most relevant external accidents that should be considered and investigated as part of the basic design of a NPP in particular a III+ and IV Gens. In fact a suitable safety design of the NPP containment system (according to the international safety and design code guidelines, as NRC or IAEA ones), even if designed to meet other design goal, may represent a “built-in protection” to avoid or mitigate the effects of mentioned dynamic loadings. To the purpose a rather sophisticated numerical methodology, adopting finite element (FEM) approach, is employed for studying the overall dynamic behaviour of nuclear reactor and to determine the structural effects of the propagation of dynamic seismic as well as impulsive loads (containment structure response) up to the relevant nuclear components. Therefore representative three-dimensional FEM models of mentioned NPP containment and aircraft structures were set up, and used, in the performed analyses taking also into account the suitable materials behaviour and their related constitutive laws as well as the seismic excitation (determined according to the NRC rules). Moreover the performed analyses and the carried out response analyses of internal components, to both the ground motion and impact loads, were studied to check the considered NPP containment strength reserve in the case of the considered events. The obtained results seem to confirm the possibility to achieve an optimization of the NPP internal components.

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