A new long-term research programme has been launched in the UK. This involves Rolls-Royce plc and Serco Assurance, supported by UK industry and academia. A significant part of the programme is aimed at improving methodologies for assessing the significance of defects in structures, either by deriving new methodologies, further developing existing methodologies, and/or providing validation data. Current work packages include consideration of: • The treatment of secondary stresses; • Flaw characterisation; • Load history effects; • The interaction between ductile tearing and growth by other mechanisms; • Constraint. As these work packages mature, other topics may be considered such as: • Assessment methodologies for displacement/strain controlled loading; • The treatment of structures operating in or close to the brittle to ductile transition region; • The treatment of material interfaces; • Leak before break; • Crack arrest. The work is being undertaken by a combination of computational and experimental studies. The benefits of this work are intended to be the provision of more realistic assessment methodologies. In many instances this will be achieved by first validating the assumptions in current methodologies to provide a sound basis for the development of future methodologies. This paper presents an overview of the fracture mechanics research work being undertaken and provides examples of the outcome of some of the studies obtained to-date.

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