The nuclear power plants lifetime is strongly dependent of the guarantee of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) integrity. Therefore, the RPV integrity has to be demonstrated under the most severe configuration, namely the Pressurized Thermal Shock induced by the Loss of Coolant Accident induced by a large break in the primary loop. For such a transient, the apparent risk of failure is maximum when the load is decreasing; the fracture resistance decreasing rate being stronger. However, such type of loading generates an increase of the fracture resistance as shown by numerous studies (Chell, 1980 – BEREMIN, 1981 – Smith et al., 2004). This is known as the warm pre-stress (WPS) effect. This beneficial effect on the resistance to brittle fracture is not accounted for in the French RCCM and RSEM codes (RCCM, 2000 – RSEM, 2005). EDF has launched several R&D actions with CEA and AREVA as well as with European partners (SMILE, 2001) to validate and model the WPS effect under RPV representative conditions. Proving the existence of this beneficial load history effect (designated as Warm Pre Stress WPS), in the case of a defective RPV in emergency and faulted conditions is the aim of the present paper. The demonstration is conducted in the case of cleavage fracture using an improved version of the BEREMIN model. As opposite to the classical Fracture Mechanics methodology, this approach allows to account for load history effects on cleavage. The study analyzes the behavior of a semi-elliptical under clad crack in the EoL core shell of a 900 MWe RPV for two loading cases: the large break Loss Of Coolant Accident transient and a small break LOCA inducing thermal fluctuations on the vessel inner wall. The WPS effect is evidenced by comparing the plasticity corrected SIF levels of two loadings for the same value of failure probability: the considered WPS loading and a virtual monotonously increasing load applied at the temperature at which the brittle fracture risk is estimated.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.