The Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) is an essential component liable to limit the lifetime duration of PWR plants. The assessment of defects in RPV subjected to PTS transients made at a European level do not necessarily take into account the beneficial effect of load history (warm pre-stress WPS) on the resistance of RPV material regarding the risk of brittle failure. A 4-year European Research & Development program — SMILE — was successfully conducted between 2002 and 2005 as part of the 5th Framework of the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). The objective of the SMILE project (‘Structural Margin Improvements in aged-embrittled RPV with Load history Effects’) was to provide sufficient evidence in order to demonstrate, to model and to validate the beneficial WPS effect in a RPV integrity assessment. Numerous experimental, analytical and numerical results have been obtained which confirm the beneficial effect of warm pre-stress on RPV steels, with an effective significant increase of the material resistance regarding the risk of brittle failure. In addition to SMILE, a new project dealing with WPS — NESC VII — has been launched in 2008 (linking with the European Network of Excellence NULIFE) with the participation of numerous international organizations (R&D, Utilities and Manufacturers). Based on experimental, analytical and numerical tasks, the project is focused on topics generally not covered by past experience on WPS: biaxiality of loading on large-scale specimens, effect of irradiation, applicability to intergranular fracture, modeling (including analytical and numerical models) … Among these tasks, some new novel WPS experiments are being conducted on large scale cruciform bend bar specimens in order to study the influence of biaxial loading on WPS effect, using a fully representative RPV steel (18MND5 steel similar to A533B steel). After a synthesis of main WPS results available from previous projects on representative RPV steels, a description of the NESC VII project is presented in this paper together with the corresponding organization, including the present status of the project.

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