The current regulations, as set forth by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), to insure that light-water nuclear reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) maintain their structural integrity when subjected to planned normal reactor startup (heat-up) and shut-down (cool-down) transients are specified in Appendix G to 10 CFR Part 50, which incorporates by reference Appendix G to Section XI of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Code. The technical basis for these regulations are now recognized by the technical community as being conservative and some plants are finding it increasingly difficult to comply with the current regulations. Consequently, the nuclear industry has developed, and submitted to the ASME Code for approval, an alternative risk-informed methodology that reduces the conservatism and is consistent with the methods previously used to develop a risk-informed revision to the regulations for accidental transients such as pressurized thermal shock (PTS). The objective of the alternative methodology is to provide a relaxation to the current regulations which will provide more operational flexibility, particularly for reactor pressure vessels with relatively high irradiation levels and radiation sensitive materials, while continuing to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection to public health and safety. The NRC and its contractor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have recently performed an independent review of the industry proposed methodology. The NRC / ORNL review consisted of performing probabilistic fracture mechanics (PFM) analyses for a matrix of cool-down and heat-up rates, permutated over various reactor geometries and characteristics, each at multiple levels of embrittlement, including 60 effective full power years (EFPY) and beyond, for various postulated flaw characterizations. The objective of this review is to quantify the risk of a reactor vessel experiencing non-ductile fracture, and possible subsequent failure, over a wide range of normal transient conditions, when the maximum allowable thermal-hydraulic boundary conditions, derived from both the current ASME code and the industry proposed methodology, are imposed on the inner surface of the reactor vessel. This paper discusses the results of the NRC/ORNL review of the industry proposal including the matrices of PFM analyses, results, insights, and conclusions derived from these analyses.

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