Cracks found in a nuclear power plant reactor coolant system (RCS), such as primary water stress corrosion cracking (PWSCC) and intergranular stress corrosion cracking (IGSCC), usually have natural crack front shapes that can be very different from the idealized semi-elliptical or rectangular shapes considered in engineering handbooks and other analytical solutions based on limited shapes. Simplifications towards semi-elliptical shape or rectangular shape may potentially introduce unnecessary conservatism when the simplified shape has to contain the actual crack shape. On the other hand, it is very time-consuming to create a three-dimensional (3D) finite element (FE) model to simulate crack propagation in a natural shape using existing public-domain software like ABAQUS or ANSYS. In this study, a local deformation-based mesh-mapping (LDMM) method is proposed to model cracks with a natural front shape in any 3D structures. This methodology is first applied to model circumferential surface cracks with a natural crack front shape in the cross-sectional plane of a cylinder. The proposed new method can be applied to simulate both shallow and deep cracks. Also discussed in this paper is a direct method to reproduce welding residual stresses in the crack model using temperature fields combined with other sustained loads to predict crack propagations. With this novel LDMM method, natural crack fronts and non-planar crack faces can be easily modeled. The proposed new method can be used to generate a high-quality finite element model that can be used for both linear-elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM) and elastic-plastic fracture mechanics (EPFM) analyses. The study case illustrates that the proposed LDMM method is easy to implement and more efficient than the existing commercial software.

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