To assess the structural integrity of reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) during pressurized thermal shock (PTS) events, the deterministic fracture mechanics approach prescribed in Japanese code JEAC 4206-2007 [1] has been used in Japan. The structural integrity is judged to be maintained if the stress intensity factor (SIF) at the crack tip during PTS events is smaller than fracture toughness KIc. On the other hand, the application of a probabilistic fracture mechanics (PFM) analysis method for the structural reliability assessment of pressure components has become attractive recently because uncertainties related to influence parameters can be incorporated rationally. A probabilistic approach has already been adopted as the regulation on fracture toughness requirements against PTS events in the U.S. According to the PFM analysis method in the U.S., through-wall cracking frequencies (TWCFs) are estimated taking frequencies of event occurrence and crack arrest after crack initiation into consideration.

In this study, in order to identify the conservatism in the current RPV integrity assessment procedure in the code, probabilistic analyses on TWCF have been performed for certain model of RPVs. The result shows that the current assumption in JEAC 4206-2007, that a semi-elliptic axial crack is postulated on the inside surface of RPV wall, is conservative as compared with realistic conditions. Effects of variation of PTS transients on crack initiation frequency and TWCF have been also discussed.

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