When conducting structural integrity assessments for reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) under pressurized thermal shock (PTS) events, the stress intensity factor (SIF) is evaluated for a surface crack which is postulated near the inner surface of RPVs. It is known that cladding made of the stainless steel is a ductile material which is overlay-welded on the inner surface of RPVs for corrosion protection. Therefore, the plasticity of cladding should be considered in the SIF evaluation for a postulated underclad crack. In our previous study, we performed three-dimensional (3D) elastic and elastic-plastic finite element analyses (FEAs) for underclad cracks during PTS transients and discussed the conservatism of a plasticity correction method prescribed in the French code. In this study, additional FEAs were performed to further investigate the plasticity correction on SIF evaluation for underclad cracks. Based on the 3D FEA results, a new plasticity correction method was proposed for Japanese RPVs subjected to PTS events. In addition, the applicability of the new method was verified by studying the effects of the RPV geometry, cladding thickness and loading conditions. Finally, it is concluded that the newly proposed plasticity correction method can provide a more rational evaluation with a margin to some extent on SIFs of underclad cracks in Japanese three-loop RPVs.

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