Thanks to relative ease of fabrication and erection, steel containments with a torispherical or elliptical head are common in large nuclear power plants with relatively high internal pressure. Buckling failure mode is critical in the design of a steel containment with elliptical head under internal pressure. An experiment on buckling of elliptical head under internal pressure is presented in this paper. A test vessel was designed to provide a substantial margin of safety which permitted testing the head to rupture. The head has a diameter of 4797 mm, radius-to-height ratio of 1.728 and nominal thickness of 5.5 mm. Initial shape and shell displacement measurements of the head were carried out by using 3D laser scanners. The details of the buckling behavior are given. Initial buckling pressure was predicted by nonlinear finite element method considering the measured initial shape of the head. The agreement between the initial experimental buckling pressure and that predicted by the nonlinear finite element method is good. It is very useful in the buckling evaluation and the development of design rules for steel nuclear containment with elliptical head.

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