Structural integrity of the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) is one of the main concerns regarding safety and lifetime of Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) since this component is considered as not reasonably replaceable. Fast fracture risk is the main potential damage considered in the integrity assessment of RPV.

In France, deterministic integrity assessment for RPV vis-à-vis the brittle fracture risk is based on the crack initiation stage. As regards the core area in particular, the stability of an under-clad postulated flaw is currently evaluated under a Pressurized Thermal Shock (PTS) through a dedicated fracture mechanics simplified method called “beta method”. However, flaw stability analyses are also carried-out in several other areas of the RPV. Thence-forward performing uniform simplified inservice analyses of flaw stability is a major concern for EDF.

In this context, 3D finite element elastic-plastic calculations with flaw modelling in the nozzle have been carried out recently and the corresponding results have been compared to those provided by the beta method, codified in the French RSE-M code for under-clad defects in the core area, in the most severe events.

The purpose of this work is to validate the employment of the core area fracture mechanics simplified method as a conservative approach for the under-clad postulated flaw stability assessment in the complex geometry of the nozzle.

This paper presents both simplified and 3D modelling flaw stability evaluation methods and the corresponding results obtained by running a PTS event. It shows that the employment of the “beta method” provides conservative results in comparison to those produced by elastic-plastic calculations for the cases here studied.

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