Section III, Division 5 of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code provides two broad paths for the design of high temperature, safety-critical nuclear components: design by elastic analysis and design by inelastic analysis. The design by elastic analysis approach, as the name suggests, uses a linear elastic stress analysis of the component and applies design rules designed to bound response of the actual structure, which will undergo both creep and plasticity. Currently, the Code allows the use of the elastic approach for all operating temperatures up to the maximum use temperatures in the Code. The bounds used in the elastic approach assume an uncoupled material response combining rate dependent creep with rate independent plasticity. However, at elevated temperatures creep and plasticity are coupled, rate dependent mechanisms and so the elastic analysis rules may become non-conservative. We present several examples of potential non-conservatism in the elastic analysis rules at high operating temperatures. Then we describe a systematic method for determining a temperature cutoff describing the transition from non-unified, rate independent plasticity material response to a rate dependent, unified plastic response. Logically, this transition temperature sets the upper bound for the allowable, conservative use of the design by elastic analysis approach and so we propose these temperatures, determined for all the Section III, Division 5 Class A materials, as Code limits for the applicability of the elastic approach.

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