The so-called “in-vessel retention (IVR)” is a basic strategy for severe accident (SA) mitigation of some advanced nuclear power plants (NPPs). The IVR strategy is to keep the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) intact under SA like core meltdown condition. During the IVR, the core melt (∼1327 °C) is collected in the lower head (LH) of the RPV, while the external surface of RPV is submerged in the water. Through external cooling of the RPV, the structural integrity is assumed to be maintained within a prescribed period of time. The maximum thermal loading is referred to critical heat flux (CHF) on the inside, while the external surface is considered to perform in the environment of the boiling crisis point (∼130 °C). Due to the high temperature gradients, the failure mechanisms of the RPV is found to span a wide range of structural behaviors across the wall thickness, such as melt-through, creep damage, plastic yielding as well as thermal expansion. Besides CHF, the pressurized core meltdown was another evident threat to the RPV integrity, as indicated in the Fukushima accident on 2011. In illustrating the effects of internal pressures and individual CHF on the failure behaviors, three typical RPVs with geometric discontinuity caused by local material melting were adopted for the comparative study. Through finite-element method (FEM), the RPV structural behaviors were investigated in terms of deformation, stress, plastic strain, creep, and damage. Finally, some important conclusions are summarized in the concluding remark. Such comparative study provides insight and better understanding for the RPV safety margin under the IVR condition.

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