In recent years, the integrity of reactor pressure vessel (RPV) under pressurized thermal shock (PTS) accident has become controversial issue since the larger shift of RTNDT in some higher fluence surveillance data raised a concern on RPV integrity. Under PTS condition, the combination of thermal stress due to a temperature gradient and mechanical stress due to internal pressure causes considerable tensile stress inside the wall of RPV. Currently, RPV integrity is assessed by comparing stress intensity factor on a crack tip under PTS condition and a reference toughness curve based on the fracture toughness data of irradiated compact specimens. Since PTS loading is large enough to cause plastic deformation, a crack tip behavior on the inner surface of RPV can be explained by elastic-plastic fracture mechanics using the J-integral.

In this study, 3D elastic plastic finite element analyses were performed to assess the crack tip behavior on surface of a RPV under Loss of coolant Accident, which causes one of the most severe PTS condition. In order to quantify the constraint effect on a surface crack, J-Q approach was applied. The constraint effect of a surface crack was compared with a compact specimen and its influence on the fracture toughness was assessed.

As a result, the difference of constraint effect was clearly obtained. And it is recommended to consider constraint effects in the evaluation of structural integrity of RPV under PTS.

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