The finite element simulation of fracture propagation of BCC metals is challenging, as it needs to incorporate the brittle, ductile-brittle transition and ductile behavior presented by the fracture toughness. In this contribution, we restrict ourselves to the use of XFEM method to simulate the cleavage fracture due to initial flaws in the reactor pressure vessel of a reference design of the two-loop PWR nuclear power plant. A hypothetical large break loss of coolant accident is selected as accident scenario to obtain the loading conditions under which the crack is subjected. The thermal-mechanical calculation is performed using a finite element model of the whole RPV and the initial and boundary conditions are determined from the thermal-hydraulic simulation of the transient in TRACE. The method proposed in this contribution is based on the cohesive segment approach implemented in ABAQUS, which requires the definition of the damage properties of the material. The segment approach does not use the fracture toughness as failure criterion. Instead, it uses a traction separation law that is able to capture the brittle fracture behavior of ferritic steel. The crack propagation in XFEM uses a propagation criterion based on a cohesive damage initiation criterion and a damage evolution model. In order to implement the damage evolution model, the fracture energy release rate is directly related to the fracture toughness. The postulated crack is inserted in a submodel to reduce the computational cost of the calculation. The location of such submodel corresponds to the region of the core that suffers maximum irradiation and is subjected to high tensile stresses due to the cooling plume generated during the transient PTS cooling. The crack propagation analysis of postulated axial crack showed that its propagation happens in axial direction in those finite elements close to the inner surface because the energy release rate GI is larger than the critical energy release rate GIC. At the deepest point of the crack, the stresses in the finite element fulfil the damage initiation criterion but the crack does not propagate in radial direction (GI < GIC).

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