The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) operates approximately 300 aging layered pressure vessels that were designed and manufactured prior to ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel (B&PV) code requirements. In order to make decisions regarding the continued fitness-for-service of these non-code carbon steel vessels, it is necessary to perform a relative risk of failure assessment for each vessel. However, risk assessment of these vessels is confounded by uncertainties and variabilities related to the use of proprietary materials in fabrication, missing construction records, geometric discontinuities, weld residual stresses, and complex service stress gradients in and around the welds. Therefore, a probabilistic framework that can capture these uncertainties and variabilities has been developed to assess the fracture risk of flaws in regions of interest, such as longitudinal and circumferential welds, using the NESSUS® probabilistic modeling software and NASGRO® fracture mechanics software. In this study, the probabilistic framework was used to predict variability in the stress intensity factor associated with different reference flaws located in the head-to-shell circumferential welds of a 4-layer and 14-layer pressure vessel. The probabilistic studies predict variability in flaw behavior and the important uncertain parameters for each reference flaw location.

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