Date of Award


Degree Type



Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Duffy, Stephen

Subject Headings

Graphite, Anisotropy, Nuclear engineering, Reliability Weibull Importance Sampling


The nuclear moderator for high temperature nuclear reactors are fabricated from graphite. During reactor operations graphite components are subjected to complex stress states arising from structural loads, thermal gradients, neutron irradiation damage, and seismic events. Graphite is a quasi-brittle material. Two aspects of nuclear gradegraphite, i.e., material anisotropy and different behavior in tension and compression, are explicitly accounted for in this effort. Fracture mechanic methods are useful for metal alloys, but they are problematic for anisotropic materials with a microstructure that makes it difficult to identify a "critical" flaw. In fact cracking in a graphite core component does not necessarily result in the loss of integrity of a nuclear graphite core assembly. A phenomenological failure criterion that does not rely on flaw detection has been derived that accounts for the material behaviors mentioned. The probability of failure of components fabricated from graphite is governed by the scatter in strength. The design protocols being proposed by international code agencies recognize that design and analysis of reactor core components must be based upon probabilistic principles. The reliability models proposed herein for isotropic graphite and graphite that can be characterized as being transversely isotropic are another set of design tools for the next generation very high temperature reactors (VHTR) as well as molten salt reactors. The work begins with a review of phenomenologically based deterministic failure criteria. A number of this genre of failure models are compared with recent multiaxial nuclear grade failure data. Aspects in each are shown to be lacking. The basic behavior of different failure strengths in tension and compression is exhibited by failure models derived for concrete, but attempts to extend these concrete models to anisotropy were unsuccessful. The phenomenological models are directly dependent on stress invariants. A set of invariants, known as an integrity basi