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Discrete Element Method–Based Investigations of Granular Flow in a Pebble Bed Reactor

Vaibhav Khane, Mahmoud M. Taha, Gary E. Mueller, Muthanna H. Al-Dahhan

Nuclear Technology / Volume 199 / Number 1 / July 2017 / Pages 47-66

Technical Paper / dx.doi.org/10.1080/00295450.2017.1324729

Received:May 25, 2016
Accepted:April 26, 2017
Published:July 17, 2017

In a pebble bed reactor (PBR) core, nuclear fuel in the form of pebbles moves slowly under the influence of gravity. Due to the dynamic nature of the core, a thorough understanding about slow and dense granular flow of pebbles is required from both a reactor safety point of view and a performance evaluation point of view. In the current study, validation of discrete element method (DEM)–based simulation for the pebble flow in a PBR was carried out. Validation of DEM-based simulations necessitates validation of the employed numerical method of simulating packed structure. Hence, a parametric sensitivity study of packing interaction properties was initially conducted and also validation of the numerical method simulating packed structure at first. The parametric sensitivity analysis suggests that static friction characteristics play an important role from a packed/pebble bed structural characterization point of view. In addition, the simulated packed structure approach has shown a good agreement with the available benchmark data. Afterward, the effect of two different half-cone angles of 30 deg and 60 deg on pebble flow field in a PBR was studied by EDEMTM-based simulations. Results of streamlines, velocity radial profiles, and direct observation of discharge indicated a plug-type flow in the upper cylindrical region, whereas results indicated converging-type flow near the bottom conical region. EDEMTM results of granular flow were validated against experimental benchmark data and show a fair agreement in terms of Lagrangian trajectories and velocity profile. Therefore, this validated EDEMTM-based simulation can be used to obtain reliable results of pebble dynamics in a PBR and to enhance understanding of this phenomenon in a PBR. However, additional experimental investigations are recommended to be carried out for different sizes of test reactors, different bottom cone angles, and different sizes of pebbles to further assess DEM simulation results before using them for full-scale reactor simulations.

 
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