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Material Effect in the Nuclear Fuel–Coolant Interaction: Analyses of Prototypic Melt Fragmentation and Solidification in the Krotos Facility

Vaclav Tyrpekl, Pascal Piluso, Snejana Bakardjieva, and Olivier Dugne

Nuclear Technology

Volume 186 / Number 2 / May 2014 / Pages 229-240


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During a severe accident sequence in a pressurized light water reactor, the hot (∼3000 K) molten materials (corium) coming from the degraded reactor core may generate a violent interaction if they come in contact with water. This melt-water interaction, called fuel-coolant interaction (FCI), may damage the structures and threaten the reactor integrity if there is a steam explosion. FCI occurs generally in two phases: a premixing phase, during which the molten corium jet is fragmented into large droplets and mixed with the water, and the explosion phase, during which the vapor film that has developed around the fuel droplets is destabilized and the droplets are finely fragmented. The presented work covers a set of experimental studies describing the morphology and nature of the solidified materials after interaction with water. Debris from experiments performed in the KROTOS (Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique, Cadarache, France); PREMIX, ECO (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany); and MISTEE (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden) facilities have been characterized by metallographic, analytical, and microscopic techniques. These post-test analyses are able to provide important information on the solidification path and other main phenomena involved during FCI. It was found that the behavior of metallic and oxide melts differs significantly from the standpoint of debris morphology. Oxide melts that underwent simple coarse fragmentation showed spherical or angular rocklike shape, unlike metallic melts. A statistical analysis was performed on the debris from the KROTOS tests; a data set of particles was described by the circularity, solidity, and porosity. The mechanism of water ingression (Kim and Corradini) inside the melt droplet was observed to be the key mechanism of fine (secondary) fragmentation. The particles participating in fine “thermal” fragmentation have significantly higher porosity, up to ∼30% for prototypic corium in the KROTOS facility. It was calculated that only a part of the premixed melt participates in fine fragmentation, i.e., about one-third of the melt mass for the KROTOS tests using UO2-ZrO2 mixture.

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