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Limiting Factors for External Reactor Vessel Cooling

F. B. Cheung

Nuclear Technology / Volume 152 / Number 2 / Pages 145-161

November 2005

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The method of external reactor vessel cooling (ERVC) that involves flooding of the reactor cavity during a severe accident has been considered a viable means for in-vessel retention (IVR). For high-power reactors, however, there are some limiting factors that might adversely affect the feasibility of using ERVC as a means for IVR. In this paper, the key limiting factors for ERVC have been identified and critically discussed. These factors include the choking limit for steam venting (CLSV) through the bottleneck of the vessel/insulation structure, the critical heat flux (CHF) for downward-facing boiling on the vessel outer surface, and the two-phase flow instabilities in the natural circulation loop within the flooded cavity. To enhance ERVC, it is necessary to eliminate or relax these limiting factors. Accordingly, methods to enhance ERVC and thus improve margins for IVR have been proposed and demonstrated, using the APR1400 as an example. The strategy is based on using two distinctly different methods to enhance ERVC. One involves the use of an enhanced vessel/insulation design to facilitate steam venting through the bottleneck of the annular channel. The other involves the use of an appropriate vessel coating to promote downward-facing boiling. It is found that the use of an enhanced vessel/insulation design with bottleneck enlargement could greatly facilitate the process of steam venting through the bottleneck region as well as streamline the resulting two-phase motions in the annular channel. By selecting a suitable enhanced vessel/insulation design, not only the CLSV but also the CHF limits could be significantly increased. In addition, the problem associated with two-phase flow instabilities and flow-induced mechanical vibration could be minimized. It is also found that the use of vessel coatings made of microporous metallic layers could greatly facilitate downward-facing boiling on the vessel outer surface. With vessel coatings, the local CHF limits at different angular locations of the vessel outer surface could be enhanced by ~1.2 to 2 times the CHF compared with a plain vessel without coatings. The CHF enhancement could be attributed to the structure of the porous coating itself and the capillary action it induced. The matrix of cavities and voids within the coating effectively trap vapor, which serve as active nucleation sites. These sites in turn are fed with liquid flowing through the interconnected channels. The pores on the surface of the porous coating serve as flow inlets for liquid supply to the heating surface, leading to appreciable enhancement in downward-facing boiling heat transfer and the local CHF limits. Results of the present study suggest that by utilizing an enhanced vessel/insulation design with vessel coating, it is possible to significantly enhance the CLSV and the CHF limits as well as minimize the two-phase flow instability problems, thus substantially increasing the margin for IVR.

 
 
 
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