Title: Some considerations to improve the methodology to assess In-Vessel Retention strategy for high-power reactors
Citation: ANNALS OF NUCLEAR ENERGY vol. 119 p. 36-45
Publication Year: 2018
JRC N°: JRC109903
ISSN: 0306-4549 (online)
URI: https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC109903
DOI: 10.1016/j.anucene.2018.03.040
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: The In-Vessel Retention (IVR) strategy for Light Water Reactors (LWR) intends to stabilize and isolate corium and fission products in the reactor pressure vessel and in the primary circuit. This type of Severe Accident Management (SAM) strategy has already been incorporated in the SAM guidance (SAMG) of several operating small size LWR (reactor below 500 MWe (like VVER440)) and is part of the SAMG strategies for some Gen III+ PWRs of higher power like the AP1000 or the APR1400. However, the demonstration of IVR feasibility for high power reactors requires using less conservative models as the safety margins are reduced. In Europe, the IVMR project aims at providing new experimental data and a harmonized methodology for IVR. A synthesis of the methodology applied to demonstrate the efficiency of IVR strategy for VVER-440 in Europe (Finland, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic) was made. It showed very consistent results, following quite comparable methodologies. The main weakness of the demonstration was identified in the evaluation of the heat flux that could be reached in transient situations, e.g. under the “3-layers” configuration, where the “focusing effect” may cause higher heat fluxes than in steady-state (due to transient “thin” metal layer on top). Analyses of various designs of reactors with a power between 900 and 1300 MWe were also made. Different models for the description of the molten pool were used: homogeneous, stratified with fixed configuration, stratified with evolving configuration. The last type of model provides the highest heat fluxes (above 3 MW/m2) whereas the first type provides the lowest heat fluxes (around 500 MW/m2) but is not realistic due to the non-miscibility of steel with UO2. Obviously, there is a need to reach a consensus about best estimate practices for IVR assessment to be used in the major codes for safety analysis, such as ASTEC, MELCOR, SOCRAT, MAAP, ATHLET-CD, SCDAP/RELAP, etc. Despite the model discrepancies, and leaving aside the unrealistic case of homogeneous pool, the average calculated heat fluxes in many cases are well above 1 MW/m² which could reduce the residual thickness of the vessel considerably and threaten its integrity. Therefore, it is clear that the safety demonstration of IVR for high power reactors requires a more careful evaluation of the situations which can lead to formation of either a very thin top metal layer provoking focusing effect or significantly overheated metal, e.g. after oxide and metal layer inversion. It also requires an accurate mechanical analysis of the ablated vessel. The current approach followed by most experts for IVR is a compromise between a deterministic analysis using the significant knowledge gained during the last two decades and a probabilistic analysis to take into account large uncertainties due to the lack of data for some physical phenomena (such as transient effects) and due to excessive simplifications of models. A harmonization of the positions of safety authorities on the IVR strategy is necessary to allow decision making based on shared scientific knowledge. Currently, the acceptance criteria of a safety demonstration for IVR may be differently defined from one country to the other and the differences should be further discussed to reach harmonization on this important topic. This includes the accident scenarios to be considered in the demonstration and the modelling of the phenomena in the vessel. Such harmonization is one of the goals of IVMR project. A revised methodology is proposed, where the safety criterion is not based on a comparison of the heat flux and the Critical Heat Flux (CHF) profiles as in current approaches but on the minimum vessel thickness reached after ablation and the maximum pressure load that is applied to the vessel during the transient. The main advantage of this revised criterion is to include both steady-state configurations and transient states of the corium pool. Another advantage is that this criterion may be used in both probabilistic and deterministic approaches.
JRC Directorate:Nuclear Safety and Security

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