Numerical simulation of the insulation material transport in a PWR core under loss of coolant conditions

Numerical simulation of the insulation material transport in a PWR core under loss of coolant conditions

Höhne, T.; Grahn, A.; Kliem, S.; Rohde, U.; Weiss, F.-P.

In 1992, strainers on the suction side of the ECCS pumps in Barsebäck NPP Unit 2 became partially clogged with mineral wool after a safety valve opened because steam impinged on the thermally-insulated equipment and released mineral wool. This event pointed out that strainer clogging in the course of a loss-of-coolant accident is an issue and induced many investigations to understand and prevent strainer clogging effects.

Modifications of the insulation material, the strainer area and mesh size were carried out in most of the German NPPs. Moreover, back flushing procedures to remove the mineral wool from the strainers and differential pressure measurement were implemented to assure the performance of emergency core cooling during the containment sump recirculation mode.

Nevertheless, it cannot be completely ruled out, that a limited amount of the smaller fractions of insulation material could be transported into the RPV. During a postulated cold leg LOCA with hot leg ECC injection, the fibres enter the upper plenum and can accumulate at the fuel element spacer grids, preferably at the uppermost grid level. This effect might affect the ECC flow into the core and could result in degradation of core cooling.

It was the aim of the numerical simulations presented to study where and how many mineral wool fibers are deposited at the upper spacer grid. The 3D, time dependent, multi-phase flow problem was modelled by applying the CFD code ANSYS CFX.

The spacer grids were modeled as a strainer, which completely retains all the insulation material that reaches the uppermost spacer level. There, the accumulation of the insulation material gives rise to the formation of a compressible fibrous layer, the permeability of which to the coolant flow is calculated in terms of the local amount of deposited material and the local value of the superficial liquid velocity.

Before the switch over of the ECC injection from the flooding mode to the sump mode, the coolant circulates in an inner convection loop in the core extending from the lower plenum to the upper plenum. The CFD simulations have shown that after starting the sump mode, the ECC water injected through the hot legs flows down into the core via so-called "brake through channels" located in the outer core region where the downward leg of the convection role had established. The hotter, lighter coolant rises in the center of the core. As a consequence, the insulation material is preferably deposited at the uppermost spacer grids positioned in the break through zones. This means that the fibres are not uniformly deposited over the core cross section.

When the inner recirculation stops later in the transient, insulation material can also be collected in other regions of the core cross section at the level of the upper spacer grids. Nevertheless, with a total of 2.7 kg fiber material deposited at the uppermost spacer level, the pressure drop over the fiber cake is not higher than 8 kPa and all the ECC water could still enter the core. The CFD calculation does not yet include steam production in the core and also does not include re-suspension of the insulation material during reverse flow. This will certainly further improve the coolability of the core.

Keywords: CFD; Fibre; Core; PWR

Publ.-Id: 16656