Investigation of natural circulation instability and transients in passively safe novel modular reactor

Shanbin Shi, Purdue University


The Purdue Novel Modular Reactor (NMR) is a new type small modular reactor (SMR) that belongs to the design of boiling water reactor (BWR). Specifically, the NMR is one third the height and area of a conventional BWR reactor pressure vessel (RPV) with an electric output of 50 MWe. The fuel cycle length of the NMR-50 is extended up to 10 years due to optimized neutronics design. The NMR-50 is designed with double passive engineering safety system. However, natural circulation BWRs (NCBWR) could experience certain operational difficulties due to flow instabilities that occur at low pressure and low power conditions. Static instabilities (i.e. flow excursion (Ledinegg) instability and flow pattern transition instability) and dynamic instabilities (i.e. density wave instability and flashing/condensation instability) pose a significant challenge in two-phase natural circulation systems. In order to experimentally study the natural circulation flow instability, a proper scaling methodology is needed to build a reduced-size test facility. The scaling analysis of the NMR uses a three-level scaling method, which was developed and applied for the design of the Purdue Multi-dimensional Integral Test Assembly (PUMA). Scaling criteria is derived from dimensionless field equations and constitutive equations. The scaling process is validated by the RELAP5 analysis for both steady state and startup transients. A new well-scaled natural circulation test facility is designed and constructed based on the scaling analysis of the NMR-50. The experimental facility is installed with different equipment to measure various thermal-hydraulic parameters such as pressure, temperature, mass flow rate and void fraction. Characterization tests are performed before the startup transient tests and quasi-steady tests to determine the loop flow resistance. The controlling system and data acquisition system are programmed with LabVIEW to realize the real-time control and data storage. The thermal-hydraulic and nuclear coupled startup transients are performed to investigate the flow instabilities at low pressure and low power conditions. Two different power ramps are chosen to study the effect of power density on the flow instability. The experimental startup transient tests show the existence of three different flow instability mechanisms during the low pressure startup transients, i.e., flashing instability, condensation induced instability, and density wave oscillations. Flashing instability in the chimney section of the test loop and density wave oscillation are the main flow instabilities observed when the system pressure is below 0.5 MPa. They show completely different type of oscillations, i.e., intermittent oscillation and sinusoidal oscillation, in void fraction profile during the startup transients. In order to perform nuclear-coupled startup transients with void reactivity feedback, the Point Kinetics model is utilized to calculate the transient power during the startup transients. In addition, the differences between the electric resistance heaters and typical fuel element are taken into account. The reactor power calculated shows some oscillations due to flashing instability during the transients. However, the void reactivity feedback does not have significant influence on the flow instability during the startup procedure for the NMR-50. Further investigation of very small power ramp on the startup transients is carried out for the thermal-hydraulic startup transients. It is found that very small power density can eliminate the flashing oscillation in the single phase natural circulation and stabilize the flow oscillations in the phase of net vapor generation. Furthermore, initially pressurized startup procedure is investigated to eliminate the main flow instabilities. The results show that the pressurized startup procedure can suppress the flashing instability at low pressure and low power conditions. In order to have a deep understanding of natural circulation flow instability, the quasi-steady tests are performed using the test facility installed with preheater and subcooler. The effects of system pressure, core inlet subcooling, core power density, inlet flow resistance coefficient, and void reactivity feedback are investigated in the quasi-steady state tests. The stability boundaries are determined between unstable and stable flow conditions in the dimensionless stability plane of inlet subcooling number and Zuber number. In order to predict the stability boundary theoretically, linear stability analysis in the frequency domain is performed at four sections of the loop. The flashing in the chimney is considered as an axially uniform heat source. The dimensionless characteristic equation of the pressure drop perturbation is obtained by considering the void fraction effect and outlet flow resistance in the chimney section. The flashing boundary shows some discrepancies with previous experimental data from the quasi-steady state tests. In the future, thermal non-equilibrium is recommended to improve the accuracy of flashing instability boundary.




Hibiki, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Nuclear engineering

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