The Modular High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (MHTGR) has been chosen as a reference design for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project. This reactor consists of concentric stacks of graphite blocks containing embedded fuel elements. Helium will be used as the coolant and will flow through designed coolant channels interspaced axially within the graphite blocks as well as in the gaps separating the blocks (called the bypass flow). A key phenomenon that may lead to localized hot spots in the reactor is the degradation of heat transfer effects in the bypass flow due to geometry distortions. Geometry distortions are the result of the graphite blocks being irradiated with energetic neutrons as well as coefficient of thermal expansion effects due to temperature changes. Idaho State University is studying heat transfer within the bypass flow and is developing an experiment to study the deterioration of heat transfer in the bypass flow stemming from these geometry distortions. Experimental data gathered from this project will be used to benchmark numerical codes used in the design and safety analysis of the MHTGR.
Baseline MHTGR operating conditions are for a system pressure of approximately 7 MPa and a helium exit temperature from the reactor of approximately 850 °C. In place of using helium at these extreme conditions, it is our desire to perform the experiments with air entering the experiment at atmospheric pressure and temperature. Additionally, it is desirable to have an open-air system as opposed to a closed helium system. In order to quantify the impacts on temperature increase as well as pressure drop, a scaling analysis will be performed to compare the respective values from both helium and air. Important non-dimensional parameters, such as Reynolds number, non-dimensional heat flux, the acceleration factor, and non-dimensional buoyancy, will be matched for the various conditions in order to provide a similitude between the helium and air. These factors cannot be matched all at once, except by using actual conditions. The range of Reynolds number will be chosen to ensure an operating regime from the purely laminar to completely turbulent. This paper presents the results of this scaling analysis.