This paper describes the experimental validation of a proposed method that uses a small amount of helium injection to prevent the onset of natural circulation in high temperature gas reactors (HTGR) following a depressurized loss of coolant accident. If this technique can be shown to work, air ingress accidents can be mitigated. A study by Dr. Xing L. Yan et al. (2008) developed an analytical estimate for the minimum injection rate (MIR) of helium required to prevent natural circulation. Yan’s study used a benchmarked CFD model of a prismatic core reactor to show that this method of helium injection would impede natural circulation. The current study involved the design and construction of an experimental apparatus in conjunction with a CFD model to validate Yan’s method. Based on the computational model, a physical experimental model was built and tested to simulate the main coolant pipe rupture of a Pebble Bed Reactor (PBR), a specific type of HTGR. The experimental apparatus consisted of a five foot tall, 2 inch diameter, copper U-tube placed atop a 55-gallon barrel to reduce sensor noise from outside air movement. Hot and cold legs were simulated to reflect the typical natural circulation conditions expected in reactor systems. FLUENT was used to predict the diffusion and circulation phases. Several experimental trials were run with and without helium injection. Results showed that with minimal helium injection, the onset of natural circulation was prevented which suggests that such a method may be useful in the design of high temperature gas reactors to mitigate air ingress accidents.

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