Considering a reasonable range of core meltdown accidents that can be postulated for GenIV sodium fast reactors, good safety margins exist for corium confinement and cooling inside the reactor vessel. Coolable conditions can be reached with the adoption of an ad-hoc device in the lower plenum, i.e. core catcher, capable to intercept the downward motion of the molten material and assure its cooling. Such device has to be designed to withstand to extreme thermal-mechanical conditions that rise as consequence of the large mechanical energy release and high temperature of molten corium.
As this study has been carried out in the frame of the Collaborative Project on European Sodium Fast Reactor (CP ESFR) of the 7th Framework Programme Euratom, on the basis of the postulated accident conditions assumed for a reference 1500 MWe pool-type sodium fast reactor, the present work provides a preliminary analysis of the thermal response of a possible core catcher placed within the vessel. The dynamic thermal behaviour of the corium-structure-coolant system is analyzed with the computer code CORIUM-2D, an original simulation tool developed by RSE - Ricerca Sul Sistema Energetico, with the aim to assess the thermal interaction among corium, structures and coolant under severe accident conditions in both Light Water Reactors (LWRs) and Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactors (LMFBRs).
The results of the numerical simulations show that the steady-state coolable configuration of core debris and the structural integrity of main containment structures can be reached in a number of partial core meltdown situations.