An in-vessel stage of a severe core melt accident in a Nordic type Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) is considered wherein a decay-heated pool of corium melt inflicts thermal and mechanical loads on the lower-head vessel wall. This process induces creep leading to a mechanical failure of the reactor vessel wall. The focus of this study is to investigate the effect of Control Rod Guide Tube (CRGT) and top cooling on the modes of global vessel failure of the lower head.

A coupled thermo-mechanical creep analysis of the lower head is performed and cases with and without CRGT and top cooling are compared. The debris bed heat-up, re-melting, melt pool formation, and heat transfer are calculated using the Phase-change Effective Convectivity Model and transient heat transfer characteristics are provided for thermo-mechanical strength calculations. The creep analysis is performed with the modified time hardening creep model and both thermal and integral mechanical loads on the reactor vessel wall are taken into account. Known material properties of the reactor vessel as a function of temperature, including the creep curves, are used as an input data for the creep analysis.

It is found that a global vessel failure is imminent regardless of activation of CRGT and top cooling. However, if CRGT and top cooling is activated, the mode and timing of failure is different compared to the case with no CRGT and top cooling. More specifically, with CRGT and top cooling, there are two modes of global vessel failure depending on the size of the melt pool: (a) ‘ballooning’ of the vessel bottom for smaller pools, and (b) ‘localized creep’ concentrated within the vicinity of the top surface of the melt pool for larger pools. Without CRGT and top cooling, only a ballooning mode of global vessel failure is observed. Furthermore, a considerable delay (about 1.4 h) on the global vessel failure is observed for the roughly 30-ton debris case if CRGT and top cooling is implemented. For a much larger pool (roughly 200-ton debris), no significant delay on the global vessel failure is observed when CRGT and top cooling is implemented, however, the liquid melt fraction and melt superheat are considerably higher in non-cooling case.

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