Nuclear reactor designs are governed by postulated accident events that may occur during their operational lifetime. One type of incident is a reactivity-initiated accident (RIA), during which a sudden surge of power in the fuel components within the core may result in the latter exceeding its cooling capabilities. This could lead to a departure from nucleate boiling (DNB) event which results in a significant decrease in heat transfer capabilities. Preventing the occurrence of a DNB crisis requires a fundamental understanding of the cladding-to-coolant heat transfer under fast transient conditions, as well as the governing hydrodynamic and design parameters that influence when the critical heat flux (CHF) will be exceeded. Presently, large uncertainties in computer models used to predict CHF have led to conservative safety limits governing light-water reactor (LWR) designs.

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is currently leading a combined effort that takes advantage of the restart of the Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) facility, to better understand the mechanism of CHF under in-pile pool boiling conditions. The goal of this laboratory directed project is to use the unique capabilities of TREAT coupled with a non-fueled nuclear heated borated stainless-steel 304 tube experiment within an experimental capsule. The borated tube will induce CHF in the surrounding coolant when subjected to a power pulse within the TREAT. The impacts of rapid surface heating effects as well as radiation-induced surface activation (RISA) will be experimentally investigated.

This feature is a continuation to previous thermal hydraulics analysis that was conducted to inform on a test matrix for the design of the borated heater experiment. The borated tube was used in place of a solid rod so that the center axial region can be instrumented to allow for better experimental analysis. Therefore, it is desirable to design this rodlet so that the maximum heat flux occurs at the center of the axial length of the rod. The work presented here analyzes the potential to integrate axial boron gradients within this tube to shape its power curve.

Several generic axial power shapes were initially considered. Natural boron concentrations between 0.1–2.0 wt.% were analyzed and a power coupling factor (PCF) was calculated for each. A self-shielding study was conducted to develop radial power profiles for several boron concentrations. These were then applied to three different power pulses to determine how these two parameters influence the chosen axial heat flux curve. Variations in the initial coolant temperature were investigated. Lastly, how the shape of the generic curve is affected following a DNB event was also studied. Two different CHF cases were included within the scope of this analyses; one during which CHF was exceeding along the entire axial region of the rod, and another where the former occurred at the center region only. The behavior of the curve overtime was investigated.

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