Assuring the protection of people and the environment from unnecessary exposure to radiation is of great concern to nuclear electric power generators and regulators. In order to secure and maintain a license for operation of a nuclear power plant in the United States, the applicant is required to assess postulated scenarios to determine if an accidental chemical release either onsite or offsite will result in a design-basis event. When determining design-basis events, accident categories such as fire, explosion and/or toxic vapor cloud formation are considered.
Evaluations must consider whether the postulated accidental chemical release will result in operator impairment or damage to safety related structures, systems or components (SSCs), either of which may prevent safe shutdown of the nuclear plant. A critical step in performing such safety evaluations is selection of an appropriate model which will most closely reflect the behavior of a chemical release in the scenario under consideration. Many chemical dispersion models are available for use in safety evaluations for accidental chemical releases; however, it is imperative that the model selected be appropriate for the postulated release conditions. Model selection should be based on careful evaluation of factors such as release location, meteorological conditions, terrain, chemical inventory and storage conditions, as well as the physical and chemical properties of the chemical under consideration in the postulated release.
Failure to select a model suitable for the conditions under which the chemical is released or to appropriately evaluate the physical properties of the chemical and the corresponding limitations of the model may result in underpredicting or overpredicting the impact of a fire, explosion or toxic chemical release. Underpredicting could leave the facility susceptible to damage of safety related SSCs or lead to operator impairment both of which may affect the ability of the plant to safely operate following an accident. While overpredicting the impacts could lead to unnecessary and costly overdesign. This paper will address the considerations that must be evaluated when selecting a chemical dispersion model and will illustrate the importance of model selection in performing nuclear safety evaluations through examples and case studies.