The coolant flow in the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) lower plenum is complex due to the presence of various internal structures, which has a great influence on the flow distribution at the core inlet. In order to study the thermal hydraulic characteristics in the RPV lower plenum, many scaled down test facilities have been built for different PWR reactors such as Juliette, ACOP, and ROCOM. Although the experimental study is still a main research method, it may be not economical in some situations due to the high cost and the long study period. Compared with the experimental method, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) methodology can simulate three dimensional fluid flow in complex geometries and perform parametric studies more easily. The detailed and localized thermal hydraulic characteristics which are difficult to measure during experiments can be obtained. So CFD simulation has been widely used nowadays. One of the purposes of numerical simulations of the internal flow in a RPV is to get the flow distribution at the core inlet, then to make an optimization for the flow diffusor in the RPV lower plenum to improve the core inlet flow distribution homogeneity. Appropriate optimizations for the flow diffusor depends on fully understanding the flow phenomena in the RPV lower plenum. In this paper, Phenomenon Identification and Ranking Table (PIRT) is adopted to analyze the physical phenomenon that occurs in the RPV lower plenum with the typical 900MW reactor internal structures, and the importance of the various physical phenomena and the reference parameters are ranked through expert opinions and literature review. Then a preliminary three dimensional CFD simulation for the reactor vessel is conducted. The main phenomena identified by the PIRT can be observed from the simulation results.

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