The Reactor Cavity Cooling System (RCCS) is a passive safety concept under consideration for the overall safety strategy of advanced reactors such as the High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR). One such variant, air-cooled RCCS, uses natural convection to drive the flow of air from outside the reactor building to remove decay heat during normal operation and accident scenarios. The Natural convection Shutdown heat removal Test Facility (NSTF) at Argonne National Laboratory (“Argonne”) is a half-scale model of the primary features of one conceptual air-cooled RCCS design. The facility was constructed to carry out highly instrumented experiments to study the performance of the RCCS concept for reactor decay heat removal that relies on natural convection cooling. Parallel modeling and simulation efforts were performed to support the design, operation, and analysis of the natural convection system.

Throughout the testing program, strong influences of ambient conditions were observed in the experimental data when baseline tests were repeated under the same test procedures. Thus, significant analysis efforts were devoted to gaining a better understanding of these influences and the subsequent response of the NSTF to ambient conditions. It was determined that air humidity had negligible impacts on NSTF system performance and therefore did not warrant consideration in the models. However, temperature differences between the building exterior and interior air, along with the outside wind speed, were shown to be dominant factors. Combining the stack and wind effects together, an empirical model was developed based on theoretical considerations and using experimental data to correlate zero-power system flow rates with ambient meteorological conditions. Some coefficients in the model were obtained based on best fitting the experimental data. The predictive capability of the empirical model was demonstrated by applying it to the new set of experimental data. The empirical model was also implemented in the computational models of the NSTF using both RELAP5-3D and STAR-CCM+ codes. Accounting for the effects of ambient conditions, simulations from both codes predicted the natural circulation flow rates very well.

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