Abstract

Retention of molten corium inside calandria vessel is crucial for arresting accident progression in pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) during severe accidents. Our earlier tests have demonstrated corium retention and its cooling inside the calandria vessel of PHWRs through external cooling by vault water. However, the presence of nozzles and moderator drain pipe at the bottom of calandria vessel has not been considered in these studies. These nozzles and drain pipes used for moderator circulation can make the viability of corium retention even more challenging. Once the moderator has evaporated, debris reheating, compacting, and finally melting can cause the release of molten corium into the moderator recirculation system. This can lead to the relocation of corium beyond calandria vessel. The corium might reach the pump room or calandria vault after the failure of moderator drain pipe and/or moderator pump seals. This has severe consequences on containment integrity due to molten corium concrete interaction (MCCI). The risks posed by MCCI can be avoided if corium can be contained inside calandria vessel even with the presence of nozzles (at the bottom of the vessel) or if at all it enters into the drain line, does not cause its failure. Thus, it becomes crucial to evaluate the challenges faced by “in-vessel retention” (IVR) as a severe accident management strategy due to the presence of openings in the calandria vessel. Relatively colder debris present near the bottom of calandria vessel might help in obstructing the nozzles of the moderator drain line and can prevent the entry of hot molten corium into the moderator cooling line. The role of debris, therefore, becomes important under such scenarios for not just insulation of calandria vessel from hot corium but also for retention of corium within the vessel. In this article, these issues are addressed by conducting two sets of experiments for assessment of retention capability (IVR) of calandria vessel: (i) with the presence of debris and (ii) without debris at the bottom of calandria vessel. The moderator recirculation line was scaled to simulate the heat transfer from corium to vault water and solidification of corium simulant while flowing through the moderator drain pipe. It was observed that debris bed present at the bottom of the vessel helps in arresting the molten corium front and thus prevents corium from entering into moderator drain pipe. When experiments were conducted without debris, molten corium was found to be relocating in the moderator drain pipe. The drain pipe, however, did not fail under the thermal load.

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