Monitoring cooling tower performance in a nuclear reactor facility is necessary to ensure safe operation; however, instrumentation for measuring performance characteristics can be difficult to install, and may malfunction or break down over long duration experiments. This paper describes employing a thermodynamic approach to quantify cooling tower performance, the Merkel model, which requires only five parameters, namely: inlet water temperature, outlet water temperature, liquid mass flow rate, gas mass flow rate, and wet bulb temperature. Using this model, a general method to determine cooling tower operation for a nuclear reactor was developed in situations when neither the outlet water temperature nor gas mass flow rate are available, the former being a critical piece of information to bound the Merkel integral. Furthermore, when multiple cooling tower cells are used in parallel (as would be in the case of large-scale cooling operations), only the average outlet temperature of the cooling system is used as feedback for fan speed control, increasing the difficulty of obtaining the outlet water temperature for each cell. To address these shortcomings, this paper describes a method to obtain individual cell outlet water temperatures for mechanical forced-air cooling towers via parametric analysis and optimization. The method was able to determine the gas flow rate at rated conditions to be within 3.9% from that obtained from the manufacturer's specification, while the average error for the four individual cooling cell outlet water temperatures were 1.6°C, −0.5°C, −1.0°C and 0.3°C.

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