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Investigation on upper bounds of recriticality energetics of hypothetical core disruptive accidents in sodium cooled fast reactors
Nuclear Engineering and Design, vol. 326, no. January, pp. 392-402
One key research goal for GEN-IV systems is an enhanced safety compared to the former Sodium Cooled Fast Reactor concepts. A key issue is built-in safety and the capability to prevent accidents and to demonstrate that their consequences do not violate aimed-at safety criteria. From the beginning of SFR development the Core Disruptive Accident (CDA) has played an outstanding role in the safety assessment. Under core disruptive accident conditions with core melting the fuel might compact, prompt criticality might be achieved and a severe nuclear power excursion with mechanical energy release might be the consequence. Numerous safety analyses accompanied the development and the licensing procedures of past fast reactor projects. A central issue of all analyses was the assessment of a realistic upper bound of energetics especially related to recriticalities in disrupted core configurations. Striving for an even higher safety level for next generation reactors a new strategy focused on the development and introduction of preventive and mitigative measures both to reduce the chance for a severe accident development and to mitigate its energetics. For assessing the effectiveness of these measures the knowledge of the CDA behavior is essential. In this context and on basis of new code developments, new experimental insights and extended studies for many reactor types of different power classes over the recent years, the issue of a realistic upper bound of energetics of the late core melt phases is again of relevance. Of special interest is the identification of natural and intrinsic mechanisms that limit the escalation of energetics. The current paper deals with these issues and tries to add supportive facts on the limits of CDA energetics. The evaluation of results of mechanistic SIMMER-II and SIMMER-III/IV analyses performed for various core designs and power classes and specific model case studies in 2D and 3D geometry indeed supports the idea of a limit of recriticality energetics. Intrinsic mechanisms exist, which limit the escalation energetics even in case of a strong blockage confinement suppressing any fuel discharge and allowing on-going sloshing recriticalities. In the light of the available information and taking into account relevant scientific publications and studies by the international community on the subject, one could conclude that an upper bound for energetics in the range given in the paper can be deduced.