ANALYSIS OF A REACTOR PRESSURE VESSEL SUBJECTED TO PRESSURIZED THERMAL SHOCKS
Free (open access)
Volume 4 (2016), Issue 3
288 - 300
M. NIFFENEGGER, G. QIAN, V.F. GONZALEZ-ALBUIXECH, M. SHARABI & N. LAFFERTY
The integrity of reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) of nuclear power plants is one of the most important topics in the field of nuclear energy production. Therefore, the integrity of RPVs has to be assessed for normal operation as well as for emergency transients. A critical transient concerning the RPV integrity is the emergency cooling of a pressurized water reactor, initiated by a leak in the hot leg. Such shock-like cooling in combination with the pressure, the so-called pressurized thermal shock (PTS), causes high thermal stresses in the RPV wall and stress intensities of pre-existing cracks which could exceed the remaining fracture toughness of the material, which is additionally embrittled due to neutron irradiation. This may result in a cleavage fracture of the most safety relevant reactor component.
We present a PTS study of a reference reactor, starting with the calculation of the thermal-hydraulic system behaviour, followed by the simulation of the cold water temperature injection and mixing by means of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) method and the subsequent structural and fracture mechanics calculation. In the safety assessment, we compare the evolution of the stress intensity factors (SIF) during an emergency cooling transient with the fracture toughness at the tip of postulated cracks. Results and open questions will be discussed in the light of a realistic estimation of safety margins.
computational fluid dynamics, finite element method, fracture mechanics, pressurized thermal shock, reactor pressure vessel, RELAP5