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Mass transfer between a continuous oxide phase (U-O-Zr) and a steel droplet at liquid state: potential impact on corium pool behaviour during in-vessel melt retention

Abstract : In the frame of light water reactors' severe accidents (SA), the success of a mitigation based on the core melt retention in the vessel lower head largely depends on the corium pool phases stratification. Such a melt is composed of molten oxide materials relocated from the core and molten steel progressively "incorporated" into the pool during the transient. Because of the miscibility gap in the U-O-Zr-steel thermodynamic system at liquid state, such a pool can go through various stratified states during a transient with an heavy metal phase at the bottom or a light metal one at the top. Actually, there is a significant knowledge gap related to steel migration to the pool that influences the stratification transient and can lead in some cases to a large uncertainty on the heat flux that the pool imposed on the vessel lower head. In particular, when the ablated vessel wall is considered, the molten steel relocation, either as a continuous lighter phase above the pool or as dispersed phase into the oxide pool, depends on the behaviour of the refractory crust at the pool/vessel interface (that can undergo dissolution or mechanical failure). In the case of a dispersed metal phase into the oxide pool, determining the subsequent state of the lower head pool requires the evaluation of the thermochemical interaction between both materials and their possible hydrodynamic separation. To the best of our knowledge, no model described these coupled phenomena in integral SA codes. In this paper, a model is proposed to better assess the phenomena at stake in such a case and clarify the need (or not) to enhance stratified pool models in SA codes. To do so, this integral model, constructed on "first-order" hypotheses, has been implemented in the PROCOR software platform and used for a parametric analysis that provide insightful order of magnitudes and trends. The main parameters are the droplet size, the corium chemical composition and the model closures associated with interfacial mass transfer. The results reported here show that mass transfer, "competing" with droplet hydrodynamics, probably plays a role only for droplets of millimetric size that can, depending on the pool composition, relocate under the oxide under the form of a continous heavy metal layer. For larger droplets, it is a light metal layer above the pool that can be expected. The prolonged existence of a dispersed metal phase that would remain mixed into the oxide phase seems to be only possible for a very narrow range of pool composition near the stratification inversion threshold.
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Submitted on : Thursday, November 18, 2021 - 1:23:20 PM
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Romain Le Tellier. Mass transfer between a continuous oxide phase (U-O-Zr) and a steel droplet at liquid state: potential impact on corium pool behaviour during in-vessel melt retention. Nuclear Engineering and Design, Elsevier, 2021, 385, pp.111525. ⟨10.1016/j.nucengdes.2021.111525⟩. ⟨cea-03434619⟩



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