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X-Ray diagnostics on corium-sodium interactions during a severe accident scenario

Abstract : In Sodium-cooled Fast Reactors (SFR), hypothetical failure of the core cooling system or the plant protection system may lead to a severe accident scenario. In such a scenario, core materials (fuel and cladding) melt down generating a hot molten mixture called corium. This corium may interact with the coolant (liquid sodium) leading to Fuel Coolant Interaction (FCI) which can generate energetic events and hence jeopardize the reactor structures. The yield of these energetic events strongly depends on the state of the corium-sodium mixture prior to the energetic event. Therefore, the knowledge of the features of the mixture composed of three-phases (i.e., corium, liquid sodium, and sodium vapor) is crucial. The lack of knowledge on the phenomenology of the interaction emphasizes the need to study it with the help of experiments. PLINIUS-2, the future large-mass experimental platform of CEA Cadarache, will be dedicated to experiments aiming at understanding the interaction phenomenology of prototypic corium with coolant (sodium and water). The present research aims to develop a high-energy X-Ray imaging system for this facility, to visualize and better understand the corium-sodium interaction. An image-processing algorithm to analyze the three-phase repartition is also developed to contribute to the improvement of numerical modeling. This Ph.D. research has been executed in three steps. In the first step, a bibliographic study of the past experiments was carried out to better understand the physics of the interaction and the mechanism of fragmentation during corium-sodium interaction. This bibliographic study, along with a statistical analysis of the particle size distribution data of various experiments conducted in the past, revealed that the particles formed in these tests are extremely fine fragments with characteristic diameters smaller than 1 mm. Due to the small particle size and the detection limitations of corium fragments in sodium with our X-Ray system, clouds of particles were detected instead of individual particles. In the second phase, the simulation of clouds of corium particles followed by the designing of phantoms (3D mock-ups) representing the 3-phase medium was carried out. Simulations of clouds of corium fragments in liquid sodium and vapor were performed using the CEA Cadarache in-house tool MODHERATO. Based on the results obtained from the simulations, certain phantoms were designed to conduct some physical experiments. These phantoms representative of the FCI interaction zone were manufactured to experimentally evaluate the performance of the radioscopy system and to facilitate the development and calibration of the image processing software. The third step of this work was dedicated to performing experiments with the phantoms and analyzing the radiographic images by developing an image processing algorithm. Experiments were carried out with phantoms in several configurations with the X-Ray radiography system at the CEA Cadarache KROTOS facility. The radioscopic images obtained were treated by developing a new comprehensive image processing and analysis code called PICSEL to identify the three phases composing the medium. Further verification and validation of the PICSEL software were carried out on a test conducted between corium and water at the KROTOS facility under the Euro-Chinese project “ALISA”. Thus, in this Ph.D. research, an X-Ray imaging system was qualified to visualize the corium-sodium interaction in the future PLINIUS-2-FR facility. A qualitative analysis of the images produced by this system was also performed using the PICSEL software to better characterize the evolution of the three-phase mixture and understand the FCI phenomenon, knowledge of which is deemed essential to improve the safety and designs of future sodium-cooled fast reactors.
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Shifali Singh. X-Ray diagnostics on corium-sodium interactions during a severe accident scenario. Nuclear Experiment [nucl-ex]. Université Paris Saclay (COmUE), 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019SACLS114⟩. ⟨tel-02897391⟩

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