Nuclear Engineering Division

Nuclear Reactor Severe Accident Experiments

 

 

We perform experiments simulating reactor core melt phenomena in which molten core debris (“corium”) erodes the concrete floor of a containment building. This occurred during the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident though the extent of concrete damage is yet unknown. This video shows the top view of a churning molten pool of uranium oxide at 2000°C (3600°F) seen during an experiment at Argonne. Corium behaves much like lava.

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The molten corium is held within a concrete vessel that mimics the floor of a reactor containment building. In a reactor accident, the corium generates large amounts of heat and disintegrates the concrete floor if not cooled. This animation depicts our experiment in which corium disintegrates concrete; corium in red and concrete in blue. The human silhouette is shown to provide scale.

Animation depicting Argonne experiment in which corium disintegrates concrete


We measure the erosion rate and profile for various concretes used in power plants. This is test data showing temperature and the erosion of 300 mm (12”) of concrete over 7 hours (corium not shown).

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This is the concrete vessel after removal of most of the corium, the black rubble composed mainly of uranium dioxide. Data is used by reactor safety analysts who are developing models to predict the course of such accidents.


Concrete vessel after removal of most of the corium, the black rubble composed mainly of uranium dioxide


Top view of hot corium immersed in water. Quenching of corium with water creates a surface crust in much the same way that seawater freezes lava flows. Concrete disintegration gases propel jets of corium through the crust and into the water, seen here as sparks.

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Experiments are conducted within a concrete containment having one meter (3 ft) thick walls. These are the world’s largest reactor severe accident experiments, involving as much as one ton of uranium dioxide.


Control room and the 1000 m3 containment housing the severe accident test facility.
Control room and containment housing the Argonne severe accident test facility


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For more information:

Engineering Development & Applications
Dept. Manager: Mitchell T. Farmer

M.T. Farmer's Executive Bio


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Last Modified: Fri, November 25, 2016 10:19 AM