Late-phase melt conditions affecting the potential for in-vessel retention in high power reactors

D. L. Knudson, J. L. Rempe, K. G. Condie, K. Y. Suh, F. B. Cheung, S. B. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


If cooling is inadequate during a reactor accident, a significant amount of core material could become molten and relocate to the lower head of the reactor vessel, as happened in the Three Mile Island Unit 2 accident. In such a case, concerns about containment failure and associated risks can be eliminated if it is possible to ensure that the lower head remains intact so that relocated core materials are retained within the vessel. Accordingly, in-vessel retention (IVR) of core melt as a key severe accident management strategy has been adopted by some operating nuclear power plants and planned for some advanced light water reactors. However, it is not clear that currently proposed external reactor vessel cooling (ERVC) without additional enhancements can provide sufficient heat removal to assure IVR for high power reactors (i.e., reactors with power levels up to 1500MWe). Consequently, a joint United States/Korean International Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (I-NERI) has been launched to develop recommendations to improve the margin of success for in-vessel retention in high power reactors. This program is initially focussed on the Korean Advanced Power Reactor - 1400MWe (APR1400) design. However, recommendations will be developed that can be applied to a wide range of existing and advanced reactor designs. The recommendations will focus on modifications to enhance ERVC and modifications to enhance in-vessel debris coolability. In this paper, late-phase melt conditions affecting the potential for IVR of core melt in the APR1400 were established as a basis for developing the I-NERI recommendations. The selection of 'bounding' reactor accidents, simulation of those accidents using the SCDAP/RELAP5-3D© code, and resulting late-phase melt conditions are presented. Results from this effort indicate that bounding late-phase melt conditions could include large melt masses (>120,000kg) relocating at high temperatures (∼3400K). Estimated lower head heat fluxes associated with this melt could exceed the maximum critical heat flux, indicating additional measures such as the use of a core catcher and/or modifications to enhance external reactor vessel cooling may be necessary to ensure in-vessel retention of core melt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-150
Number of pages18
JournalNuclear Engineering and Design
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - May 2004
Event11th International Conference on Nuclear Energy - Tokyo, Japan
Duration: Apr 20 2003Apr 23 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Mechanical Engineering


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