Granular flow in pebble-bed nuclear reactors: Scaling, dust generation, and stress

CH Rycroft and A Dehbi and T Lind and S Guntay, NUCLEAR ENGINEERING AND DESIGN, 265, 69-84 (2013).

DOI: 10.1016/j.nucengdes.2013.07.010

In experimental prototypes of pebble-bed reactors, significant quantities of graphite dust have been observed due to rubbing between pebbles as they flow through the core. At the typical operating conditions in these reactors, which feature high temperatures, pressures, and a helium atmosphere, limited data is available on the frictional properties of the pebble surfaces, and as a result, a conceptual design of a scaled-down version of a pebble-bed reactor has been proposed to investigate this issue in detail. However, this raises general questions about how the granular flow in a scaled facility will emulate that in a full-size reactor. To address this, simulations of granular flow in pebble-bed reactors using the discrete-element method (DEM) have been carried out in a full-size geometry (using 440,000 pebbles) and compared to those in geometries scaled down by factors of 3:1 and 6:1. Differences in velocity profiles, pebble ordering, pebble wear, and stresses are examined, and the effect of friction is discussed. The results show complex behavior due to discrete pebble packing effects, although several simple scaling rules can be derived. Published by Elsevier B.V.

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