Current Safety Research

Current Research

Current efforts in nuclear reactor safety research around the world are concentrating on a number of areas. These include

  • Separate Effects and Integral System Studies - This work focuses on how the set of components that make up a nuclear power plant work together. Nuclear power plant bring together a unique combination of thermal, hydraulic, and neutronic systems together. To study such systems requires complex computer codes for simulation and analysis. The primary goal of these studies is to quantify safety margins for safe operation and evaluate the adequacy of designs.

  • Probability Risk Assessment (PRA) - Studies in the area of PRA are concerned with the quantification of risk associated with operation. Detailed systems analysis and industry experience is combined to formulate probabilities relating the likelihood of specific events. Nuclear regulators and industry utilities use the results from PRA studies to identify potential problems with existing procedures and systems and perform redesign or rework if necessary.

  • Advanced Reactor Research - Following the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, a new reactor design philosophy emerged that focused on designs with passive safety features. Major commercial nuclear power plant vendors have embraced this philosophy and have been designing the next generation of nuclear power plant that reduce the load on or eliminate existing safety systems.

  • Containment Analysis - The lack of an adequate containment over the Chernobyl-4 was a major factor why that accident was as serious as it was. The figure below shows the destroyed reactor building after the accident.

    While most Light Water Reactors in the rest of the world utilize a highly engineered and reliable containment, quantitatively little was understood about the design limits of these containments.

  • Severe Accident Analysis - Severe accident analysis involves the study of structural integrity of reactor components following an accident that involves fuel melt. The high temperature fuel is capable of burning through the steel reactor vessel or pressure tube (like Chernobyl) which can cause a great problem.

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