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Enhancing Nuclear Safety



Transuranics release from PWR fuels in severe accident conditions: lessons learnt from the VERCORS program

International Conference "Nuclear Energy for New Europe 2006", Portorož, Slovenia, 8-21 September 2006

Y. Pontillon, G. Ducros, S. Van Winckel, B. Christiansen, M. P. Kissane, R. Dubourg, Y. Dutheillet.

Document type > *Congrès/colloque

Keywords > safety, fission product release, fission products, severe accident, VERCORS programme

Research Unit > IRSN/DPAM/SEMIC

Authors > DUBOURG Roland, KISSANE Martin

Publication Date > 01/09/2006


Over the last decades, several experimental programs devoted to the source term of fission products (FP) and actinides released from PWR fuel samples in severe accident (SA) conditions have been initiated throughout the world. In France, the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) and Electricité de France (EDF) have supported the analytical VERCORS program which was performed by the "Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique" (CEA). The VERCORS facility at the LAMA-laboratory (CEA-Grenoble, France) was designed to heat up an irradiated fuel sample - taken from EDF’s nuclear power reactors - to fuel relocation, and to capture the FPs released from the fuel and deposited downstream on a series of specific filters. On-line gamma detectors aimed at the fuel position, filters and gas capacity monitored the progress of FP release from the fuel, FP deposition on the filters and the fission gases emitted by the fuel. Before and after the test, a longitudinal gamma-scan of the fuel was conducted to measure the initial and final FP inventory in order to evaluate the quantitative fractions of FP emitted by the fuel during the test. All the components of the loop were then gamma-scanned to measure and locate the FPs released during the test and to draw up a mass balance of these FPs.
25 annealing tests were performed between 1983 and 2002 on irradiated PWR fuels under various conditions of temperature and atmospheres (oxidizing or reducing conditions). The influence of the nature of the fuel (UO2 versus MOX, burn-up) and the fuel morphology (initially intact or fragmented fuel) have also been investigated. This led to an extended data base allowing on the one hand study of mechanisms which promote FP release in SA conditions, and on the other hand improvement of models implemented in SA codes. Because gamma spectrometry is well suited to FP measurement and not to actinides (except Np), chemical analysis of the filter deposits and other surface deposits downstream were performed in some specific cases, in order to extend the result to non gamma-active isotopes and confirm the gamma-spectroscopy results; this, in turn, will help close the mass balance of the FPs and transuranic elements. In the present case, VERCORS RT3 and RT4 samples were sent to ITU in order to be analysed by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS) after dissolution. The present communication gives a general overview of the VERCORS program and presents in more detail the main findings regarding RT3 and RT4 with, on the one hand, the general FP behaviour including the comparison between gamma-spectrometry and ICP-MS results and, on the other hand, the significant release - up to ~10 % of the initial inventory - of uranium in oxidizing conditions.


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