In the context of more and more demanding reactor managements, the fuel assembly discharge burn-up increases and raises the question of the current safety criteria relevance. In order to assess new safety criteria for reactivity initiated accidents, the IRSN is developing a consistent and original approach to assess safety. This approach is based on:
– A thorough understanding of the physical mechanisms involved in each phase (PCMI and post-boiling phases) of the RIA, supported by the interpretation of the experimental database. This experimental data is constituted of global test outcomes, such as CABRI or Nuclear Safety Research Reactor (NSRR) experiments, and analytical program outcomes, such as PATRICIA tests, intending to understand some particular physical phenomena;
– The development of computing codes, modelling the physical phenomena. The physical phenomena observed during the tests mentioned above were modelled in the SCANAIR code. SCANAIR is a thermal–mechanical code calculating fuel and clad temperatures and strains during RIA. The CLARIS module is used as a post-calculation tool to evaluate the clad failure risk based on critical flaw depth. These computing codes were validated by global and analytical tests results;
– The development of a methodology. The first step of this methodology is the identification of all the parameters affecting the hydride rim depth. Besides, an envelope curve resulting from burst tests giving the hydride rim depth versus oxidation thickness is defined. After that, the critical flaw depth for a given energy pulse is calculated then compared to the hydride rim depth. This methodology results in an energy or enthalpy limit versus burn-up.
This approach is planned to be followed for each phase of the RIA. An example of application is presented to evaluate a PCMI limit for a zircaloy-4 cladding UO2 rod at Hot Zero Power.