This paper focuses on the freeze-plug, a key safety component of the Molten Salt Fast Reactor, one of the Gen. IV nuclear reactors that must excel in safety, reliability, and sustainability. The freeze-plug is a valve made of frozen fuel salt, designed to melt when an event requiring the core drainage occurs. Melting and draining must be passive, relying on decay heat and gravity, and must occur before the reactor incurs structural damage. In this work, we preliminarily investigate the freeze-plug melting behavior, assessing the influence of various design configurations and parameters (e.g., sub-cooling, recess depth). We used COMSOL Multiphysics® to simulate melting, adopting an apparent heat capacity method. Results show that single-plug designs generally outperform multi-plug ones, where melting is inhibited by the formation of a frozen layer on top of the metal grate hosting the plugs. The layer thickness strongly depends on sub-cooling and recess depth. For multi-plug designs, the P/D ratio has a negligible influence on melting and can therefore be chosen to optimize the draining time. The absence of significant mixing in the pipe region above the plug leads to acceptable melting times (i.e., <1000 s) only for distances from the core up to 0.1 m, considered insufficient to host all the cooling equipment on the outside of the draining pipe and to protect the plug from possible large temperature oscillations in the core. Consequently, we conclude that the current freeze-plug design based only on decay heat to melt is likely to be unfeasible. A design improvement, preserving passivity and studied within the SAMOFAR project (http://samofar.eu/), consists in accelerating melting via heat stored in steel masses adjacent to the draining pipe.
Tiberga, M., Shafer, D., Lathouwers, D., Rohde, M., & Kloosterman, J. L. (2019). Preliminary investigation on the melting behavior of a freeze-valve for the Molten Salt Fast Reactor. Annals of Nuclear Energy, 132, 544–554. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anucene.2019.06.039