Reacting to meltdown

Jan 23, 2013
Looking into the high temperature furnace at the induction coil that heats the samples and fixed points.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has helped CEA (Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission of France) measure high temperature reference standards in one of their research furnaces, which are used in studies to help minimise the risk of nuclear accidents through better plant design and the improved understanding of stages involved in severe reactor accidents.

When a experiences a 'meltdown' it produces corium - a hot liquid mixture of uranium oxide fuel, zirconium from fuel cases, and steel and concrete from the reactor structure. This corrosive liquid can eat its way through a and, if it makes contact with reactor coolant, can cause steam explosions and produce hydrogen. This hydrogen can lead to further explosions, similar to those witnessed at the Fukushima Daiichi in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami that struck it on 11 March 2011.

At its Cadarache research facility in the south of France, CEA studies corium at temperatures up to 3000 °C to help minimise risk through better plant design and improved understanding of the stages involved in severe reactor accidents.

NPL is involved in a collaborative research project called 'High temperature measurement for industrial applications' (HiTeMS), which is funded by the European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP). As part of this larger project, NPL and the National Measurement Institutes of France (LNE-Cnam) and Turkey (UME) helped CEA measure high temperature reference standards in one of their research furnaces.

The calibration of temperature measurement equipment requires the use of fixed reference points, usually based on the melting or freezing point of certain substances. In this instance NPL provided rhenium-carbon fixed points that have a reference temperature of 2474 °C. These were designed by LNE-Cnam to be very robust, and proved to be so as they coped with extreme temperature changes of up to 1000 °C per minute inside the furnace.

NPL's Dave Lowe, who worked on the project, said: "Having their own fixed points will allow CEA to calibrate their temperature measurement equipment in situ, giving them greatly reduced uncertainties and improved knowledge for designing safety systems."

Explore further: Gesture-controlled, autonomous vehicles may be valuable helpers in logistics and trans-shipment centers

More information: More on NPL's work on Temperature Measurement.
More on EMRP Project: High temperature measurement for industrial applications (HiTeMS).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

GE defends nuclear plant design

Mar 18, 2011

General Electric defended its 40 year old Mark 1 reactors at the center of Japan's nuclear crisis Friday, saying that early questions about reactor's safety had long been addressed.

No uncontrolled reaction at Fukushima: operator

Nov 03, 2011

The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima atomic plant Thursday played down fears of an uncontrolled chain reaction at the site, despite the discovery of evidence of recent nuclear fission.

Fuel cells show potential

Mar 20, 2012

National Physical Laboratory scientists have developed an innovative fuel cell reference electrode that has been used to map changes in electrode potential inside a working polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) ...

New freeform standards to support scanning CMMs

Nov 14, 2012

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK's National Measurement Institute, has developed a new range of three dimensional standards for verifying freeform coordinate measurement machines (CMMs). The standard allows ...

Recommended for you

For secure software: X-rays instead of passport control

Aug 21, 2014

Trust is good, control is better. This also applies to the security of computer programs. Instead of trusting "identification documents" in the form of certificates, JOANA, the new software analysis tool, examines the source ...

Razor-sharp TV pictures

Aug 21, 2014

The future of movie, sports and concert broadcasting lies in 4K definition, which will bring cinema quality TV viewing into people's homes. 4K Ultra HD has four times as many pixels as today's Full HD. And ...

Michigan team finds security flaws in traffic lights

Aug 21, 2014

What if attackers could manipulate traffic lights so that accidents would happen with mayhem as the result? That is a question many would rather put off for another day but authorities feeling responsible ...

User comments : 0