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Nuclear: severe accident power generation water reactors. Publication of the IRSN, 12 / 2008. .pdf 53 pages

- Debate on the life of a nuclear plant
- nuclear Forum
- The Fukushima disaster
- 15 reported to the March Fukushima nuclear accident


1 / Introduction
2 / Definition of a serious accident
3 / Physics of the meltdown and associated phenomena
4 / Modes of failure of the containment
5 / The approach for current operating REP
6 / The approach adopted for the EPR reactor
7 / Conclusions


This document provides an overview of current knowledge on severe accidents Reactor Pressurized Water (EPR).

First, the document sets out the physics of the core meltdown of a PWR and the possible failure modes of the containment in such a case. Then it presents the provisions established in respect of such accidents in France, especially the pragmatic approach prevails for reactors already built.

Finally, the paper discusses the case of the EPR, for which the design takes explicit account of serious accidents then it is design objectives and compliance should be a rigorous demonstration, taking into account the uncertainties.

Definition of a serious accident

A serious accident is an accident in which the reactor fuel is significantly degraded by a more or less complete fusion of the heart. This melting is a consequence of a significant temperature rise component of the core material itself resulting from prolonged lack of cooling of the core by the coolant. This failure can occur only after many failures, making its very low probability (in order of magnitude, 10-5 per reactor per year).
- For existing plants, if the deterioration of the heart can not be stopped by injecting water before the breakthrough of the tank (reflooding of the heart), the accident may lead eventually to the loss of integrity containment and significant releases of radioactive materials into the environment.
- For the EPR (European Pressurized water Reactor), ambitious safety objectives have been set; they provide a significant reduction of radioactive discharges may result from any conceivable accident situations, including accidents with core meltdown. These objectives are:
- "practical elimination" of accidents that may lead to significant early releases;
- Mitigation of accident with fusion of the low pressure center.



In 1979, the meltdown of the core of the 2 installment of the Three Mile Island in the United States revealed that failures accumulations were likely to lead to a serious accident.

Releases to the environment caused by the accident were very low due to the return of core cooling and maintaining the integrity of the tank. Yet for several days, officials of the central and local and federal authorities have asked how things were likely to change and whether to evacuate people.

This accident marked a turning point in the study of severe accidents.


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