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Experimental Study of Flow Structure and Turbulent Characteristics in Lead– Bismuth Two-Phase Flow

Abstract In a severe accident of a lead–bismuth-cooled accelerator-driven system, a gas–liquid two-phase flow with a large liquid-to-gas density ratio might appear, such as a steam leakage into hot lead–bismuth flow. It is still difficult to predict such phenomena because there are no available flow models for two-phase flow with a large density ratio compared to ordinary two-phase flows such as an air–water two-phase flow. Therefore, a two-phase flow model should be developed based on experimental data of two-phase flows with a large density ratio. In this study, a liquid–metal two-phase flow was measured by using a four-sensor electrical conductivity probe and a miniature electromagnetic probe to establish an experimental database for lead–bismuth flow structure. In measurements with the four-sensor probe, the radial profiles of void fraction and interfacial area concentration were measured at different axial positions. Experiments were also performed to understand the turbulent structure in a liquid–metal two-phase flow by using the electromagnetic probe. From the data measured by both four-sensor and electromagnetic probes, it is shown that the turbulence intensity at the pipe center was proportional to the void fraction to the power of 0.8 for higher void fraction. These results represented a similar tendency as previous data in air–water two-phase flows.

Keywords Accelerator-driven system • Electromagnetic probe • Four-sensor probe • Lead–bismuth • Turbulence characteristics • Two-phase flow • Void fraction


The accelerator-driven system (ADS) has been developed as the next-generation nuclear energy system and is expected to be used as a nuclear transmutation process [1]. ADS is a hybrid system that consists of a high-intensity proton accelerator, a nuclear spallation target, and a subcritical core. Lead–bismuth eutectic (LBE) is considered as an option of the spallation target and can also be used as the coolant of the reactor. Neutrons are produced by a nuclear spallation reaction between the protons supplied from the accelerator and the LBE target, and a chain reaction of nuclear fission can then be maintained by the contribution of spallation neutrons. The chain reaction in the core will stop when the supply of protons stops. Therefore, the ADS has a higher safety margin, in principle, than other nuclear energy systems.

As research toward the development of the ADS, a subcritical reactor physics study, a reactor thermal-hydraulics study, and studies on the material, accelerator, and fuel for the ADS have been carried out. However, safety assessment is very important in preparation for a possible severe accident. A pipe rupture in a steam generator is one of the severe accidents of a LBE-cooled ADS. In this case, the direct contact between the LBE and the water ejected from the ruptured pipe of the steam generator might lead to LBE–steam two-phase flow in the reactor pool. If the gas bubble comes into the fuel region, the core reactivity might be affected. Thus, the gas–liquid two-phase flow appearing in the ADS core should be understood in taking measures for such an accident. The gas–liquid two-phase flow in an ADS has density ratio that is an order larger than that of air–water two-phase flow. Although flow models of gas–liquid two-phase flow with a large liquid-to-gas density ratio are required for severe accident analysis, there are fewer studies on two-phase flow in the physical property range of large density ratio mixture. Thus, an experimental database on two-phase flow properties in two-phase flow with a large density ratio should be built and the two-phase flow model should be developed based on the database. In this study, an LBE two-phase flow was measured by using a foursensor electrical conductivity probe and a miniature electromagnetic probe, and knowledge of the flow structure and the turbulent characteristics in two-phase flow with a large density ratio was obtained.

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