Monday, October 29, 2012

kaeri field trip

As a field trip for Introduction to Thermal Nuclear Hydraulics, I recently visited the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). Over the course of the visit, I was able to see some really awesome test reactors and research labs, primarily relevant to thermal hydraulics applications in reactor safety--an excellent aspect of nuclear technology to familiarize myself with, as this is the primary focus of my research lab at KAIST.

As the tour was given in Korean, one of my fellow peers translated for me. Consequently, there may be gaps, inaccuracies, or misconceptions in some of the information I am able to provide. Nonetheless, it was nice to see the implementation of the diagrams and equations we've been covering in the thermal hydraulics course, as well as in the literature I've recently read on critical heat flux and boiling processes.

ATLAS (Advanced Thermal-Hydraulic Test Loop for Accident Simulation)
image taken from KAERI website

One of the major highlights was the ATLAS (Advanced Thermal-Hydraulic Test Loop for Accident Simulation), which is essentially a scaled-down version of the APR1400 (an Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor developed in Korea), except without the fission process. The primary application of ATLAS is to evaluate the consequences of LBLOCA (large break loss of coolant accidents) and SBLOCA (small break loss of coolant accidents) through breaks and ruptures at various points in the system. In other words, ATLAS is used to find out what exactly would go wrong if the hydraulic system has a break or rupture. It was a really awesome experience to crawl around in the various lime green levels of ATLAS and see the various coolant loops, as well as gain perspective as to the actual size of an APWR.

FTHEL Facility
photo taken from KAERI Thermal Hydraulics Safety Division website

Another aspect of the tour that was particularly interesting to me was the Freon Thermal Hydraulic Experimental Loop (FTHEL), which is used to evaluate critical heat flux. This facility uses Freon (chlorofluorocarbon, or CFC) as opposed to light water. Because Freon is a nontoxic, noncorrosive, nonflammable refrigerant, CHF conditions can be obtained at lower temperatures than with water.

In addition to the above facilities, I was also able to observe the operation in KAERI's equivalent to NASA's mission control. The tour also covered numerous other exhibits which my memory is having difficulty fully recounting, ranging from laser applications in CHF to research facilities I can't begin to describe.

Overall, it was an amazing visit, and I'm very fortunate as an American engineering student to be able to witness the developement of nuclear technologies in Korea firsthand. Korea is definitely gaining traction with its role in the field of nuclear technology, and it will be interesting to read the researched produced by KAERI and its real-world implementation over the coming years.

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