The CAER provides a state of the art thermal-hydraulic test loop with world-class instrumentation and control systems. When coupled with the high-tech INCONTROL simulation and I&C lab the combined facility also provides an excellent platform for cyber-physical testing. Future energy options will require validation of code modeling efforts, advanced instrumentation, advanced control systems, and licensing support. The CAER provides the IST and INCONTROL platforms to address these needs through an industry-university collaboration. A history of successful research has already been documented at these facilities. Some of these research areas include:
- Pilot-Scale Thermal-Hydraulic Testing – R&D investment and programs supporting power systems safety and performance (i.e., thermal-hydraulics and process control) are generally separate-effects programs, hosted by national laboratories and universities. Notably, no existing public-supported facility is fully capable of addressing the present industry need.
- Control Room Technology – The CAER’s INCONTROL and IST facility aims to provide research capacity to enable applied research in areas such as alarm systems, control room design, display navigation, and human performance. INCONTROL and IST also provides a platform for comparative testing of new digital technologies as well as resiliency research of digital platforms performing same or similar computing and control functions.
- Advanced Sensors and Instrumentation – advanced sensors and instrumentation development is expected to be a primary mission for the CAER-IST and INCONTROL. In particular, continued progress in modeling and simulation requires data reflecting measures relatable to process-scale phenomena for validation.
- Process-Scale Evaluations – High-pressure process-scale investigation is uniquely challenging as certain solutions possible at low pressure are not available at high pressure. Important system-scale figures-of-merit nominally available at the CAER IST include system pressure, core power, core thermocouple temperatures, and core inlet velocities.
- Emulation of Coupled-Physics and Reduction of Process Uncertainties – Thermal-hydraulic measurement uncertainties are a strong function of process uncertainties. With variable-frequency-drive motor-operated pumps and valves under algorithmic control, target fluid conditions can be established at the CAER-IST with minimal variability.
- Cyber-Security/Resilience – Plant threat/failure prevention and mitigation topics include Fault Tolerance, Resilience, Cyber Security, Human Factors, User Interfaces, Equipment Qualification and Survivability, and Digital I&C. While the data sought for these purposes is disparate from process-scale thermal-hydraulic phenomena, this community shares a common safety objective, measured by the same margins to safety criteria employed by the thermal-hydraulics safety community. This research serves to improve the capacitance of structures, systems, and components to physical loads, thermal- hydraulic or otherwise, through automation and “human-in-the-loop” frameworks.
Learn more about the IST facility: here
The current IST facility represents an investment of over $30 million. High fidelity systems, process equipment, control and data acquisition system, and process instrumentation comprise the facility enabling separate effects and integrated system testing.
IST Attributes and Capabilities
Some of the key features of the IST include:
- Core Heaters – The IST heater bundle consists of 60 heaters, each containing one Inconel filament designed with an axial cosine heat flux profile, multiple (in some cases four) thermocouples, and a monel sheath.
- Steam Generator – The IST steam generator is a 19 tube (alloy 690) once through Babcock and Wilcox designed test-ready steam generator.
- Pressurizer and Emergency Core Cooling System – The pressurizer of the IST contains two connections to an emergency core cooling system. These connections lead to depressurization trains that flow to either a sparge nozzle in a 105-foot storage tank or directly to a pressure controlled containment simulation tank. Each location is capable of receiving RCS system maximum pressure, temperature, and “break” flow.
- Balance of Plant – The BOP at IST contains a complete feed and steam system with the ability to control water temperatures at the inlet to the steam generator with fine control from ambient to over 400°F.
- Reactor Coolant Inventory and Purification – RCIP system contains a high-pressure positive displacement pump capable of providing flow for letdown and make-up of the RCS and a low-pressure pump designed for long-term decay heat cooling.
- Test control algorithms – Test control algorithms are an important part of nuclear grade testing. Using algorithms ensures the operator – test interface does not confound the data coming from a test and allows the operator to maintain focus on plant safety. Algorithms give the researcher the ability to extract data and make decisions based on that data knowing there is no masking influence on the results.
- Quality Program – The IST instrument “data stream”; defined as signal inception at the instrument level, through communication architecture, conversion to digital data (temperature measurements), data acquisition and finally in storage media has been evaluated and documented using techniques from NQA-1 / 10 CFR Appendix B to Part 50.
- RELAP 5-3D Model of the IST – A RELAP5 3-D model has been constructed to accurately represent the conditions in the systems of the IST. Ancillary benefits including pre-test predictions, test planning and training, test procedure development, and test analysis
- Additional Test Equipment (potential upgrades)
5’ removable test section
- A five foot long, four-inch diameter schedule 160 stainless steel removable section immediately above the core heaters can be replaced with test sections including but not limited to:
- Sapphire window installation for optical access to process fluid
- Test heater installed within 5’ test fixture, separately heated to investigate corroded sheathing / materials.
- Use this section to create a slip-stream of flow from the top of the core for tertiary loop investigations with localized boundaries to lift cleanliness requirements of the IST RCS. Addition of PIV required materials, dyes, chemicals into tertiary loop.
- A five-inch diameter test port is installed in a perpendicular flange to the RCS where the riser spills over to the steam generator directly below the pressurizer. This area contains dynamic flow regimes from normal operation to design basis event scenarios. This test port allows access to this are for additional instrumentation installation and can accommodate, like the 5’ pipe above the core, optical windows for advanced instruments. This area was originally designed to install and remove thermocouples that would extend through the primary side of the steam generator for heat transfer coefficient data gathering. This hardware has not yet been installed and is on location at the CAER.
5” blind flange
- Coupled with the test location at the bottom of the riser / top of the core this location can provide detailed investigations into the fluid process conditions within the RCS.
- Flow, pressure, and temperature measurements in single and two-phase conditions can be assessed.
- During transient tests where the top of the RCS / pressurizer is open for depressurization this location contains superheated steam.
- Flanged steam lines from the exit of the steam generator to the main condenser are convenient locations to remove a steam for investigative and performance-based research.