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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S019871/2
Title: Towards comprehensive multiphase flow modelling for nuclear reactor thermal hydraulics
Principal Investigator: Colombo, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 29 November 2021 Ends: 31 August 2023 Value (£): 98,218
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
In any nuclear reactor, ensuring that the nuclear fuel always remains properly cooled is the main achievement of the thermal hydraulic design, which thus has utmost impact on the safety and the performance of the plant. Often, this thermal hydraulic design and the plant safety assessment rely on computational models that, by providing a mathematical representation of the physical system, predict the fluid dynamic behaviour of the coolant and the rate of heat transfer in the system. In a nuclear plant, in normal operating conditions or in accident scenarios that require emergency cooling, this often requires solving gas-liquid multiphase flow problems. Unfortunately, although computational tools of any degree of complexity are now available, modelling and computation of gas-liquid multiphase flows is still mainly limited to well-defined flow conditions and/or entirely based on empiricism. The aim of this fellowship is to develop an advanced computational model that overcomes these limitations and goes well-beyond currently available capabilities. At the present time, different techniques reach good accuracy in distinct and well-defined flow conditions, but none has been successful in modelling the entire spectrum of gas-liquid multiphase flows without a priori knowledge of the flow regime. This strongly limits the applicability of available models to flows that are of industrial interest, since these rarely exhibit the same well-characterized and defined flow features. In this project, by means of novel numerical techniques, advanced modelling methods will be coupled in the same computational model and selectively applied based on suitability to the local flow conditions. This will ensure accuracy and unprecedented applicability to multiphase gas-liquid flows, avoiding limiting assumptions but at the same time unrealistic computational requirements.

In the nuclear sector, such a model will provide leading edge modelling and simulation capabilities, underpinning improved operation of the current reactor fleet and design and assessment of future plants. Confident predictions will inform the reactor design and the assessment of safety limits, reducing empiricism and conservatism. In addition, the number of costly experiments will be limited to a smaller number of model-driven tests. Reactors that are safer and produce electricity at a cheaper price and with a reduced waste footprint will underpin Government's plan for between 16 GW and 75 GW of new nuclear generation capacity by 2050. This new capacity will be essential to ensure a secure, sustainable and low-carbon energy future to the UK and respect the legally binding commitment to reduce carbon emission by 2050 of at least 80% with respect to 1990.

In addition, the work will have wider application outside the nuclear sector in the optimization of the design and operation of the numerous industrial equipment exploiting gas-liquid multiphase flows across all branches of engineering (e.g. enhanced mixing by bubbles in bubble columns, fluid dispersion and mass transfer in separation equipment, two/three phase flow streams in extraction, treatment and transportation of oil and gas). At the same time, the fine resolution of spatial and temporal scales as well as of the majority of the interfacial details will allow more fundamental studies to be made. These will shed new light on the many aspects of multiphase flows that still miss thorough understanding, which negatively affects the design and operation of multiphase equipment. The project will benefit from close collaboration with esteemed academics within the UK and overseas (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and North Carolina State University) and industrial leaders in the development of computational products for the nuclear industry and in the analysis and assessment of nuclear reactor thermal hydraulics (Siemens Industry Software Ltd and Frazer-Nash Consultancy).
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk