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NO.334 07.28.2017

Undergrad Student Published Research on Designing Safer Nuclear Reactors

Since the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster of 2011, the safety of nuclear power plants is increasingly becoming a significant controversy


Recently, the nuclear power debate is reignited in Korea as the new government seemingly wants to step away from nuclear power. The current Generation IV nuclear reactors are safer and more economical than their predecessors.

Student Dong-Young Lee (Nuclear Engineering, ’13), under the supervision of Professor Bum-Jin Chung, undertook a preliminary research with a possible application for a type of very-high temperature reactor (VHTR), a Generation IV nuclear reactor design, with a pebble bed core. The findings were published on July 7th, 2017, on the online version of a renowned SCI journal Heat and Mass Transfer.



“An expansion beyond existing research”
The VHTR is generally regarded as the safest and most economical among the Generation IV reactor designs. The most dangerous scenario of a nuclear accident is a total meltdown and the exposure of the core when the coolant circulation stops and the core overheats. A VHTR design, on the other hand, can be sufficiently cooled only with the natural convection of air to avoid such a catastrophe even when the electricity and the coolant circulation are completely stopped.


Student Lee said, “I wanted to evaluate the cooling performance of natural air convection of a VHTR design in case of a total power loss.” But there was little existing research on that subject, so Lee had to undertake a series of experiments to build up raw data. Since he had no access to an actual VHTR, he experimented with a number of spheres ranging from 0.01m to 0.12m in diameter: he investigated the cooling performance of natural air convection by measuring the heat transfer that occurs within the spheres. His findings suggested that, as the diameter of the sphere increased, the point of flow separation moved from the top of the sphere to a side and the wavy flow patterns on the upper part of the sphere increased.


Professor Chung said, “In previous studies only the visualization of air transfer was implemented, but this research visualized heat transfer that resulted in the location of the precise point of flow separation, which made a meaningful contribution to this line of research.”

Continue with the follow-up research and publish
This research was funded by the Energy Technology Manpower Cultivation program managed by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. Student Lee is undertaking further researches by investigating the heat transfer characteristics of natural air convection with randomly cascading heat-generating spheres, gradually increasing the number of spheres to expand the scope of his research. He has already submitted his new findings to a SCI-level journal and is currently working on another new article for publication.

Student Lee, who is now in his senior year, plans to join Kyung Hee’s Combined Masters and PhD Program and continue his study on the cooling performance characteristics of nuclear reactor core fragment layers, improving the safety of nuclear power plants for future generations.


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