Qualification of helium measurement system for detection of fuel failures in a BWR
Journal article, 2014
There are several methods for surveillance of fuel integrity during the operation of a boiling water reactor (BWR). The detection of fuel failures is usually performed by analysis of grab samples of off-gas and coolant activities, where a measured increased level of ionizing radiation serves as an indication of new failure or degradation of an already existing one. At some nuclear power plants the detection of fuel failures is performed by on-line nuclide specific measurements of the released fission gases in the off-gas system. However, it can be difficult to distinguish primary fuel failures from degradation of already existing failures. In this paper, a helium measuring system installed in connection to a nuclide specific measuring system to support detection of fuel failures and separate primary fuel failures from secondary ones is presented. Helium measurements provide valuable additional information to measurements of the gamma emitting fission gases for detection of primary fuel failures, since helium is used as a fill gas in the fuel rods during fabrication. The ability to detect fuel failures using helium measurements was studied by injection of helium into the feed water systems at the Forsmark nuclear power plant (NPP) in Sweden and at the nuclear power plant Leibstadt (M(L) in Switzerland. In addition, the influence of an off-gas delay line on the helium measurements was examined at KM. by injecting helium into the off-gas system. By using different injection rates, several types of fuel failures with different helium release rates were simulated. From these measurements, it was confirmed that the helium released by a failed fuel can be detected. It was also shown that the helium measurements for the detection of fuel failures should be performed at a sampling point located before any delay system. Hence, these studies showed that helium measurements can be useful to support detection of fuel failures. However, not all fuel failures which occurred at Forsmark NPP during the test period were detected; neither with the helium measurement system nor with the system for the measuring the gamma emitting noble fission gases. Possible reasons for that are discussed in the paper. The experiences with helium measurements for detection of fuel failures are still limited since the helium detector has only been in operation for two years at Forsmark NPP and for four years at Leibstadt nuclear power plants. Further studies are therefore needed to optimize these systems. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Fuel failure detection