Heat removal systems are of major importance for both present and future nuclear power plants as they belong to the set of systems devoted to ensure the integrity of the reactor core and to avoid core damage. The past experience and lessons learned on this topic suggest to adopt passive safety systems which can perform the safety function independently from operators’ actions and external energy sources, ensuring long term reactor cooling. Application of these systems to innovative reactor concepts such as (heavy) liquid metal reactors poses a problem related to the characteristic properties of the coolant: as the final heat sink of passive safety systems is often the external environment, the liquid metal will eventually undergo a phase change and solidify at the end of a complex dynamic process. The solidification of the coolant may have important effects on the transient behavior if it happens at an early stage of an accident, as the main flow path of the heat exchanger can be blocked by the coolant freezing while the decay heat in the core is still sufficiently high and need to be efficiently removed.
An innovative passive safety system has been proposed for the decay heat removal system of ALFRED reactor (DEMO LFR, Gen.IV) where the issue of early coolant freezing is prevented. The innovation has been object of a patent and the system is potentially able to avoid solidification by reducing the amount of heat removed from the primary system by means of non-condensable gases passively injected into the water/steam mixture, which induce heat transfer degradation. Several numerical studies have been performed during the past years, but a complete validation of the operating principle requires an experimental assessment and characterization. To this aim the SIRIO experimental facility, scaled on the DHR of ALFRED, has been conceived. Several design activities have been performed so far for the development of the facility, such as scaling analysis on the basis of ALFRED DHR to determine the facility size, numerical simulations by means of RELAP5-3D to determine whether the facility is able to reproduce the expected physical phenomena and numerical simulations by means of Ansys CFX to investigate the performance of a heating system simulating the primary system of ALFRED based on a molten salt annulus. The present paper describes the design activities performed and provides insights on the methodologies adopted, as well as the current status of the design of the SIRIO facility.