Sodium is used as a heat transfer fluid in fast neutron nuclear reactors. Given the operating temperatures of these facilities, all surfaces in contact with liquid sodium remain wetted with residual sodium once the circuits have been drained. The treatment of this residual sodium is required to ensure the safety of interventions on components and structures in a dismantling process. The reference method for this action is cleaning with water in a dedicated cleaning pit. This process involves a reaction of sodium with water in different forms, by controlling the reaction kinetics, which is instantaneous and highly exothermic without controlling the contacting of the reagents.
An exploratory study was carried out at CEA (PhD thesis defended in 2014) on the use of salts to mitigate reaction kinetics. The Sodium and advanced coolant technology laboratory (DES/IRESNE/DTN/STCP/LESC) thus has R&D facilities, instrumented and dedicated to the study of sodium cleaning processes and equipped with the functionalities of an industrial cleaning pit , such as spray nozzles, atomizing nozzles and an immersion device.
The main scientific objective of this new PhD is now to identify, understand and model the physicochemical mechanisms involved in the sodium-water reaction kinetics involving salts. This work will make it possible to limit or avoid pressure wave phenomena or of explosion during the treatment of residual sodium from fast neutron nuclear reactor circuits during their decommissioning and dismantling. The PhD student's mission will be to define the experimental design, to actively participate in carrying out the test campaigns, to analyse the results and to propose an interpretation of the observed phenomena (kinetics, pressure peak, local temperature rise, etc.). The aim of the experimental campaign will be to acquire reliable thermodynamic and reaction kinetic data, such as reaction times, variation of dynamic pressure, temperature rise, composition of the gas and liquid phases, speciation in liquid phase and visualization of the phenomenology via high-speed camera. Modelling tools will be used to establish and simulate a reaction kinetic model. Ultimately, the proposed work will make it possible to qualify the process for industrial application in the field of decommissioning/dismantling, which is a major challenge for the French nuclear industry.
In addition to the experience acquired in the field of nuclear systems dismantling, the proposed work opens up professional prospects, particularly towards research centers and R&D departments in industry.
A master internship is proposed by the team in addition to the thesis.