Thermodynamics and Energy


Statistical Characterization of Heat Release Rates from Electrical Enclosure Fires for Nuclear Power Plant Applications

Authors: Raymond HV Gallucci, Brian Metzger

Since the publication of NUREG/CR-6850 / EPRI 1011989 in 2005, the US nuclear industry has sought to re-evaluate the default peak heat release rates (HRRs) for electrical enclosure fires typically used as fire modeling inputs to support fire probabilistic risk assessments (PRAs), considering them too conservative. HRRs are an integral part of the fire phenomenological modeling phase of a fire PRA, which consists of identifying fire scenarios which can damage equipment or hinder human actions necessary to prevent core damage. Fire ignition frequency, fire growth and propagation, fire detection and suppression, and mitigating equipment and actions to prevent core damage in the event fire damage still occurred are all parts of a fire PRA. The fire growth and propagation phase incorporates fire phenomenological modeling where HRRs have a key effect. A major effort by the Electric Power Research Institute and Science Applications International Corporation in 2012 was not endorsed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for use in risk-informed, regulatory applications. Subsequently the NRC, in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, conducted a series of tests for representative nuclear power plant electrical enclosure fires designed to definitively establish more realistic peak HRRs for these often important contributors to fire risk. The results from these tests are statistically analyzed to develop two probabilistic distributions for peak HRR per unit mass of fuel that refine the values from NUREG/CR-6850, thereby providing a fairly simple means by which to estimate peak HRRs from electrical enclosure fires for fire modeling in support of fire PRA. Unlike NUREG/CR-6850, where five different distributions are provided, or NUREG-2178, which now provides 31, the peak HRRs for electrical enclosure fires can be characterized by only two distributions. These distributions depend only on the type of cable, namely qualified vs. unqualified, for which the mean peak HRR per unit mass is 11.3 and 23.2 kW/kg, respectively, essentially a factor of two difference. Two-sided, 90th percentile confidence bounds are 0.091 to 41.15 kW/kg for qualified cables, and 0.027 to 95.93 kW/kg for unqualified cables. From the mean (~70th percentile) upward, the peak HRR/kg for unqualified cables is roughly twice that that for qualified, increasing slightly with higher percentile, an expected phenomenological trend. Simulations using variable fuel loadings are performed to demonstrate how the results from this analysis may be used for nuclear power plant applications.

Comments: 32 Pages. Accepted at PSAM13 (Seoul, October 2016) and RAMS2017 (Orlando, January 2017), but not presented due to lack of travel funds; published in Fire Technology, 2017 (

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Submission history

[v1] 2016-09-08 12:18:33
[v2] 2017-02-28 08:44:22

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