The design basis for a loss of coolant accident in nuclear power plants has previously been based on the assumption that the largest size coolant pipe instantaneously undergoes a double ended “guillotine” break (DEGB) and the resulting loss of water must be mitigated by an emergency core cooling system (ECCS) to maintain core cooling after shutdown. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is close to allowing a risk-informed design basis break size, called the Transition Break Size (TBS), to be used for LOCA break size assumptions for ECCS design. The TBS approach will require full safety redundancy for an ECCS system sized to handle a break of the next largest reactor coolant pipe size (rather than the largest reactor coolant pipe size), and it will allow relaxed system redundancy requirements for handling the largest pipe break size. The TBS will thereby reduce the cost of the safety-grade ECCS system in new plant designs and will increase operational flexibility in existing plants. The TBS approach is based on the results of NRC elicitation studies with piping experts regarding historical pipe performance and risk of sudden failure. The approach is non-deterministic and is a conceptual change from the largest-pipe-size break assumption. The conceptual discontinuity between deterministic and elicitation-based break size assumptions could be uncomfortable for those schooled in strictly deterministic accident analyses. In this paper we explore the “leak-before-break” (LBB) methodology as it applies to large pipe break analyses in nuclear piping systems, and show through examples that the elicitation-based TBS approach is indeed conservative when TBS results are compared with deterministic LBB evaluations of similar piping systems. Thus, LBB provides a deterministic means for showing defense in depth against LOCAs greater than the TBS break size.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.