Within the break preclusion concept, leak-before-break (LBB) behavior must be demonstrated for safety relevant pressure retaining piping systems in nuclear power plants (NPP) [1]. This requires leak detection systems in NPP with the capability to detect leak rates below the maximum allowable leak rate calculated by the LBB assessment according to nuclear standards, like the German KTA rule 3206 or the U.S. Standard Review Plan (SRP). An important part of the LBB assessment is the availability of accurate calculation models to predict the leak rate under normal operating conditions for postulated through wall cracks. Current leak detection systems in NPP are capable of reliably detecting liquid leak rates 0.05 kg/s. However, most of the available experimental leak rate data published in literature focus on the range between 0.2 kg/s and 2 kg/s, which is significantly above the detection limit. Therefore, additional experimental investigations are necessary to develop and verify leak rate calculation models for smaller leaks.

In order to investigate such types of leaks, a modular test facility (fluid-structure-interaction test loop) has been developed and installed at MPA University of Stuttgart within the framework of a research project sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The test rig includes a leakage piping module which includes artificially machined slits and fatigue through-wall cracks. It allows the variation of the significant influencing parameters such as crack size, surface roughness and the system parameters pressure and temperature up to 75 bar and 280 °C and also the measurement of the pressure gradient across the crack surface at two locations. This is important to develop a better understanding of the two-phase flow and pressure drop across the leak channel.

A first test series has been performed and the results were used to evaluate existing leak-rate models. Within this paper an overview of the test facility, the testing procedure, and the results of the investigations will be presented and discussed.

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