The project on ex-vessel core melt stabilization research (ECOSTAR) started in January 2000 to be concluded by end of 2003. The project is performed by 14 partner institutions from five European countries and involves a large number of experiments with low- and high-temperature simulant melts and real corium at different scales. Model development and scaling analysis allows application of the research results to existing and to future LWRs in the area of reactor design and accident mitigation. The project is oriented toward the analysis and mitigation of severe accident sequences that could occur in the ex-vessel phase of a postulated core melt accident. The issues are: (1) the release of melt form the pressure vessel, (2) the transfer and spreading of the melt on the basement, (3) the analysis of the physical-chemical processes that are important for corium behavior especially during concrete erosion with onset of solidification, and (4) stabilization of the melt by cooling through direct water contact. The results achieved so far resolve a number of important issues: the amount of melt that could be transferred at RPV failure from the RPV into the containment can be substantially reduced by lowering the residual pressure in the primary circuit. It is found that melt dispersion also strongly depends on the location of the RPV failure, and that lateral failure results in substantially less melt dispersion. During melt release, the impinging melt jet could erode parts of the upper basement surface. Jet experiments and a derived heat transfer relation allow estimation of its contribution to concrete erosion. Spreading of the corium melt on the available basement surface is an important process, which defines the initial conditions for concrete attack or for the efficiency of cooling in case of water contact, respectively. Validation of the spreading codes based on a large-scale benchmark experiment is underway and will allow determination of the initial conditions, for which a corium melt can be assumed to spread homogeneously over the available surface. Experiments with UO2-based corium melts highlight the role of phase segregation during onset of melt solidification and during concrete erosion. To cool the spread corium melt, the efficacy of top flooding and bottom flooding is investigated in small-scale and in large-scale experiments, supported by model developments. Project assessment is continuing to apply the results to present and future reactors.
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