Deposition of hematite particles on alumina seal faceplates of nuclear reactor coolant pumps - laboratory experiments and industrial feedback
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In the primary circuit of pressurized water reactors (PWR), the dynamic sealing system in reactor coolant pumps is ensured by mechanical seals whose ceramic parts are in contact with the cooling solution. During the stretch-out phase in reactor operation, characterized by low boric acid concentration, the leak-off flow has been observed to abnormally evolve in industrial plants. The deposition of hematite particles, originating from corrosion, on alumina seals of coolant pumps is suspected to be the cause. As better understanding of the adhesion mechanism is the key factor in the prevention of fouling and particle removal, an experimental study was carried out using a laboratory set-up. With model materials, hematite and sintered alumina, the adhesion rate and surface potentials of the interacting solids were measured under different chemical conditions (solution pH and composition) in analogy with the PWR ones. The obtained results were in good agreement with the Derjaguin-Landau-Verw...ey-Overbeek (DLVO) theory and used as such to interpret this industrial phenomenon.