Applications of Particle Tracking Velocimetry to severe nuclear accident experimentation


  • Michael Johnson CEA, DES, IRESNE, DTN, SMTA, LEAG, Cadarache, 13115 Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France
  • Christophe Journeau CEA, DES, IRESNE, DTN, SMTA, LEAG, Cadarache, 13115 Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France



PTV, nuclear safety, spreading, fragmentation, jet


Experimental research into severe nuclear accidents may entail the discharge of a very high-temperature lava-like molten fuel mixture, corium, either into a pool of less-dense, more-volatile coolant or onto a solid substrate where the corium will spread and cool. In both instances, remote, high-speed video imaging is usually required to interpret these transient interactions and PTV represents a powerful tool for the characterisation of the dynamic properties of discrete melt fragments or distinctive features in the surface of the melt during spreading. Nuclear fuel-coolant interactions present particular challenges for PTV analysis as a molten jet and its fragments can exhibit high rates of inter-frame deformation and undergo fragmentation with a relatively high frequency. A PTV algorithm, adapted to these challenges, is presented whereby a user-defined tolerance in the evolution of certain particle properties is used to refine the potential candidate particles prior to particle matching. This candidate refinement step is used to distinguish between acceptable levels of deformation between successive sightings of a given particle, and more substantial changes consistent with fragmentation or coalescence, requiring the tracking of a new particle. Implementation of the PTV algorithm is presented for (1) an X-ray video from the FCINA-30-1 experiment between a jet of molten stainless steel and liquid sodium, conducted at the JAEA’s MELT facility, and (2) video imaging of the VE-U9-ceramic experiment of a molten corium-thermite mixture spreading on a zirconium substrate, conducted at the CEA’s VULCANO facility. The latter case-study enabled the characterization of > 70,000 local velocity vectors at locations corresponding to distinctive temperature heterogeneities in the surface of the spreading melt, providing extensive insight into the spreading dynamics for the validation of corium spreading models.

Author Biography

Michael Johnson, CEA, DES, IRESNE, DTN, SMTA, LEAG, Cadarache, 13115 Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France

Michael Johnson received his PhD from the University of Leeds in 2017 on Gas retention and release from nuclear legacy waste, estimated thanks to X-ray tomography. He carried out a post doc at CEA, the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission, on X-ray imaging of thermal hydraulic experiments. In 2021, he started working with SCALIAN.






Other Applications