Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network

Alberto González Merino

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Alberto González Merino 2018-11-27T09:27:54+00:00
Early Stage Researcher
Equipos Nucleares SA (Spain)

Project 3: Reduction of uncertainty in design of free standing nuclear spent fuel rack

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Research Interests:

Structural engineering; Finite element method (FEM); Computational fluid dynamics (CFD); Fluid-structure interaction (FSI); Physical models; Structural safety; Hydraulic structures; Computer programing; Process improvement


He studied and earned a double Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from both “Escuela de Caminos, Canales y Puertos” in Santander and “Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées” in Paris. During this exchange program, aimed at high-performance students, he was focused on Structural and Hydraulic Engineering and he was granted several academic achievement awards.

Since 2012, he has worked for a multinational company dedicated to inventing, designing and manufacturing Fusegates® worldwide. During these years, he has had the chance to run several model test campaigns and develop new tailored products. This experience has made him realize that an innovative culture is among his highest interests. He joined TRUSS ITN in October 2015.

He truly believes that Research and Development is the best way to improve the reliability of existing structures and it is his desire to contribute in reaching these goals which he believes will shape his future career. A summary of his research highlights and training, dissemination and outreach activities in TRUSS  other than network-wide events, is provided in the pdf below, followed by more detailed info on his research outputs.


Research Outputs:

  • Beretta, M., Gonzalez Merino, A., Cazaillet, O., and Batterham, R. (2013), ”Quipolly dam: a case study on customizing Fusegates® design for adverse spillway conditions”, in ICOLD Seattle and PKW II. -> Link to presentation
  • Beretta, M., Gonzalez Merino, A. and Cazaillet, O. (2013), ”Barrage de Quipolly : Les hausses fusibles (Fusegates ®) adaptées aux conditions extrêmes de l’évacuateur de crues”, CFBR, Chambéry. -> Link to full text
  • Kovalev, S., Onipchenko, G., Zyuzin, G., and Mathis, N. (2012) ”Automatic adjustable valve”, Patent No. WO 2013175102 A1. -> Link to patent

Publications in TRUSS

Journal papers

Free-standing racks are 5 m tall structures that store spent fuel removed from the nuclear power reactor on the depths of a spent fuel pool. Rack units are arranged on the floor of this 12 meters deep pool separated by only a few centimeters. Their response to an earthquake event is a troubling safety issue as they are in submerged and free-standing conditions. Such a seismic analysis deals with a highly nonlinear behavior, a transient dynamic response and a fluid-structure interaction problem. To overcome these difficulties in a cost-effective manner, the current analysis methodology implements the hydrodynamic mass concept in commercial finite element analysis software. However, some dispersion of results still exists in the application of this ad-hoc methodology. This paper reviews the seven major sources of uncertainty inherent to the current analysis methodology together with the main challenges of the seismic analysis. [DOI]   -> Link to full text in repository

Conference contributions
 Inspections and maintenance of infrastructure are expensive. In some cases, overdue or insufficient maintenance/monitoring can lead to an unacceptable risk of collapse and to a tragic failure as the Morandi bridge in Genoa, Italy, on 14th August 2018. An accurate assessment of the safety of a structure is a difficult task due to uncertainties associated with the aging and response of the structure, with the operational and environmental loads, and with their interaction. During the period from 2015 to 2019, the project TRUSS (Training in Reducing Uncertainty in Structural Safety) ITN (Innovative Training Network), funded by the EU H2020 Marie Curie-Skłodowska Action (MSCA) programme, has worked towards improving the structural assessment of buildings, energy, marine, and transport infrastructure. Fourteen Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) have been recruited to carry out related research on new materials, testing methods, improved and more efficient modelling methods and management strategies, and sensor and algorithm development for Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) purposes. This research has been enhanced by an advanced program of scientific and professional training delivered via a collaboration between 6 Universities, 1 research institute and 11 companies from 5 European countries. The high proportion of companies participating in TRUSS ITN has ensured significant industrial expertise and has introduced a diverse range of perspectives to the consortium on the activities necessary to do business in the structural safety sector. -> Link to full text in repository
Stochastic input data brings aleatoric and epistemic uncertainty to the rack seismic analysis. From the synthetic acceleration-time history of the earthquake to the heterogeneous features of the rack system, several sources of uncertainty exist. The manufacturing process itself may produce slight deviations in the dynamic properties and mass distribution of the rack units. Moreover, each unit is loaded with a different number of fuel elements according to the operation needs of the plant. Even the exact clearance spaces between units are hardly inspectable due to radioactive ambiance. Hence, all of these uncertainties propagate across the nonlinear transient analysis and affect the accuracy and robustness of the numerical outputs. This paper carries out a ‘one-factor-ata-time’ parametric analysis of five key input variables: acceleration time-history, rack mass, fuel loading, rack Eigen-frequencies and hydrodynamic masses. This technique examines the impact on the main transient outputs when an analysis parameter is systematically varied while the others remain at their nominal value. Numerical results are provided for a simple two-rack system as a source of insight into the uncertain seismic response of a real rack system. It is highlighted that the dispersion is much higher for the sliding displacements than for the maximal forces on support.
Nuclear power plants are responsible for the spent fuel management. Closely spaced racks submerged in a pool are generally used to store and to cool the nuclear fuel. A free-standing design allows to isolate the rack base from the pool floor and therefore to reduce the impact of seismic loads. However, the seismic response of free-standing racks is difficult to predict accurately using theoretical models given the uncertainties associated with inertial forces, geometrical nonlinearities and fluid-structure interactions. An ad-hoc analysis methodology has been developed to overcome these difficulties in a cost-effective way, but some dispersion of results still remains. In order to validate the analysis methodology, experimental tests are carried out on a scaled 2-rack mock-up equipped with fake fuel assemblies. The two rack units are submerged in free-standing conditions inside a rigid pool tank and subjected to accelerations on a unidirectional shaking table. A hydraulic jack induces a given acceleration time-history while a set of sensors and gauges monitor the transient response of the system. Accelerometers track the acceleration of the pool and units. Load cells measure the impact forces on the rack supports as well as the fluid forces at the centre of the rack faces. Video cameras record the transient displacements and rotations. Results provide evidence of a water-coupling effect leading to an in-phase motion of the units. -> Link to full text in repository
The computation of the rack seismic response requires an implicit transient analysis with numerical integration of the differential equation of motion. It involves the solution of thousands of time steps throughout the whole earthquake duration. A series of Newton-Raphson trial iterations seek to establish equilibrium within a certain tolerance at each calculation step. The parameters related to such analysis are decisive in the computation of robust and accurate results. This paper carries out a ‘one-factor-at-a-time’ parametric analysis of six key analysis parameters for a simple two-rack system: maximal step size, maximal number of equilibrium iterations, convergence tolerance and Rayleigh and algorithmic damping. This technique examines the impact on the main transient outputs when an analysis parameter is systematically varied while the others remain at their nominal value. Numerical results provide a source of insight into the uncertain seismic response of the rack system and an effective tool to propose an efficient trade-off regarding the computational cost. -> Link to full text in repository

There is multitude of models available to assess structural safety based on a set of input parameters. As the degree of complexity of the models increases, the uncertainty of their output tends to decrease. However, more complex models typically require more input parameters, which may contain a higher degree of uncertainty. Therefore, it becomes necessary to find the balance that, for a particular scenario, will reduce the overall uncertainty (model + parameters) in structural safety. The latter is the objective of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network titled TRUSS (Training in Reducing Uncertainty in Structural Safety) funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (http://trussitn.eu). This paper describes how TRUSS addresses uncertainty in: (a) structural reliability of materials such as basalt fiber reinforced polymer, (b) testing techniques in the assessment of concrete strength in buildings, (c) numerical methods in computing the non-linear response of submerged nuclear components subjected to an earthquake, (d) estimation of life of wind turbines, (e) the optimal inspection times and management strategies for ships, (f) characterization of the dynamic response of ship unloaders and (g) the relationship between vehicles fuel consumption and pavement condition.-> Link to full text in repository

Spent fuel racks are steel structures designed to store the spent fuel assemblies removed from the nuclear power reactor. They rest in free-standing conditions submerged in the depths of the spent fuel pool. During a strong-motion earthquake, racks undergo large displacements subjected to inertial forces. An accurate estimation of their response is essential to achieve a safe pool layout and a reliable structural design. A transient analysis with direct integration of the equation of motion throughout the whole earthquake duration becomes therefore unavoidable. The computational cost associated to this analysis leads to the use of simplified finite element models giving rise to a certain dose of uncertainty. This paper carries out a parametric analysis of the key modelling properties for a two-rack system. This technique examines the behavior of the main transient outputs as a modelling parameter is systematically varied. Numerical results provide a source of insight into the general behavior of the rack system and an effective tool to propose an efficient and reliable modeling and meshing. The trade-off between outputs and computational cost and is also discussed. [DOI] -> Link to full text in repository

High Density Spent Fuel Storage (HDSFS) racks are structures designed to hold nuclear spent fuel assemblies removed from the nuclear power reactor after having been irradiated. They are used in the first step of the waste management process, during the wet storage. The underwater seismic response of HDSFS racks is a troubling safety issue. Since they are 12 m submerged free standing multi-body structures loaded with radioactive fuel, their design remains as complex as crucial. The design deals with a Fluid-Structure Interaction problem, a transient dynamic response and a very highly nonlinear behaviour. Several cost-effective industrial approaches have been used in these calculations to date, but some dispersion of results still exists. Therefore, the regulatory authorities are requiring an evaluation of the uncertainties in the methodology. Equipos Nucleares, S.A. (ENSA) is a worldwide expert in racks design and construction and has recently launched a research project to improve the understanding of the phenomena. The latter is funded by the European Commission and aimed to identify, evaluate and reduce the uncertainties involved in the calculations. In this paper, the state of the art and the current sources of uncertainty are discussed. -> Link to full text in repository
High Density Spent Fuel Storage racks are steel structures designed to hold nuclear spent fuel assemblies removed from the nuclear power reactor. Weighing around 60 tons, they are 5m high free standing structures resting on the floor of a 12 m depth pool and separated by only a few centimetres. Their underwater seismic response is a troubling safety issue, especially after Fukushima nuclear disaster. However, only limited basic guidelines have been provided as regulatory design criteria to date. The racks’ design deals with a very highly nonlinear behaviour, a transient dynamic response and a fluid-structure interaction problem. Industry is currently using available computer-aided finite element analysis software to solve the design problem in a cost-effective manner but some dispersion of results still exists. Hence, the nuclear regulatory authorities are requiring an evaluation of the current uncertainty associated to the assessment of rack displacements, rocking and maximum forces on supports. This paper discusses the main difficulties faced during the seismic analysis and presents an ad-hoc analysis methodology based on the hydrodynamic mass concept which takes advantage of a simplifying thermal analogy. The methodology, implemented in ANSYS FE Mechanical is hereby described for a reduced scale 2-rack model where the coupling effect of water in the dynamic motion of immersed racks is quantified and displacements and forces are provided. Finally, methodology assumptions are discussed and lessons learnt about the behaviour trends are summarized. -> Link to full text in repository