United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Quantitative Data on the Fire Behavior of Combustible Materials Found in Nuclear Power Plants: A Literature Review (NUREG/CR-4679, SAND86-0311)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: February 1987
Date Published: February 1987

Prepared by:
Steven P. Nowlen
Sandia National Laboratories
P.O. Box 5800
Albuquerque. New Mexico 87185
Operated by Sandia Corporation
for the U.S. Department of Energy
Under Contract No. DE-AC04-76DP00789

Prepared for:
Electrical Engineering Branch
Division of Engineering Technology
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

Under Memorandum of Understanding DOE 40-550-75

NRC FIN A-1010

Availability Notice


This report presents the findings of a task in which currently available fire research literature was reviewed for quantitative data on the burning characteristics of combustible materials that are found in nuclear power plants. The materials considered for which quantitative data were available include cable insulation materials, flammable liquids, furniture, trash and general refuse, and wood and wood products. A total of 90 figures and tables, taken primarily from the referenced works, which summarize the available quantitative fire characterization information for these materials is presented.

Eighty-two references are cited. Many more papers were considered though it was found that much of the data presented on fire behavior of materials is of a qualitative nature. This data often results from qualitative pass-fail or relative ranking tests. Information of a qualitative nature was not considered for presentation in this review.

Fire characteristics emphasized include mass release, heat release, distribution of heat released into radiative and convective fractions, combustion products generation rates. flame heights, ignitability. flame spread rate, and feedback effects. The toxicity of combustion products was not considered in this study.

It is identified in the review that fire characterization information for nuclear power plant type fuels is needed primarily for use in risk assessment analyses. Much of the data presented here may be used as stand-alone results for use as input to environmental simulation computer codes. This generally requires direct knowledge of the actual heat release rate-of a given fire. Data of this type are presented for most fuel types including cable insulation in a cable tray configuration, liquid fuels, and trash fires.

Other applications in risk assessment require the use of computer simulation models that not only predict the environmental effects of a given fire but also attempt to predict the growth and development history of a fire in a particular fuel configuration. This requires more generalized information on the physical properties of the fuel element. These properties include the common physical properties such as density, thermal conductivity, and specific heat, as well as other properties more directly related to fire behavior including ignition criteria, sensitivity of mass loss to fire feedback, flame spread properties, and heat release per unit mass. Data of this type, particularly for cable insulation materials, are presented. These data were typically obtained from small-scale tests and the limitations of these small-scale test results are discussed.

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