Open cycle feed systems featuring a deaerator followed by the boiler feed pumps have been subject to unexpected loss in net positive suction head during transient operation. This has been traced to separation at the deaerator storage tank drain and the formation of a steam/water interface in the downcomer to the pumps. The outflow at separation when the storage tank water is subcooled is generally much greater than the maximum suction flow corresponding to the unit rating, but when the tank water boils, as during transients, it may be very much less. Thus with a high suction flow in the boiling mode, the new interface may descend in the downcomer to result in feed pump cavitation, pressure imbalance, vapor locking, severe vibration, damage to the pump and an inability to maintain forward flow. Model tests have been conducted to establish the criterion for the separation in terms of the critical outflow for specific operating conditions as a function of geometric ratios involving tank-water depth and tank/downcomer dimensions. The data obtained although scattered are in general agreement with the data from actual plant and may be used to assess safe operating parameters.

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