Thermal aspects of using alternative nuclear fuels in supercritical water-cooled reactors
Grande, Lisa Christine
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A SuperCritical Water-cooled Nuclear Reactor (SCWR) is a Generation IV concept currently being developed worldwide. Unique to this reactor type is the use of light-water coolant above its critical point. The current research presents a thermal-hydraulic analysis of a single fuel channel within a Pressure Tube (PT) - type SCWR with a single-reheat cycle. Since this reactor is in its early design phase many fuel-channel components are being investigated in various combinations. Analysis inputs are: steam cycle, Axial Heat Flux Profile (AHFP), fuel-bundle geometry, and thermophysical properties of reactor coolant, fuel sheath and fuel. Uniform and non-uniform AHFPs for average channel power were applied to a variety of alternative fuels (mixed oxide, thorium dioxide, uranium dicarbide, uranium nitride and uranium carbide) enclosed in an Inconel-600 43-element bundle. The results depict bulk-fluid, outer-sheath and fuel-centreline temperature profiles together with the Heat Transfer Coefficient (HTC) profiles along the heated length of fuel channel. The objective is to identify the best options in terms of fuel, sheath material and AHFPS in which the outer-sheath and fuel-centreline temperatures will be below the accepted temperature limits of 850°C and 1850°C respectively. The 43-element Inconel-600 fuel bundle is suitable for SCWR use as the sheath-temperature design limit of 850°C was maintained for all analyzed cases at average channel power. Thoria, UC2, UN and UC fuels for all AHFPs are acceptable since the maximum fuel-centreline temperature does not exceed the industry accepted limit of 1850°C. Conversely, the fuel-centreline temperature limit was exceeded for MOX at all AHFPs, and UO2 for both cosine and downstream-skewed cosine AHFPs. Therefore, fuel-bundle modifications are required for UO2 and MOX to be feasible nuclear fuels for SCWRs.