Sensitivity analysis of fuel centerline temperatures in SuperCritical water-cooled reactors (SCWRs)
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SuperCritical Water-cooled Reactors (SCWRs) are one of the six nuclear-reactor concepts currently being developed under the Generation-IV International Forum (GIF). A main advantage of SCW Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) is that they offer higher thermal efficiencies compared to those of current conventional NPPs. Unlike today’s conventional NPPs, which have thermal efficiencies between 30 ‒ 35%, SCW NPPs will have thermal efficiencies within a range of 45 ‒ 50%, owing to high operating temperatures and pressures (i.e., coolant temperatures as high as 625°C at 25 MPa pressure). The use of current fuel bundles with UO2 fuel at the high operating parameters of SCWRs may cause high fuel centerline temperatures, which could lead to fuel failure and fission gas release. Studies have shown that when the Variant-20 (43-element) fuel bundle was examined at SCW conditions, the fuel centerline temperature industry limit of 1850°C for UO2 and the sheath temperature design limit of 850°C might be exceeded. Therefore, new fuel-bundle designs, which comply with the design requirements, are required for future use in SCWRs. The main objective of this study to conduct a sensitivity analysis in order to identify the main factors that leads to fuel centerline temperature reduction. Therefore, a 54-element fuel bundle with smaller diameter of fuel elements compared to that of the 43-element bundle was designed and various nuclear fuels are examined for future use in a generic Pressure Tube (PT) SCWR. The 54-element bundle consists of 53 heated fuel elements with an outer diameter of 9.5 mm and one central unheated element of 20-mm outer diameter which contains burnable poison. The 54-element fuel bundle has an outer diameter of 103.45 mm, which is the same as the outer diameter of the 43-element fuel bundle. After developing the 54-element fuel bundle, one-dimensional heat-transfer analysis was conducted using MATLAB and NIST REFPROP programs. As a result, the Heat Transfer Coefficient (HTC), bulk-fluid, sheath and fuel centerline temperature profiles were generated along the heated length of 5.772 m for a generic fuel channel. The fuel centerline and sheath temperature profiles have been determined at four Axial Heat Flux Profiles (AHFPs) using an average thermal power per channel of 8.5 MWth. The four examined AHFPs are the uniform, cosine, upstream-skewed and downstream-skewed profiles. Additionally, this study focuses on investigating a possibility of using low, enhanced and high thermal-conductivity fuels. The low thermal-conductivity fuels, which have been examined in this study, are uranium dioxide (UO2), Mixed Oxide (MOX) and Thoria (ThO2) fuels. The examined enhanced thermal-conductivity fuels are uranium dioxide – silicon carbide (UO2 - SiC) and uranium dioxide - beryllium oxide (UO2 - BeO). Lastly, uranium carbide (UC), uranium dicarbide (UC2) and uranium nitride (UN) are the selected high thermal-conductivity fuels, which have been proposed for use in SCWRs. A comparison has been made between the low, enhanced and high thermal-conductivity fuels in order to identify the fuel centerline temperature behaviour when different nuclear fuels are used. Also, in the process of conducting the sensitivity analysis, the HTC was calculated using the Mokry et al. correlation, which is the most accurate supercritical water heat-transfer correlation so far. The sheath and the fuel centerline temperature profiles were determined for two cases. In Case 1, the HTC was calculated based on the Mokry et al. correlation, while in Case 2, the HTC values calculated for Case 1 were multiplied by a factor of 2. This factor was used in order to identify the amount of decrease in temperatures if the heat transfer is enhanced with appendages. Results of this analysis indicate that the use of the newly developed 54-element fuel bundle along with the proposed fuels is promising when compared with the Variant-20 (43-element) fuel bundle. Overall, the fuel centerline and sheath temperatures were below the industry and design limits when most of the proposed fuels were examined in the 54-element fuel bundle, however, the fuel centerline temperature limit was exceeded while MOX fuel was examined.