Nuclear Science and Engineering / Volume 173 / Number 2 / February 2013 / Pages 172-181
Zirconium is studied in this paper as a reflector for light water reactors. An exploratory analysis of using zirconium as a reflector for two simple reactor core models was carried out. The study showed that use of zirconium as a reflector has a valuable impact on the core reactivity. The study also showed that zirconium-water reflector is more effective than water reflector or stainless steel-water reflector. A typical Westinghouse 1150-MW(electric) pressurized water reactor was simulated using the Monte Carlo code MCNP5 as a case study. The simulation was carried out at the beginning of the core cycle of three batch cores with 235U enrichments of 2.25, 2.8, and 3.3 wt%. The simulation showed that use of Zircaloy-4 reflector between the fuel assemblies and the core barrel adds a positive reactivity keff of 0.00686, while use of stainless steel reflector adds a positive reactivity keff of 0.0037.
Use of Zircaloy-4 reflector increases the relative power density in the peripheral assemblies by ˜38%. The power peaking factor is shifted from the center toward the periphery, and the assembly power peaking factor is reduced by ˜13%. The use of Zircaloy-4 reflector with this increase of the reactivity of the peripheral assemblies increases the fast neutron current (E > 0.5 MeV) that reaches the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) by 70%, while the use of stainless steel reflector reduces it by 44%.
Adjusting the 235U enrichment in the peripheral assemblies batch to compensate for the excess reactivity caused by using Zircaloy-4 reflector reduces the 235U enrichment by 8.5% in this batch. This means a reduction of 3.35% of the core 235U average enrichment can be achieved by the use of Zircaloy-4 reflector. This reduction in the 235U enrichment reduces the increase of the fast neutron current that reaches the RPV to 23%. In this case, increasing the water gap between the core barrel and the RPV by 3 cm reduces the fast neutron current that reaches the RPV to 95% of that of the basic case. The use of Zircaloy-4 reflector has a good effect on flattening the fission density distribution in the peripheral assemblies batch both before and after reducing 235U enrichment.