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VERA Core Simulator Methodology for Pressurized Water Reactor Cycle Depletion

Brendan Kochunas, Benjamin Collins, Shane Stimpson, Robert Salko, Daniel Jabaay, Aaron Graham, Yuxuan Liu, Kang Seog Kim, William Wieselquist, Andrew Godfrey, Kevin Clarno, Scott Palmtag, Thomas Downar, Jess Gehin

Nuclear Science and Engineering / Volume 185 / Number 1 / January 2017 / Pages 217-231

Technical Paper /

First Online Publication:January 12, 2017
Updated:February 2, 2017

This paper describes the methodology developed and implemented in the Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications Core Simulator (VERA-CS) to perform high-fidelity, pressurized water reactor (PWR), multicycle, core physics calculations. Depletion of the core with pin-resolved power and nuclide detail is a significant advance in the state of the art for reactor analysis, providing the level of detail necessary to address the problems of the U.S. Department of Energy Nuclear Reactor Simulation Hub, the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL). VERA-CS has three main components: the neutronics solver MPACT, the thermal-hydraulic (T-H) solver COBRA-TF (CTF), and the nuclide transmutation solver ORIGEN. This paper focuses on MPACT and provides an overview of the resonance self-shielding methods, macroscopic-cross-section calculation, two-dimensional/one-dimensional (2-D/1-D) transport, nuclide depletion, T-H feedback, and other supporting methods representing a minimal set of the capabilities needed to simulate high-fidelity models of a commercial nuclear reactor. Results are presented from the simulation of a model of the first cycle of Watts Bar Unit 1. The simulation is within 16 parts per million boron (ppmB) reactivity for all state points compared to cycle measurements, with an average reactivity bias of <5 ppmB for the entire cycle. Comparisons to cycle 1 flux map data are also provided, and the average 2-D root-mean-square (rms) error during cycle 1 is 1.07%. To demonstrate the multicycle capability, a state point at beginning of cycle (BOC) 2 was also simulated and compared to plant data. The comparison of the cycle 2 BOC state has a reactivity difference of +3 ppmB from measurement, and the 2-D rms of the comparison in the flux maps is 1.77%. These results provide confidence in VERA-CS’s capability to perform high-fidelity calculations for practical PWR reactor problems.

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