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Inherent Safety of Fuels for Accelerator-Driven Systems

M. Eriksson, J. Wallenius, M. Jolkkonen, J. E. Cahalan

Nuclear Technology / Volume 151 / Number 3 / September 2005 / Pages 314-333

Technical Paper / Accelerators /

Transient safety characteristics of accelerator-driven systems using advanced minor actinide fuels have been investigated. Results for a molybdenum-based Ceramic-Metal (CerMet) fuel, a magnesia-based Ceramic-Ceramic fuel, and a zirconium-nitride-based fuel are reported. The focus is on the inherent safety aspects of core design. Accident analyses are carried out for the response to unprotected loss-of-flow and accelerator beam-overpower transients and coolant voiding scenarios. An attempt is made to establish basic design limits for the fuel and cladding. Maximum temperatures during transients are determined and compared with design limits. Reactivity effects associated with coolant void, fuel and structural expansion, and cladding relocation are investigated. Design studies encompass variations in lattice pitch and pin diameter. Critical mass studies are performed. The studies indicate favorable inherent safety features of the CerMet fuel. Major consideration is given to the potential threat of coolant voiding in accelerator-driven design proposals. Results for a transient test case study of a postulated steam generator tube rupture event leading to extensive coolant voiding are presented. The study underlines the importance of having a low coolant void reactivity value in a lead-bismuth system despite the high boiling temperature of the coolant. It was found that the power rise following a voiding transient increases dramatically near the critical state. The studies suggest that a reactivity margin of a few dollars in the voided state is sufficient to permit significant reactivity insertions.

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