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Neutronics and Safety Studies on a Research Reactor Concept for an Advanced Neutron Source

Zeyun Wu, Robert E. Williams, J. Michael Rowe, Thomas H. Newton, Sean O’Kelly

Nuclear Technology / Volume 199 / Number 1 / July 2017 / Pages 67-82

Technical Paper / dx.doi.org/10.1080/00295450.2017.1335146

Received:January 13, 2017
Accepted:May 23, 2017
Published:July 17, 2017

This paper presents preliminary neutronics and thermal hydraulics safety analysis results for a low-enriched uranium (LEU) fueled research reactor concept being studied at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The main goal of this research reactor is to provide advanced sources for neutron scattering experiments with a particular emphasis given to high intensity cold neutron sources (CNSs). A tank-in-pool type reactor with an innovative horizontally split compact core was developed in order to maximize the yield of the thermal flux trap in the reflector area. The reactor concept considered a 20 MW thermal power and a 30-day operating cycle. For non-proliferation purposes, a LEU fuel (U3Si2-Al) with 19.75 wt% enrichment was used. The core performance characteristics of an equilibrium cycle with several representative burnup states—including startup and end of cycle—were obtained using the Monte Carlo–based code MCNP6. The estimated maximum perturbed thermal flux of the core is ~5.0 × 1014 n/cm2-s. The calculated brightness of the CNS demonstrates an average gain factor of ~4 compared to the current source operated at the existing NIST reactor. Sufficient reactivity control worth and shutdown margins were provided by hafnium control elements. Reactivity coefficients were evaluated to ensure negative feedback. Thermal hydraulics safety studies of the reactor were performed using the multi-channel safety analysis code PARET. Steady-state analysis shows that the peak cladding temperature and minimum critical heat flux ratio are less than design limits with sufficient safety margins. Detailed transient analyses for a couple of hypothetical design-basis accidents show that no fuel damage or cladding failure would occur with the protection of reactor scrams. All these study results suggest this new research reactor concept offers a demonstrable potential to greatly expand the cold neutron capability with a 20 MW power and certified LEU fuels.

 
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