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Transient Analysis of Sulfur-Iodine Cycle Experiments and Very High Temperature Reactor Simulations Using MELCOR-H2

Sal B. Rodriguez, Randall O. Gauntt, Randy Cole, Fred Gelbard, Katherine McFadden, Tom Drennen, Billy Martin, David Louie, Louis Archuleta, Mohamed El-Genk, Jean-Michel Tournier, Flor Espinoza, Shripad T. Revankar, Karen Vierow

Nuclear Technology / Volume 166 / Number 1 / April 2009 / Pages 76-85

Technical Paper / Special Issue on Nuclear Hydrogen Production, Control, and Management

MELCOR is a thermal-hydraulic code used by the United States and the international nuclear community for the modeling of both light water and gas-cooled reactors. MELCOR was extended in order to model nuclear reactors that are coupled to the sulfur-iodine (SI) cycle for cogeneration of hydrogen. This version of the code is known as MELCOR-H2, and it includes modular secondary system components (e.g., turbines, compressors, heat exchangers, and generators), a point-kinetics model, and a graphical user interface. MELCOR-H2 allows for the fully coupled, transient analysis and design of the nuclear thermochemical SI cycle for the purpose of maximizing the production of hydrogen and electricity. Recent work has demonstrated that the hydrogen generation rate calculated by MELCOR-H2 for the SI cycle was within the expected theoretical yield.

In order to benchmark MELCOR-H2, we simulated a set of sulfuric acid decomposition experiments that were conducted at Sandia National Laboratories during 2006. We also used MELCOR-H2 to simulate a 2004 Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute SI experiment.

The simulations compared favorably with both experiments; most measured and calculated outputs were within 10%. The simulations adequately calculated O2, SO2, and H2 production rate, acid conversion efficiency, the relationship between solution mole percent and conversion efficiency, and the relationship between molar flow rate and efficiency.

We also simulated a 6-stage turbine and a 20-stage compressor. Our results were mostly within 1 or 2% of the literature. Then, we simulated a pebble bed very high temperature reactor (VHTR) and compared key MELCOR-H2 results with the literature. The comparison showed that the results were typically within 1 or 2%. Finally, we compared the MELCOR-H2 point-kinetics model with the exact Inhour reactivity solution for various cases, including a 1.0 $ step reactivity insertion. We were able to employ a large time step while successfully matching the theoretical power level. These comparisons demonstrate MELCOR-H2's unique ability to simulate fully coupled VHTRs for the production of hydrogen.

 
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