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The Encapsulated Nuclear Heat Source (ENHS) Reactor Core Design

Ser Gi Hong, Ehud Greenspan, Yeong Il Kim

Nuclear Technology

Volume 149 / Number 1 / January 2005 / Pages 22-48


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A once-for-life, uniform composition, blanket-free and fuel-shuffling-free reference core has been designed for the Encapsulated Nuclear Heat Source (ENHS) to provide the design goals of a nearly zero burnup reactivity swing throughout ~20 yr of full-power operation up to the peak discharge burnup of more than 100 GWd/t HM. What limits the core life is radiation damage to the HT-9 structural material. The temperature coefficients of reactivity are all negative, except for that of the coolant expansion. However, the negative reactivity coefficient associated with the radial expansion of the core structure can compensate for the coolant thermal expansion. The void coefficient is positive but of no safety concern because the boiling temperature of lead or lead-bismuth is so high that there is no conceivable mechanism for the introduction of significant void fraction into the core. The core reactivity coefficients, reactivity worth, and power distributions are almost constant throughout the core life.

It was found possible to design such once-for-life cores using different qualities of Pu and transuranics as long as U is used as the primary fertile material. It is also feasible to design ENHS cores using nitride rather than metallic fuel. Relative to the reference metallic fuel core, nitride fuel cores offer up to ~25% higher discharge burnup and longer life, up to ~38% more energy per core, a significantly more negative Doppler reactivity coefficient, and less positive coolant expansion and coolant void reactivity coefficient but a somewhat smaller negative fuel expansion reactivity coefficient. The pitch-to-diameter ratio (1.45 of the nitride fuel cores using enriched N) is larger than that (1.36) for the reference metallic fuel core, implying a reduction of the coolant friction loss, thus enabling an increase in the power level that can be removed from the core by natural circulation cooling.

It is also possible to design Pu-U(10Zr) fueled ENHS-type cores using Na as the primary coolant with either Na or Pb-Bi secondary coolants. The Na-cooled cores feature a tighter lattice and are therefore more compact but have spikier power distribution, more positive coolant temperature reactivity coefficients, and smaller reactivity worth of the control elements.

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