Reactor physics modelling of accident tolerant fuel for LWRs using ANSWERS codes

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Lindley, Benjamin A 
Kotlyar, Dan 
Parks, Geoffrey T 
Lillington, John N 
Petrovic, Bojan 

The majority of nuclear reactors operating in the world today and similarly the majority of near-term new build reactors will be LWRs. These currently accommodate traditional Zr clad UO2/ PuO2 fuel designs which have an excellent performance record for normal operation and most transients. However, the events at Fukushima culminated in significant hydrogen production and hydrogen explosions, resulting from high temperature Zr/steam interaction following core uncovering for an extended period. These events have resulted in increased emphasis towards developing more accident tolerant fuels (ATFs)-clad systems, particularly for current and near-term build LWRs.

R&D programmes are underway in the US and elsewhere to develop ATFs and the UK is engaging in these international programmes. Candidate advanced fuel materials include uranium nitride (UN) and uranium silicide (U3Si2). Candidate cladding materials include advanced stainless steel (FeCrAl) and silicon carbide.

The UK has a long history in industrial fuel manufacture and fabrication for a wide range of reactor systems including LWRs. This is supported by a national infrastructure to perform experimental and theoretical R&D in fuel performance, fuel transient behaviour and reactor physics.

In this paper, an analysis of the Integral Inherently Safe LW R design (I2S-LWR), a reactor concept developed by an international collaboration led by the Georgia Institute of Technology, within a U.S. DOE Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) Integrated Research Project (IRP) is considered. The analysis is performed using the ANSWERS reactor physics code WIMS and the EDF Energy core simulator PANTHER by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

The I2S-LWR is an advanced 2850 MWt integral PWR with inherent safety features. In order to enhance the safety features, the baseline fuel and cladding materials that were chosen for the I2S- LWR design are U3Si2 and advanced stainless steel respectively. In addition, the I S-LWR design adopts an integral configuration and a fully passive emergency decay heat removal system to provide indefinite cooling capability for a class of accidents.

This paper presents the equilibrium cycle core design and reactor physics behaviour of the I2S-LWR with U3Si2 and the advanced steel cladding. The results were obtained using the traditional two-stage approach, in which homogenized macroscopic cross-section sets were generated by WIMS and applied in a full 3D core solution with PANTHER. The results obtained with WIMS/PANTHER were compared against the Monte Carlo Serpent code developed by VTT and previously reported results for the I2S-LWR. The results were found to be in a good agreement (e.g. < 200 pcm in reactivity) among the compared codes, giving confidence that the WIMS/PANTHER reactor physics package can be reliably used in modelling LWRs with ATFs.

5106 Nuclear and Plasma Physics, 40 Engineering, 51 Physical Sciences, 7 Affordable and Clean Energy
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EPJ Nuclear Sciences &amp; Technologies
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EDP Sciences
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/K033611/1)