The energy released from the nuclear fission process drives thermal expansion and mechanical interactions in nuclear reactors. These phenomena cause changes in the neutron chain reaction which results in further changes in thermal expansion and mechanical interactions. Coupling finite element analysis with Monte Carlo neutron transport analysis provides a pathway to simulate the thermal expansion and mechanical interaction to determine a fundamental parameter, namely, thermal expansion temperature coefficient of reactivity. Knowing the coefficient value allows predictions of how a reactor will behave under transient conditions. Using the coupling of finite element analysis and Monte Carlo neutron transport analysis, the thermal expansion temperature coefficient of reactivity was determined for the Godiva-IV reactor (−2E−05 Δk/k/°C) and the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) (−1.4E−03 $/°C). The Godiva-IV result is within 3% of the measured result. The thermal expansion and mechanical interactions within EBR-II are sufficiently complex that experimentally measuring the isolated coefficient of reactivity was not possible. However, the calculated result fits well with the integral EBR-II reactivity coefficient measurements. Coupling finite element analysis with Monte Carlo neutron transport analysis provides a powerful technique that gives reactor operators and designers greater confidence in reactor operating characteristics and safety margins.
Part of the book: Finite Element Methods and Their Applications
The Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II) operated from 1964 to 1994. EBR-II was a sodium-cooled fast reactor operating at 69 MWth producing 19 MWe. Rather than using a loop approach for the coolant, EBR-II used a pool arrangement where the reactor core, primary coolant piping, and primary reactor coolant pumps were contained within the pool of sodium. Also contained within the pool was a heat exchanger where primary coolant, which is radioactive, transferred heat to secondary, nonradioactive, sodium. The nuclear power plant included a sodium boiler building where heat from the secondary sodium generated superheated steam, which was delivered to a turbine/generator for electricity production. EBR-II fuel was metallic uranium alloyed with various metals providing significant performance and safety enhancements over oxide fuel. The most significant EBR-II experiments occurred in April 1986. Relying on inherent physical properties of the reactor, two experiments were performed subjecting the reactor to loss of primary coolant flow without reactor SCRAM and loss of the secondary system heat removal without reactor SCRAM. In both experiments, the reactor experienced no damage. This chapter provides a description of the most important design features of EBR-II along with a summary of the landmark reactor safety experiments.
Part of the book: Nuclear Reactors