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Annals of Nuclear Energy 35 (2008) 14841491

A new physics design of control safety rods for prototype

fast breeder reactor
K. Devan *, A. Riyas, M. Alagan, P. Mohanakrishnan
Reactor Physics Division, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam 603 102, Tamil Nadu, India
Received 26 April 2007; received in revised form 10 January 2008; accepted 16 January 2008
Available online 10 March 2008

The absorber rods of 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR), which is under construction at Kalpakkam, have been
designed to provide sucient shutdown margin during normal and accidental conditions for ensuring the safe shut down. There are nine
control and safety rods (CSR) and 3 diverse safety rods (DSR). Absorber material used is initially 65% enriched B4C. Based on the
reported experiments in PHENIX reactor and design of absorber rods in SUPERPHENIX, the design of CSR is modied by introducing
20 cm length natural B4C at the top and bottom of absorber column and maintaining the remaining portion with 65% enriched B4C. This
design ensures sucient shutdown margin (SDM) during normal operation and also during the one stuck rod condition. For comparison
of the above two designs, a CSR of 57% of enrichment was considered which gives the same worth as the revised CSR design with natural
B4C sections in top and bottom. There is signicant savings in the initial inventory of enriched B4C for CSR. The annual requirement of
enriched boron also reduces. This new CSR can last for about 5 cycles, based on its clad life. But, it is planned to be replaced after every 3
cycles (1 cycle equals 180 efpd) of operation due to radiation damage eects in hexcan D9 steel. Use of ferritic steel for hexcan can extend
the life of CSR to 5 cycles.
2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Two types of control rod mechanisms are used in the
pool type, sodium-cooled, mixed oxide fueled 500 MWe
prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) (Chetal et al.,
2006), which is under construction at Kalpakkam, India.
Normal reactor startup, shutdown and reactivity control
during operation are accomplished by using nine CSRs,
which acts as the primary shutdown system. The other system has three DSRs, which are used only for the emergency
shutdown. These two systems are independently capable of
achieving cold shutdown of the reactor in any eventuality
(Mohanakrishnan, 2004). Fig. 1 gives the equilibrium core
conguration of PFBR showing the positions of all absorber rods (AR).
Even though the neutronic life of the AR can be determined by loss of its reactivity worth, the end of AR life

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: devan@igcar.gov.in (K. Devan).

0306-4549/$ - see front matter 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

occurs earlier, the reason being the failure of the absorber

pin due to problems of material damage. The life time of
absorber element may be determined by various criteria
(Kelly et al., 1991), viz. loss of 10B which reduces the eectiveness of AR to an unacceptable level (which can be prevented by providing higher enrichment initially), swelling
of the B4C pellets leading to pellet-cladding mechanical
interaction (PCMI), excessive clad embrittlement due to
either radiation damage or pellet-clad chemical interaction
(PCCI) and high pellet temperature. The material used for
clad and wrapper is 20% CW D9 steel in PFBR. Studies
(Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, 2006) have
shown that AR life in PFBR is limited to about 3 cycles
due to hexcan bowing and dilation. Initially the design considered was with 65% enriched B4C throughout the absorber length. In order to reduce the enriched boron
requirement, design of CSR is modied using the information from PHENIX irradiation experiments (Kryger et al.,
1996). Design modications are made with the usage of
natural B4C at the top and bottom 20 cm portion of

K. Devan et al. / Annals of Nuclear Energy 35 (2008) 14841491


20 cm

111 cm

20 cm

Core-1 (85)

Core-2 (96)

Radial Blanket (120)

SS Reflector (138)

B4C (78)-Not all shown

CSR (9)

DSR (3)

Uniform CSR
57 % enriched B4C

Revised CSR
65 % enriched B4C

Nat. B4C

Fig. 2. Schematic Comparison of Uniform and Revised CSR.

Fig. 1. Equilibrium Core Conguration of PFBR.

absorber column, and the remaining portion by enriched

B4C as shown in Fig. 2. This new design has provided a signicant reduction in both initial and annual requirements
for enriched boron. Full advantage of this new design is
possible if ferritic steel is used as the wrapper material.
For comparison with this new design, CSR with uniform
57% enriched B4C (as shown Fig. 2) is considered, as the
worths of this matches with that of the new design.
In this paper, an overview of physics design of absorber
rods for PFBR is discussed in Section 2. The results
obtained after using the revised CSR are summarized in
Section 3. The AR worth, excess reactivity and SDM are
discussed in Sections 3.23.4. In Section 3.5, the life estimation of CSR is carried out with reported data from PHENIX irradiation experiments. The requirement of
enriched B4C is estimated in Section 3.6. Results show that
after using the revised CSR, the safe shutdown is possible
for all the postulated operational and accidental situations.
Signicant savings in initial and the annual requirement of
enriched B4C is possible with the revised CSR design.
2. An overview of absorber rod design
2.1. Safety requirements
The AR reactivity worth should be such that it is capable of providing sucient SDM under normal shutdown.

The worth of the rods is designed (Indira Gandhi Centre

for Atomic Research, 2006) to satisfy the following
(i) Reactivity worth shall be adequate to handle the postulated incidents like the loss of ow, the transient
over power initiated by the uncontrolled withdrawal
of the most reactive rod, fuel melting and slumping
in up to seven fuel sub-assemblies.
(ii) Adequacy of the reactivity worth in each individual
shutdown system to bring the reactor to cold shutdown state with a minimum sub-criticality of 1$ reactivity, assuming that the other system has failed and
that the most reactive rod of the working system is
(iii) SDM shall be adequate to cater to the postulated
refueling errors such as the replacement of the most
reactive AR by the high enrichment fuel sub-assemblies or the removal of the two most reactive ARs.
(iv) Worth of individual rods is to be relatively small so
that the ux distortion and the shadow eects are
small and reactor does not become super prompt critical with uncontrolled withdrawal of maximum worth
(v) Hot shut down is one of the safe shut down states. It
is possible to maintain the reactor in hot shutdown
state for long period.


K. Devan et al. / Annals of Nuclear Energy 35 (2008) 14841491

It is a general practice in the reactor design to provide

SDM of 10$ (1$ equals 357 pcm for PFBR) which ensures
prompt drop of power to decay power level. Such a large
margin is provided to ensure the safe shutdown of the reactor for all the postulated incidents. For PFBR, a minimum
SDM of 5000 pcm (14$) is provided during normal shutdown when all 12 rods are available.

fully withdrawn before approach to criticality and during

normal operation, the reactor should not become critical
by withdrawal of DSR alone. The three DSR are stationed
in the corners of the third hexagonal ring of the active core
(Fig. 1). These rods should bring the reactor to cold shutdown state even if one rod fails to drop on demand coupled
with the unavailability of CSR system. Total absorber
length is 101 cm.

2.2. The CSR design

3. Present study
The nine CSR are arranged (Mohanakrishnan, 2004) in
two rings with three of them occupying the corner positions
in the third hexagonal ring of the active core and the other
six occupying the central at positions of the sixth hexagonal ring of the core as shown in Fig. 1. This arrangement
ensures nearly uniform distribution of absorber assemblies
throughout the core. Each absorber assembly has 19 pins
of 111 cm absorber column. During normal operation, all
CSR are partially inserted. They are used for power regulation and compensation of burnup reactivity loss.

The design requirements of ARs with the usage of

revised CSR are examined. To facilitate this, the dierential
and integral worth have been compared against the uniform CSR results. Then, the shutdown capability for the
entire postulated operational and accidental scenario has
been analyzed. The life of CSR is then estimated based
on the capture rate in 10B. The savings in enriched boron
after using the revised CSR are also estimated.
3.1. Method of calculations

2.3. The DSR design

The DSR assembly conguration (Mohanakrishnan,
2004) is similar to that of the CSR. Since the DSR are kept

The temperature dependent number densities of various

mixtures are calculated by using the code ATOMIX
(Devan et al., 2003). The cross-section library used is the


Mixture Data

Prepares mixture and temperature

dependent cross sections from


Prepares self-shielded cross

sections CONSYST output for

cross sections

Heterogeneity correction
for AR cross sections


Geometry data

3-D diffusion and burnup


Burnup Data

K-eff, flux and power


Fig. 3. Flow Diagram of the Computer Codes used in the Design Calculations.

K. Devan et al. / Annals of Nuclear Energy 35 (2008) 14841491

Revised CSR
Uniform CSR

Integral Worth (pcm)

ABBN-93 (Manturov, 1997) type 26-group library called

XSET-98 (Devan et al., 1999). The self-shielded cross-sections from XSET-98 are prepared by using the codes CONSYST/EFCONSY-1 (Devan, 2003). The control rod
heterogeneity eect is computed by using the code
COHINT (Mohanakrishnan, 1992). It uses rst ight collision probability method to solve the uxes. The 3D diusion theory calculations in 26-groups with 55 axial
meshes are carried out by using code FARCOB (Mohanakrishnan, 2008). The owchart of the calculational scheme
is given in Fig. 3.






3.2. Absorber rod worth


A study (Riyas and Mohanakrishnan, 2004) was made

earlier with natural B4C in the bottom portion of CSR. It
was found that by progressively increasing the natural
B4C length to 10 cm, 20 cm and 30 cm, the worth reductions were less than 4% up to 20 cm and more than 20%
for 30 cm. By replacing the top and bottom 20 cm with natural B4C, the worth reduction of CSR was nearly 4%. This
revised CSR design had been chosen because it provides
signicant reduction in enriched B4C use but the worth
reduction is not very signicant compared to original
design with uniform 65% enriched B4C. By analysis it
was found that if the uniform enrichment is reduced to
57%, CSR worth nearly matches with that of the revised
CSR design quoted above.
For the remaining part of the paper CSR with uniform
57% enriched B4C is compared with CSR with 20 cm natural B4C in top and bottom and 65% enriched B4C in the
middle. The former CSR is referred as uniform CSR and
the latter as revised CSR. A comparison of dierential
and integral worth for uniform and revised CSR is given
in Figs. 4 and 5, respectively. The integral worth for various AR in/out are compared against the corresponding
cases of uniform CSR in Table 1. Worth is calculated as
Dk/kav were kav is calculated as (k1 + k2)/2. The initial






CSR Insertion Length (cm)

Fig. 5. Integral Worth for Uniform and Revised CSR.

Table 1
AR insertion worth for BOL core
State of the core and availability of AR

Uniform CSR
Dk/kav (pcm)

Revised CSR
Dk/kav (pcm)

All AR



Revised CSR
Uniform CSR

Differential Worth (pcm/cm)








CSR Insertion Length (cm)

Fig. 4. Dierential Worth for Uniform and Revised CSR.


Core-1 (88)

Core-2 (90)

Blanket (114)

Steel (138)

B4C (78)
(not all shown)

CSR ( 9)

DSR ( 3)

Diluents ( 8)

Instrumental Sub-assembly ( 1)
Fig. 6. PFBR Core Conguration of BOL with 8 Diluents and 1 ICSA.


K. Devan et al. / Annals of Nuclear Energy 35 (2008) 14841491







Table 2 that CSR worth increases by 2.5% for this core

compared to a fresh core, where as DSR worth falls by
3.4%. The total worth reduces by about 1.6%.

All fresh
BOL core with
ICSA + 8 diluents






3.3. Excess reactivity

Table 2
AR insertion worth (pcm) at BOL with revised CSR

insertion worth of revised CSR is less, as expected. The differential worth from 1020 cm insertion is about 35
60 pcm/cm. This is adequate to provide sucient negative
reactivity insertion rate in case of SCRAM. Plant reactivity
transients requiring safe shutdown have been analyzed
(Singh et al., 1996) for shut down with CSR not available
and only two out of three DSR available. If the CSR system is available, safe shutdown is reached more quickly
as CSR worth is signicantly higher than DSR worth.
The insertion worth of revised CSR is higher compared
to uniform CSR beyond 60 cm insertion. This is due to
the fact that axial power shape is less depressed near core
middle height with initial insertion of natural B4C section,
which results in higher worth when the enriched portion
enters the high ux region.
During rst approach to criticality, it is planned to use
one Instrumented Central Source Assembly (ICSA) and
eight diluent sub-assemblies. Fig. 6 gives the locations of
ICSA and diluent sub-assemblies. Diluents are fertile subassembly used in the fresh or beginning of life (BOL) core
to reduce the core excess reactivity. It can be seen from

Table 3
Reactivity eects at BOL

Factors aecting reactivity



Loss of reactivity in going from cold shutdown

at 473 K to zero power at the sodium inlet
temperature of 673 K
Loss of reactivity in going from zero power to full
power with sodium inlet temperature of 673 K
Loss of reactivity during one cycle of operation
Margin at EOC

436 87


886 177
2147 215

Since DSR worth is less than the shut down margin,

they are fully withdrawn before criticality. Next, with
CSR withdrawal in a banked manner, reactor attains criticality. During reactor operation, CSR are partially
inserted and are used for power regulation and compensation of reactivity losses. The reactivity losses compensated
by CSR withdrawal are (i) cold to hot, (ii) hot to full power
and (iii) fuel burnup. Including the uncertainty and some
operating margin, the total excess reactivity has been estimated to be 4448 pcm (addition of items (i) to (iv) with
positive uncertainty given in Table 3). The reactivity to
be controlled by DSR is 1586 pcm (addition of items (i)
and (ii) with positive uncertainty given in Table 3) to shut
the reactor below cold critical state. Thus the total worth of
nine CSR and three DSR should be 9448 pcm, which is
equal to the sum of SDM of 5000 pcm and the core excess
reactivity to be controlled by these rods. It is to be noted
that for temperature and power coecients, 20% uncertainty has been chosen. The uncertainty for burnup loss
of reactivity is 10% (Devan et al., 2006).
3.4. Shut down margin
Studies have shown that SDM is minimum for the fresh
core with diluents and ICSA (Devan et al., 2006). The various core states for the fresh core with eight diluents and
one ICSA have been analyzed towards estimating minimum SDM and the results are given in Table 4. The uncertainties in AR worth (11%) and excess reactivity are
considered in such a way that SDM obtained is the minimum. The Np-239 to Pu-239 conversion reactivity in cold
shutdown state is calculated to be 130 pcm. The cases analyzed include failure of either DSR system (Case 2) or CSR
system (Case 3), failure of DSR system followed by one
CSR of maximum worth gets stuck (Case 4) and failure

Table 4
Minimum SDM for dierent core states at BOL with eight diluent and one ICSA

State of the core and

availability of AR

Excess reactivity to be
controlled: errors added

AR worth

AR worth available: 11%

error subtracted (pcm)

SDM at
450 C

SDM at 200 C Np
eect included (pcm)


All AR
7 CSR + 1 CSR stuck at
30 cm + 1 CSR out
2 DSR + 1 CSR moving
out of the core











1586 + 191 = 1777a

191 pcm added due to uncontrolled withdrawal of a CSR from operating condition at full power.

K. Devan et al. / Annals of Nuclear Energy 35 (2008) 14841491

of CSR system coupled with failure of one DSR of maximum worth (Case 5).
In the unlikely event of uncontrolled withdrawal of one
CSR having maximum worth from the operating condition, followed by the non-availability of DSR system and
one more CSR gets stuck (Case 6), cold shut down with
nearly 3$ sub-criticality is possible. It is computed that
the reactivity addition due to the uncontrolled withdrawal
of one CSR of maximum worth from the operating position results a net positive reactivity addition of 191 pcm
(Sathiyasheela et al., 2002). For the other unlikely event
(Case 7) of one CSR going out from the operating condition followed by the non-availability of CSR system, shutdown margin available with DSR system with one DSR
stuck is 149 pcm. But, a hot SDM of 933 pcm is available
for the above least probable triple failure event. It is found
that all cases cold shutdown is achievable and only in the
last case discussed above minimum SDM is below 1$. This
event is considered to be the enveloping design basis event
resulting in minimum SDM (after discussion with the
safety regulation agency).
The aect of CSR burnup on their worth as been estimated. It is estimated that the reduction of CSR and
DSR worth due to burnup is only less than 2% and 1%,
respectively even considering average replacement after 4
cycles. For the DSR case which gives the minimum SDM
the aect of core burnup was also accounted. There is a
1.5% increase in worth of DSR as the core burns from
BOL to equilibrium. As the former eect is less than the
latter, it is estimated the minimum SDM occurs at BOL.
3.5. Life of CSR and


B capture

It is desired due to economic considerations to have

maximum residence of AR in the reactor. As mentioned
earlier, the irradiation life of the AR is lower than the estimated from the neutronics considerations due to radiation
damage eects. The neutronic life of CSR is the time at
which there is a 10% reduction in worth of bottom 40 cm
of absorber column (Mohanakrishnan, 2004). This is estimated to be 900 eective full power days (efpd) for the
inner CSR and 1000 efpd for the outer CSR.
Due to irradiation induced swelling and creep, the core
sub-assemblies tend to bow. Limits on bowing have been
prescribed for CSR and DSR hexcan from handling considerations. It is found that for irradiation corresponding
to 100 GWd/t peak fuel burnup (3 cycles of irradiation),
sub-assembly hexcan bowing reaches the limit prescribed
from fuel handling point of view. Hence, it is planned to
replace AR with hexcan after every 3 cycles of reactor operation because of the hexcan material damage. The residence of AR beyond 3 cycles is possible if ferritic steel is
used for the wrapper material.
Pellet swelling is considerably faster than void swelling
in the cladding material. Therefore, pellet-cladding gap will
tend to close at a certain burnup. Gap closure and continued B4C swelling results in mechanical pellet-cladding


interaction inducing cladding strains and stresses, which

are potential causes of absorber pin failure. Thus the clad
life depends on the swelling in B4C pellet, pellet-cladding
gap, cladding material and the thickness of the cladding.
It is reported that the absorber pins corresponding to rst
load of SUPERPHENIX absorber rods, which were used
in the PHENIX irradiation experiments, had both pelletcladding gap and cladding thickness of 1 mm. The cladding
material used is D9 steel and the B4C (90% enriched) pellet
had a density of 96% TD. It is reported (Kryger et al.,
1996) that pellet-cladding gap could accommodate
2.5  1022 capture/cm3 without mechanical interaction for
these pins. The irradiation data showed that the residence
time of pin was limited by the mechanical interaction
between the B4C and the clad and particularly by the presence of small fragments (due to thermal stress cracking and
intergranular microcracking), which relocate at beginning
of life in the initial gap, leading to clad failure when burnup
goes beyond 1.5  1022 capture/cm3 instead of the initially
expected 2.5  1022 capture/cm3. On comparing the pin
characteristics of CSR with that used in the above irradiation experiments, it is found that CSR pins have more cladding-pellet gap (1.5 mm), similar clad material (D9 steel)
and cladding thickness (1 mm). From the above data, the
maximum burnup that a CSR pin can accommodate before
failure is xed as1.2  1022 capture/cm3. This capture limit
is very conservative for PFBR pins and is expected to
accommodate all the experimental uncertainties.
The residence time of CSR based on cladding life is
given in Table 5. All AR are inserted in the core partially
(30 cm in) at beginning of equilibrium cycle. They are progressively withdrawn till they reach near core top (10 cm
in) at end of equilibrium cycle. By using the group-wise
(26 group) axial ux distribution along the AR and (n, a)
self-shielded cross-section of 10B, the (n, a) reaction rate
in 10B present in the CSR is estimated for the above two
cases. The average (n, a) reaction rate in the bottom
40 cm length is then calculated for one cycle of operation.
Then, the number of cycles to attain 1.2  1022 capture/
cm3 is estimated. For uniform CSR, the above limit is
reached within 2.9 cycles of operation, whereas it is 4.9
cycles for the revised CSR. It is seen that maximum capture
occurs in the bottom 10 cm portion for the uniform CSR
during one cycle. For revised CSR, maximum capture
takes place in 2030 cm section (enriched B4C section)
from the bottom.
The axial distribution of 10B captures of the uniform
and revised CSR are compared in Fig. 7 for case of

Table 5
Life of CSR based on


B capture

of AR

Location of
maximum capture
from bottom

capture per cm3
in a cycle

Life in cycles
for 1.2  1022

Uniform CSR
Revised CSR

010 cm
2030 cm

4.17  1021
2.42  1021



K. Devan et al. / Annals of Nuclear Energy 35 (2008) 14841491


Capture in a Cycle (Capture/cc)

4. Conclusions

Uniform CSR
Revised CSR







Distance from Core Top (cm)

Fig. 7. Comparison of B-10 Captures for One CSR Inserted by 30 cm.

Table 6
Requirement of enriched B4C for PFBR
Type of


B4C for all
CSR at
BOL (kg)

Initial 10B
natural B

need of
B4C for
CSR (kg)

Annual 10B
natural B

















30 cm insertion into the core. It is apparent that the

captures signicant drop in the natural B4C section.

Using the reported results of irradiation experiments of

absorber rod pins in PHENIX reactor and the design of
SUPERPHENIX absorber rods, the design of CSR for
PFBR is modied without compromising on the worth
requirements. It is accomplished by using natural B4C in
20 cm length at the top and bottom portion of the CSR
and remaining portion by 65% enriched B4C. This revised
design ensures sucient shut down margin during normal
operation and also during one stuck rod condition.
The life of uniform and revised CSR from cladding life
point of view is 2.9 and 4.9 cycles respectively. For comparison purpose, the uniform CSR has an enrichment of 57%
so that the worth is same as that of the revised CSR. The
life of revised CSR is limited to 3 cycles because of the
swelling in hexcan D9 steel. Even then, the savings in the
initial enriched B4C inventory is 36% for CSR. Full benet
of higher cladding life can be achieved if hexcan life is
extended. Use of ferritic steel for hexcan can extend the life
of CSR to 5 cycles. Considering the annual requirement
also, the saving with the use of the revised CSR is very
The quality control measures to avoid the mix up of natural and enriched B4C pellets during their manufacturing
and loading has to be implemented.


3.6. Reduction in the requirement of enriched B4C

A comparison of initial and the annual requirement of
enriched B4C with the usage of uniform and revised CSR
is given in Table 6. The DSR life is assumed to be 3 cycles.
It is found that with revised CSR design, reduction in initial requirement of enriched B4C is about 36%. By using
revised CSR with 2.9 years life, it is possible to save
18.7 kg of enriched B4C every year.
As the enrichment of the uniform CSR is less than the
enrichment of revised CSR, total quantity of 10B in the
two CSR cases (both initial and annual requirement) are
also compared in Table 6. Even after including the 10B
from the natural B4C sections, there is a net reduction of
15% in total 10B in the revised CSR case. If the life is
extended to 4.9 cycles by use of better structural material,
the reduction in enriched B4C requirement per year is
about 62%.
When natural and enriched B4C are used in the same
absorber rod, quality control measures should be incorporated to avoid mixing of natural and enriched B4C pellets
during manufacturing and loading.

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