You are on page 1of 115

MBE4105 – Nuclear Reactor Safety

Reactor Safety Fundamentals

Jiyun Zhao
Associate Professor
Dept. of Mechanical and Biomedical Engr.
City University of Hong Kong

Part I: Safety Approach

Heat Removal

An operating nuclear power reactor generates an

enormous inventory of radioactive products. Prevention of
their release to the general environment is the basis for
multiple-barrier design:

• Pellet,
• Cladding,
• Reactor-primary-system,
• And the final barrier the containment structure.

Heat Removal

Nearly 98 percent of all radioactive products are retained

by the fuel assemblies as long as sufficient cooling is
provided to prevent fuel melting. Thus, major objectives of
nuclear reactor operation and safety are to provide
adequate heat removal and control of the energy released
in the system to prevent overheating and, in the most
severe case, melting.

Heat Removal
After normal or accident shutdown, decay heat needs to be
removed successfully from the system.

In a normal shutdown, initial removal of decay heat is

generally by steam bypass to the condenser, when the decay
heat load decreases sufficiently, separate residual (decay) heat
removal systems with dedicated heat-exchangers and cooling-
water supplies are used.

Accident conditions generally invoke one or more of the

emergency core cooling systems (ECCS).

Pressurized Water Reactor Schematic

Defense-in-Depth Approach

The basic purpose of reactor safety is to maintain the integrity of

the multiple barriers to fission-product release. It is supported by
a three-level defense-in-depth approach.

– Proper Design and Training

– Monitoring and Control Systems
– Active shutdown and cooling systems

Mitigation – limit consequences

– Engineered Safety Systems

Energy Sources
The likelihood of severe fuel damage and release of radioactive
products as a result of a reactor accident depends directly on
the amount of energy available. Energy sources can be
classified according to the following origins:

• Stored energy
• Energy from nuclear transients(reactivity insertion)
• Decay heat
• Chemical reactions
• External events - seismic, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.

Both the magnitude and timing of contribution from each

category are important to accident evaluations.

Safety Analysis Report Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction and General Description of Plant
Chapter 2 Site Characteristics
Chapter 3 Design of Structures, Components, Equipment, and Systems
Chapter 4 Reactor
Chapter 5 Reactor Coolant Systems and Connected Systems
Chapter 6 Engineered Safety Features
Chapter 7 Instrumentation and Controls
Chapter 8 Electric Power
Chapter 9 Auxiliary Systems
Chapter 10 Steam and Power Conversion System
Chapter 11 Radioactive Waste Management
Chapter 12 Radiation Protection
Chapter 13 Conduct of Operations
Chapter 14 Initial Test Program
Chapter 15 Accident Analysis
Chapter 16 Technical Specifications
Chapter 17 Quality Assurance


Consistent with the defense-in-depth approach to reactor

design, a wide range of potential accidents are evaluated.
These run from trivial incidents with little or no release of
radioactivity to very severe sequences of events, which
include successive failures of the multiple harriers provided
for fission product retention.

Design-basis accidents serve as a standard for evaluating

the acceptability of reactor designs.

Severe accidents or beyond-design-basis accidents are

postulated to explore the effects of failures of engineered
safety systems, possibilities of fuel melting, and potential for
public harm.
Design-Basis Accidents

Design-Basis Accidents involve the postulated failure of one

or more important systems and an analysis based on
conservative assumptions (e.g., pessimistic estimates of
fission product release). The radiological consequences
must be shown to be within pre-established limits. In this
sense, the accidents serve as the basis for assessing the
overall acceptability of a particular reactor design.

Design-Basis Accidents
Design-basis accidents for light water reactors (and, by extension, other
reactor types) are often classified according to the following general
1. Overcooling-increase in secondary-side [turbine plant] heat removal
2. Undercooling-decrease in secondary-side heat removal
3. Overfilling-increase in reactor coolant inventory
4. Loss of flow-decrease in reactor coolant system [RCS] flow rate
5. Loss of coolant-decrease in reactor coolant inventory
6. Reactivity-core reactivity and power distribution anomalies
7. Anticipated transient without scram [ATWS]
8. Spent fuel and waste system-radioactivity release from a spent fuel
assembly or reactor subsystem or component
9. External events-natural or human-caused events that can effect plant
operating and safety systems(such as aircraft impact, flood, and earthquake)

OvercooIing occurs when feedwater temperature decreases or its flow
increases and also when steam flow increases (e.g., ranging from
faulty pressure regulation to failure of PWR steamline piping).

Steam-Line Break
A major break in a steam line produces a “cold-water”/overcooling reactivity
insertion in multiple-loop systems which have negative power feedback. (In
the single-loop BWR, such a break is equivalent to a loss-of-coolant
accident.) A steam line break flashes liquid in the secondary side of the
steam generators. Enthalpy of vaporization is supplied by the secondary
liquid, which cools off removing heat from and overcooling the primary
water returning to the reactor. This cooling results in a positive reactivity
insertion due lo the negative temperature feedback. While large, negative
temperature feedbacks tend lo mitigate most other accidents, they can
enhance the severity of the steam-line break accident. These “cold water”
accidents, thus, may lead to limitations on the magnitude of the associated
negative reactivity coefficients.

Undercooling, conversely, occurs when steam flow

is decreased due, for example, to turbine trip or
reduction in feedwater flow. A loss of heatsink
accident [LOHA] is an extreme case of undercooling.


Overfilling can result from malfunction of the

chemical and volume control system or inadvertent
ECCS actuation during power operation. A number
of the BWR over/undercooling transients fall into
this category as well.

Loss of cooling
due to reactor coolant system problem

Loss-of-flow accidents [LOFA] follow failure of main reactor

coolant pumps.

Loss-of-coolant accidents [LOCA] result from breaches in the

reactor-coolant pressure boundary. While the “classic” LOCA
involves rupture of major primary piping, other significant
events include steam-generator tube rupture, inadvertent
opening of a relief or safety valve (e.g., on a PWR pressurizer
or BWR steam-line), and certain steam-line breaks in boiling
water systems.

Loss of cooling
Some of the most limiting of the design-basis accidents for
each reactor system are those associated with the loss of
ability of the coolant to remove heat from the fuel. Complete
loss of the coolant is the most severe accident. Small losses
of fluid and/or the loss of coolant flow may also have important

The loss-of -coolant accident (LOCA] is most likely in the

water-cooled reactors where the stored energy content of the
high-pressure, high-temperature coolant may be released to
the containment by rupture of an exposed pipe. The LMFBR’s
coolant does not flash if the primary system is breached,
because system pressure is low and sodium has a high
boiling point.
Loss of cooling
Design-basis LOCA analysis of LWR systems calls for the following
• A double-ended, “guillotine” pipe break in a primary coolant line to allow
free coolant flow from both ends.
• Coolant flashes to steam under the influence of the stored energy and is
discharged rapidly into the containment building.
• Although the coolant loss shuts down the system neutronically, reactor
trip is initiated by an under-pressure reading to the protective system to
assure continued subcriticality.
• The emergency core cooling systems [ECCSI operate to cool the core
and prevent excessive decay-heat-driven damage.
• The small amount of radioactivity released with the primary coolant is
readily handled by natural deposition and active removal systems and,
therefore, retained within the containment structure.
• Heat removal systems maintain ECCS effectiveness and reduce
containment pressure.
When the engineered safety features operate as designed, the core is
cooled with a minimum amount of local fuel failure and radioactivity release.
Loss of cooling
Loss of core cooling capacity without a general loss of the coolant fluid
may be initiated by halting the flow in the primary or secondary coolant
loops. A loss-of-flow accident (LOFA) may occur in any system
experiencing pump failure in the primary system. By contrast, a loss of
heatsink accident [LOHA] arises from a heat exchanger failure (e.g., loss
of feedwater flow that inhibits removal of heat energy from the primary
loop). Either mechanism should lead to a scenario with the following
• Coolant temperature increases,
• Protective system initiates a reactor trip on over-temperature or over-
• Stored-energy redistribution and decay heat result in coolant heating
with voiding or density reduction.
• Natural convection cooling limits fuel damage until some circulation can
be restored by safety systems.
As in the LOCA, design features are expected to mitigate the
consequences of the accident to minimize the amount of fuel failure and
subsequent release of radioactivity for each of the reactor designs.
Loss of Cooling
Steam Generator Tube Rupture
Rupture or major leakage in one or more PWR steam-
generator tubes results in a special LOCA scenario
because it passes primary coolant directly to the secondary
plant. This coolant not only is radioactive (slightly from
routine operation, or more so if fuel pins have been
breached), but also represents a non-recoverable loss of
inventory from the containment building with respect to
emergency coolant recirculation.

Response to a tube-rupture event includes isolation of the

damaged steam generator and rapid cooldown and
depressurization to limit the driving force for coolant loss.

Major reactivity accidents involve uncontrolled withdrawal,
other maloperation, and ejection (in a PWR) or drop (in a
BWR) of one or more control rod assemblies.

Reactivity effects also are associated with startup of an

inactive reactor coolant pump or recirculation loop (which
contains “cold” water), increased BWR coolant flow rate, and
decreased PWR boron concentration. Many of these also
lead to power distribution anomalies, as can inadvertent
loading and operation of a fuel assembly in an inappropriate

Reactivity (control rod withdrawal)

Control rod withdrawal adds positive reactivity, which can be

divided into four categories:

• Uncontrolled rod withdrawal from a subcritical condition

• Uncontrolled rod withdrawal at power
• Control rod ejection (PWR only)
• Rod drop (BWR only)

Reactivity [Uncontrolled rod withdrawal from a
subcritical condition]

Rod withdrawal from a subcritical condition produces a

continuous reactivity addition which could produce a power
excursion and eventual fuel failure. Protective system trip
circuits for excess startup rate, excessively shot period, and
overpower may be expected to mitigate the accident. In the
unlikely event of failure of these safety fatures, negative
temperature feedbacks reduce energy release until coolant-
temperature or overpressure trips are activated.
Reactivity [Uncontrolled rod withdrawal at power]

If control rods are withdrawn while the reactor is

at power without a corresponding increase in the
turbine cycle load, the coolant temperature
increases as the core power and heat flux
increase. A heat-flux/coolant mismatch results in
critical heat flux or DNB. Overpower,
overpressure, and high cooIant-temperature trip
levels are generally set to minimize the likelihood
of DNB.

Reactivity [Control rod ejection (PWR only)]

Failure of a control-rod housing in a PWR could allow rapid

ejection of the rod and its drive under the influence of the high
primary-system pressure. Such ejection produces a reactivity
insertion as well as potentially large local power peaking. With
only the first regulating control-rod group inserted at full power,
ejection of a peripheral rod produces a highly asymmetric
power distribution. The core protective system and the power-
dependent rod insertion program are coordinated to assure
that a trip occurs before linear heat rate or DNB limits

Reactivity [Rod drop (BWR only)]

A BWR rod drop accident occurs when a single

control rod (bottom-mounted) falls out of the

Anticipated Transient Without Scram (ATWS)

An anticipated transient without scram (ATWS) occurs

when the reactor fails to trip following a transient such as
inadvertent control-rod withdrawal, turbine trip, or loss of

An ATWS event has two general characteristics (1)

initiation by a transient anticipated to occur one or more
times in the life of the reactor and (2) assumed to proceed
without scram.

Spent fuel and waste system
A different category of accidents relates to events outside of the reactor
primary system. It includes potential radioactive releases from spent fuel
handling accidents in the containment and spent fuel storage buildings.
spent fuel cask drop accidents, and leak or failure of systems for handling
gaseous or liquid wastes.

Spent-Fuel Handling
Spent-fuel handling accidents differ from the previous design-basis
evaluations. Because the reactor vessel head is open, an accident may
allow the volatile fission products to be transported quickly to various parts
of the containment. Mechanical damage to the fuel assembly, criticality, or
failure to maintain adequate cooling could result in substantial release of

The potential for mechanical damage is minimized by using well-designed

handling tools, interlocks, and operating procedures. Criticality prevention
and adequate cooling are assured by use of storage arrays and heat-
removal systems designed to mitigate credible damage scenarios.
Severe Accidents
Beyond-design-basis/severe accidents have the potential for
causing serious core damage, including meltdown. Based on
hypothetical sequences of events that include successive
failures of engineered safety systems, analysis of such
accidents identifies requirements for design of the emergency
cooling systems and containment structures.

Meltdown ultimately requires the heat production rate to exceed

the removal rate. This may be initiated by either overpower or
undercooling conditions. Overpower most likely would follow a
reactivity transient. Undercooling is related to reduced cooling
through loss of coolant flow or loss of the coolant itself.

With loss of coolant and no accident mitigation by the

engineered safety systems, containment failure and the
associated release of fission products to the environment 30
appears to be inevitable.
Severe Accidents

Severe Accidents
The principal severe accident for LWR systems is a double-ended,
“guillotine” rupture of the largest primary coolant pipe that leads to an
unmitigated LOCA and core meltdown. The sequence of events including:

• Initial blowdown driven by the system stored energy.

• Damaging forces that possibly could cause piping fragments to become
“missiles” that damage safety systems and even breach the containment.
• Continued coolant blowdown leads to fuel-pin DNB and begins core heat-
up (even though moderator loss causes neutronic shutdown to remove
the potential nuclear-transient energy source).
• Local fuel melting propagates to full-core involvement with ultimate melt-
through of the primary system.
• Containment failure occurs by overpressurization if blowdown and
chemical reactions, with or without hydrogen combustion, are sufficient
driving forces; or containment failure may occur by melt-through

Fission-Product Release
The ultimate concern in the serious reactor accidents is the potential
release of fission products to the general environment. The “Reactor
Safety Study” (WASH-1400, 1975) identifies the following mechanisms
for escape of fission products from LWR fuel:

• gap release-cladding rupture releases the volatile products which

have migrated to the pellet-clad gap
• meltdown release-fuel melting releases additional volatile fission
• vaporization release-chemical interactions between molten fuel and
concrete produce aerosols that facilitate fission-product escape
• oxidation release-steam explosion enhances oxidation and release of
fission products

Fission-Product Release

Pellet-Cladding Gap

When zircaloy cladding ruptures between 750 and 1100

degree C, the fission products which have migrated to the
pellet surface, gas gap, or plenum will be released. Further
release from the fuel pellets is quite slow until the melting
temperature is reached.

The inert noble gases leave the fuel rod as soon as the
cladding ruptures. The halogens and alkali metals tends to
react chemically with the cladding and other materials to
reduce their escape fraction to about one-third of what it would
be otherwise. Other fission products are characterized by low
volatility which limits their release to small fractions of one

The first large release of fission products in reactor accident sequences
occurs with fuel melting. If melting occurs on a pellet-by-pellet basis, the
high surface area can lead to large releases. On the other hand, if major
sections of fuel assemblies collapse into a molten mass before melting
themselves, a substantial portion of the fission products may be retained.

Most releases occur early in the melting process. Iron and oxide crusts
which form later are expected to reduce the overall escape of fission
products. The atmosphere of steam, hydrogen, and fission products would
not be likely to cause oxidation or accelerate release.

With melting, all of the noble gases and halogens are available for release,
although trapping in large masses may reduce the fraction to about 90
percent. The volatile alkali metals and tellurium-group elements are retained
based on chemical reactivity. The remaining products also experience small

When the molten mass of fuel and structural material
penetrates the reactor vessel, it is exposed to oxygen, steam
from the containment atmosphere, and cooling water,
respectively. Interaction of the molten fuel with concrete adds
CO2 to the local accident environment. The oxidizing
atmosphere may produce dense aerosol clouds [smokes] in
which some lighter particles follow the bulk flow while those
that are heavier condense out on structures or settle back to
the melt.

Sparging (by gases from the concrete reaction) and natural

convection produce exponential release of virtually all volatile
products still in the fuel. The remaining fission products
experience relatively small releases driven by oxidation and
aerosol formation.
Steam Explosion

A steam explosion produces and scatters finely divided UO2.

It may also facilitate a breach of the containment to allow
general escape of fission products to the environment.

As the UO2 particles cool, they oxidize exothermically to form

U3O8 and release volatile fission products. It is expected that
60-90 percent of remaining noble-gas, halide, tellurium, and
noble-metal fission products would be released
instantaneously under such conditions.

Leakage from Containment
Essentially all of the fission products released during the early
stages of the meltdown would move from the primary system
into the containment. These, plus the products released after
vessel melt-through, form the inventory available for leakage
to the general environment.

The overall change in the concentration of a specific fission

product in the containment atmosphere may be represented
by the balance equation:

Leakage from Containment
The fission-product source available for release in LWR
accidents is often divided into four categories (WASH-
1400, 1975):
• noble gases
• elemental iodine
• organic iodides
• particulates and aerosols

Because the first category consists of chemically inert

gases, no natural processes provide for effective removal.
The organic iodides are similarly unreactive, including
being insoluble in water. Reduction in the potential hazard
of both categories dependent on long-term holdup in the
Leakage from Containment

Elemental iodine, the other major gaseous fission product

form, is quite reactive chemically. Therefore, substantial
removal from the containment atmosphere occurs by this
natural process. Formation of cesium iodide [CsI]
immobilizes both constituents. (That the ex-containment
fission product source term from the TMI-2 accident was
far lower than would be inferred from Table 13-2, was
attributed to enhanced water trapping and plateout of the
chemically active products.)

Leakage from Containment

The solid fission products (including most species

that are volatile at fuel-melt temperatures) appear
in particulate or aerosol form.

Natural deposition and gravitational settling result

in some removal. Agglomeration of small particles
or aerosols to form larger ones usually enhances
the settling processes. A violent containment
failure, however, could resuspend some of this

Leakage from Containment

While the rate at which specific fission products leak to the

general environment depends on their concentration, it is
also a function of the internal state and integrity of the
containment. Leakage from an intact containment is
determined by the system pressure. A typical LWR design,
for example, has daily leakage of less than 0.1 volume
percent as tested at specified overpressure.

If the containment is breached by overpressurization,

leakage is controlled by the generation of the
noncondensable gases [H2 and CO2] and steam. A
representative WASH-1400 meltdown, for example, might
exchange up to 200 volume percent per day through a 9-cm-
diammeter hole.
Leakage from Containment
A melt through failure of the containment leads to rapid
pressure equalization. Fission-product release to the
outside environment is then controlled by the nature of the
ground through which the gases, particulates, and
aerosols must pass.

A representative WASH-1400 melt-through would be

expected to occur at 9-12m below grade. The diffusion of
noble gases to the surface could occur as quickly as
about 10 h in sandy soil to as slowly as years in hard-
packed, fine clay. Soluble and particulate fission products
may be filtered by a factor of a thousand or more, while
the noble gases and organic iodides are relatively
Part III: Nuclear Fuel Rod Thermal Analysis

Nuclear reactor heat removal

• Fuel rods heat conduction

• Convection from fuel rods to coolant

• Radiation heat transfer is usually neglected

Energy production and transfer parameters

• Volumetric heat generation rate: q’’’

• Surface heat flux: q’’

• Linear heat generation rate: q’

• Rate of energy generation per pin: q

• Core power: Q

• Core power density: Q/V=Q’’’

Example: The design and operating conditions for a typical
PWR are listed as follows:
Core power: 3411MWt
Number of fuel assemblies in the core: 193
Number of fuel pins per fuel assembly: 264
Fuel rod outside diameter: 9.5 mm
Active fuel height: 3.66 m

Calculate fuel rod volumetric heat rate, surface heat flux, and
linear heat rate.

Rate of energy generation per pin:
Qcore 3411 × 1000
q= = = 66 .95 kW
total pin number in the core 193 × 264
Fuel rod volume:
πD 2 π × 0.0095 2
Vrod = H= × 3.66 = 0.000259m 3
4 4

Fuel rod volumetric heat rate:

"' q
q = = 66.95 / 0.000259= 258049.1kW / m3

Fuel rod surface area:

S rod = πDH = π × 0.0095 × 3.66 = 0.109233m 2

Fuel rod surface heat flux:

" q
q = = 66.95 / 0.109233 = 612.9kW / m 2
S rod

Fuel rod linear heat rate:

' q
q = = 66.95 / 3.66 = 18.3kW / m

Fuel rods heat conduction

• Fuel pellet heat conduction

• Gas gap heat transfer

• Cladding heat conduction

Fuel rods heat conduction

One dimensional heat conduction equation at steady-state:

1 d dT
(kr ) + q' ' ' (r ) = 0 (1)
r dr dr

Fourier’s Law:

q ' ' = − k∇T

One dimensional Fourier’s Law:

q' ' = −k (2)
dr 57
Fuel pellet heat conduction

Integrating Equation (1) once and assuming q’’’(r) is constant,

i.e. heat generation rate is uniform across the fuel pellet in the
radial direction:

dT r2
kf r + q' ' ' + C = 0 (3)
dr 2

Integrating Equation (3) and assuming fuel pellet thermal

conductivity is constant:

q ''' r 2
T (r ) = − + C1 ln r + C2 (4)
4k f
Fuel pellet heat conduction

Boundary conditions:
(1) At fuel pellet centerline, i.e. r=0, the heat flux must be
zero, therefore, from Fourier’s Law:

'' dT
q = −k f
r r =0 =0 (5)

dT q ''' r C1 (6)
=− +
dr 2k f r

C1 must be zero to satisfy above condition.

Fuel pellet heat conduction

Boundary conditions:
(2) At fuel pellet surface, i.e. r=Rfo, T=Tfo,:

q ''' R 2fo
C 2 = T fo + (7)
4k f

At fuel centerline, i.e. r=0, T=Tm, C2=Tm:

C2 = Tm (8)

Fuel pellet thermal resistance

From equations (7) and (8):

q ''' R 2fo q' (9)

Tm − T fo = =
4k f 4πk f

The thermal resistance for fuel is:

R pellet = (10)
4πk f

Fuel cladding heat conduction

Eq. (4) is applicable for fuel cladding if assuming thermal

conductivity of cladding, kc, is constant. Since q’’’ is zero
inside the fuel cladding, Equation (4) can be written as:

T (r ) = C3 ln r + C4 (11)

The boundary conditions are:

(1) At clad outside surface, r=Rco:

Tco = C3 ln Rco + C 4 (12)

(2) At clad inner surface, r=Rci:

Tci = C3 ln Rci + C 4 (13) 62

Fuel cladding thermal resistance
At cladding surface, i.e. r=Rco, the heat flux is:
'' dT
q = −k c
r r = Rco = qco'' (14)
qco'' Rco
Therefore, from Eq. (11): C3 = −
Also, from Eq. (12) and (13): Tci − Tco = −C3 ln
qco'' Rco Rco q R
Then, Tci − Tco = ln = ln co
kc Rci 2πkc Rci

The thermal resistance for fuel cladding is:

1 R
Rclad = ln co (15)
2πk c Rci 63
Gas gap heat transfer

For the heat transfer across the gas gap, a gap conductance
hg is defined and heat transfer equation is:

q = hg (T fo − Tci )

The thermal resistance therefore is:

R gap = (16)
2πRg hg

R fo + Rci
Where, the Rg is the radius at the middle plane of the gas gap, i.e. Rg =

Convection heat transfer between fuel
rod and coolant
For the convection heat transfer between fuel rod and coolant:

qco'' = hc (Tco − Tbulk )

Where, hc is Heat transfer coefficient between fuel rod and coolant
Tbulk is bulk coolant temperature

The thermal resistance therefore is:

Rcoolant = (17)
2πRco hc

Maximum fuel and cladding temperature

At any given axial location, the maximum fuel temperature,

Tmax, is the fuel pellet centerline temperature, which can be
calculated as

At any given axial location, the maximum cladding temperature,

Tci, is the cladding inner surface temperature, which can be
calculated as:

Coolant temperature calculations

Heat balance equation

Qz = m(hz − hin )
For example: For a typical PWR, the design parameters are
listed as follows:
Core power: 3411MWt
Core pressure: 15.5MPa
Coolant inlet temperature: 286 oC
Core flow rate: 17.4x103 kg/s
Active fuel height: 3.66 m

If the heat generation and mass flow rate are uniformly

distributed throughout the core, calculate the core outlet
coolant temperature.
Coolant temperature calculations

Water enthalpy at 15.5MPa, 286+273.15=559.15K, is 1264 kJ/kg.
hout = hin + m


Then, the core outlet temperature can be found is 594.3K=321.15oC

Part IV: Critical Heat Flux

Departure from Nucleate Boiling (DNB)

PWR - Departure from Nucleate Boiling (DNB): In

the PWRs, although the bulk flow is subcooled, the
water film contacted to the fuel cladding may be
saturated if the cladding temperature is higher than
the saturation point. Therefore, subcooled boiling will
occur. If the surface heat flux is higher than a critical
heat flux (CHF), a bubble film will be generated which
covers the fuel rod and the heat transfer will be
significantly deteriorated. This phenomenon is called
Departure from Nucleate Boiling (DNB). In the PWR
core design, the DNB is one of the key issues that
needs to be avoided.
Dry out

BWR – Dry out: In the BWRs, although the saturated

boiling will occur in which the bulk flow is saturated, in
the core exit, only 20 to 30% of the water becomes
steam or bubbles to ensure the well cooling of the
fuel pin. However, if the surface heat flux is above the
critical heat flux (CHF), all the liquid is vaporized to
the steam in the core exit and heat transfer will be
significantly deteriorated. This phenomenon is called
dry out, which needs to be avoided during the BWR

Departure from Nucleate Boiling Ratio
Critical Heat Flux is calculated using the correlations such
as W-3 correlation (see ref. below). The DNBR is defined
as: ''
DNBR = ''
q ( z)
As the correlations has uncertainties, for PWRs using the
W-3 correlation, the margin of safety has been to require
the minimum DNBR (MDNBR) at any location in the core to
be at least 1.3 at full power.

Todreas, N., Kazimi, M., “Nuclear Systems I: Thermal Hydraulic

Fundamentals”, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton, U.S.A.,
2012, ISBN: 978-1-4398-0887-0. 72
Part V: Reactor kinetics and control

Criticality control

Criticality control

Prompt Neutrons and Delayed Neutrons

• More than 99 % of Neutrons are Prompt –released at time

of fission

• Fission Products also release neutrons with some delay

based on half life – Precursors

• 20 Precursors grouped into 6 groups with half lives ranging

from 0.25 sec to 1 minute

• Delayed neutron fraction - β i = delayed neutrons from

precursor group Ci

Prompt Neutrons and Delayed Neutrons

Reactor dynamics

• Prompt source
• Delayed source
• Time Dependent Neutron Balance Equation

Rate of change = rate of production - rate of absorption - rate

of leakage

• Point kinetics equation

• Prompt critical –transition to prompt from delayed control ρ=


Point kinetics equation

Reactivity Feedbacks

Reactivity Feedbacks

• Fuel Temperature
–Fuel density
–Doppler effect

• Moderator/Coolant

• Fuel Motion (such as bowing) - change overall or

local fuel densities and the power distribution

Fuel Temperature Feedback
An increase in fuel temperature generally affects the neutron balance by
decreasing fuel density and by changing the characteristics of the
absorption of resonance-energy neutrons (Doppler effect).

A fuel density decrease has a negative reactivity effect in virtually all

systems because leakage increases. This feedback is a relatively minor
contribution in power reactors where the ceramic fuel pellets expand little.
On the other hand, in certain test reactors made of metal (e.g., Sandia
Laboratories’ SPR-lll and Los Alamos’ Godiva), the fuel density feedback is
strong enough to bring the system subcritical following a large reactivity

A second fuel-temperature feedback depends on increased neutron

absorption in the high, narrow resonance peaks which are characteristics of
fissionable nuclides. The phenomenon known as the Doppler effect is
caused by an apparent broadening of the resonances due to thermal motion
of nuclei.
Fuel Temperature Feedback
(Doppler Broadening)

Fuel Temperature Feedback
(Doppler Broadening)
The Doppler effect can produce either a positive or negative
reactivity feedback. In fuel that is primarily fissile, the
increased absorption tends to occur in fission resonances that
enhance multiplication and cause positive feedback. Low
fissile content favors parasitic capture in fertile material with
resulting negative feedback.

The Doppler feedback is strongly negative in the thermal

reactor systems because their effective fissile Content is low.
The effective enrichment of an LMFBR must be limited to 15-
30 wt% to assure that the Doppler feedback effect is negative.

Moderator/Coolant Feedback

All power reactor systems have a moderator and/or a coolant which

slows down neutrons via scattering interactions. An increase in
temperature generally decreases both the density and the effectiveness
for slowing down. This effect may produce a positive or negative
feedback, depending on the design of the system.

The pressurized coolant in a PWR will expand with heating and reduce
reactivity. However, the presence of dissolved boric acid for reactivity
control produces an opposing effect. Boron density, and thus absorption,
decreases with water density producing a positive feedback. Thus, the
maximum boric acid concentration must be limited if the net feedback
from the coolant/moderator is to be negative.

Reactor Control

• Inherent feedback mechanism

-Fast - fuel
-Slow - moderator

• Control Rods
-Relatively fast but rod worth an issue
-Rod ejection
-Rapid withdrawal

• Soluable Boron

• Burnable poison (Gadolinia rods)

Part VI: Nuclear Reactor Stability

Gen-IV Nuclear Systems
Six reactor types recommended by Gen-IV International Form
for R&D

1. Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR)

2. Supercritical Water Cooled Reactor (SCWR)

3. Molten Salt Reactor (MSR)

4. Gas Cooled Fast Reactor (GFR)

5. Sodium Cooled Fast Reactor (SFR)

6. Lead Cooled Fast Reactor (LFR)

Supercritical Fluids Used in Gen-IV Nuclear Systems

• Supercritical water at 25 MPa is used in the direct Rankine cycle for

Supercritical Water Cooled Reactor (SCWR) design

• Supercritical CO2 is candidate working fluid for all remaining five Gen-IV
 Direct Brayton cycle (GFR)
 Indirect Brayton cycle (VHTR, MSR, SFR, LFR)

• No phase change for fluids above critical pressure

 Achieve high temperature to improve thermal efficiency
 Enhance heat transfer
 Simplify the system design
 However, the high temperature change causes high density change
which gives rise the stability concerns

Comparison of SCWR and Gen-II/III Light
Water Reactors
Thermal-Hydraulic parameters Neutronic parameters

Reactor types System Inlet Outlet Density ratio

pressure coolant coolant Reactor types Doppler Density reactivity
(MPa) density density reactivity coefficient
(kg/m3) (kg/m3) coefficient

Typical PWR 15.5 753.9 669.1 0.89

Typical BWR -2.3e-5 1.77e-4

Typical BWR 7.24 752.6 198.4 0.26
SCWR -1.4e-5 1.0e-5 (coolant)
7.5e-5 (Water rods)
SCWR 25 777.2 89.7 0.12

BWR and SCWR has much higher density change – the concern of density wave

Mechanism of Density Wave Instability
If some external forces or disturbances create an oscillation in
the inlet flow, the local coolant density in a two-phase or
compressible system will experience a fluctuation and a density
wave will propagate towards the exit along with the flow. This
density wave will cause the local pressure drop to fluctuate or
oscillate with some time delay with respect to the inlet flow. In
some situations, the channel total pressure drop may
experience an 180o phase lag with respect to the inlet flow as
shown in next slide. The constant external pressure boundary
condition of a parallel channel system such as a BWR or
SCWR will then generate a positive inlet velocity feedback to
the oscillating channel, which will increase the oscillation
amplitude of the original flow and the system will become
Mechanism of Density Wave Instability
The mechanism of single channel DWO in a parallel channel system can be
illustrated by:

Feedback flow

Total Pressure drop Constant external pressure drop

' Local Pressure drop



Inlet flow
Single channel density wave instability

• Instability may be dangerous, since it is

Bulk flow difficult to detect
• Large margin is required
∆p = Const.


Core wide out-of-phase density wave instability

Upper plenum

Upper dome P=25Mpa


Upper Plenum

Water rods

Water rods



∆p 1 2

Qw Q Q Qw

Lower Plenum win = const .

Lower plenum

Core wide in-phase density wave instability

Upper plenum Steam line and Turbine valve

exit valve

Feedwater pipe dome


Water rods

Qw Q

Lower plenum

Neutronic Dynamic Coupling

• Single Channel Oscillations – Small fraction of the core - No neutronic

dynamics coupling

• Core Wide Oscillations – With neutronic dynamics coupling

Coolant density Moderator Density

oscillation reactivity feedback

Fluid dynamics
Neutronic oscillation
Fuel rod dynamics

fuel rod temperature Fuel rod Doppler

oscillation reactivity feedback

Fundamental mode of neutron dynamics is excited
during in-phase instability


t = T/2


First subcritical mode of neutron dynamics is
excited during Out-of-phase instability


t = T/2


Fig.1: Fundamental Mode and

First Subcritical Mode
Fig.2: Total neutron dynamics
during out-of-phase instability

Example Simulation Models

• Fluid dynamics model - Three region supercritical water


• Fuel dynamics model – Brookhaven National Laboratory

lumped model

• Neutronic dynamics model – Point kinetics with modal


Three region supercritical water model
Water Density (kg/m^3)

600 Density versus
500 temperature at
200 Light fluid
100 region (region 3)
250 300 350 400 450 500 550
Temperature (degree C) L B
Heavy and light
Specific heat (kJ/kg-K)

70 fluid mixture
60 region (region 2)
Specific heat A
versus λ2
temperature at
25 MPa λ1 Heavy fluid
10 region (region 1)
250 300 350 400 450 500 550
Temperature (degree C)

Fuel dynamics model – BNL lumped model

Fuel Gas Claddi

gap ng
Assuming a power polynomial for temperature distribution in the fuel pellet:
T f = To + bξ + cξ 2 where, ξ=
o Assuming a linear temperature distribution in the cladding:
r − R2
Tc = T2 + d η where, η= R2 < r < R3
R3 − R2
T Tw
R1 t
Fuel rod dynamics equation: Fourier heat transfer equation
R3 dTpin
= C1hc (T∞ − Tpin ) + C2 qv'''

Neutronic dynamics model – Point kinetics with modal

dnm ρ ms − β ρ m0 6
= nm + + ∑ λi ci ,m
dt Λm Λ m i =1

dci ,m βi
= nm − λi ci ,m
dt Λm

Where, m=0 is fundamental mode of neutron dynamics

m=1 is first subcritical mode of neutron dynamics

Decay Ratio

t1 u (t 2 )
t2 DR =
u (t1 )

• The governing equations can be solved in time domain, or frequency domain

using the Laplace transformation
• The governing equations can be solved linearly or non-linearly
• A linear method in frequency domain was used in this work
• Higher DR means more unstable
• DR=1.0 is the boundary of stable and unstable
• A criterion of DR=0.5 for single channel and DR=0.25 for coupled neutronic core
wide oscillations were used by BWR designers
Ledinegg instability
The Ledinegg type instability, also called as flow excursion, is a static instability
since this kind of instability phenomenon can be explained by static laws.

Ledinegg instability
If the operating condition is in region 1, such as point 1, the
system will be stable. Because if the inlet flow has a small
perturbation, such as a small increase, the fluid pressure drop
across the channel will be above the constant external
pressure drop condition which will decrease the inlet flow rate
such that the operating point will go back to point 1. Thus, the
system can operate at point 1 stably. The same phenomenon
will happen in region 3 which is also a stable region. However,
if the operating point is in region 2, such as at operating point 2,
a small increase of inlet flow will decrease the channel
pressure drop below the constant external pressure drop. Thus,
the inlet flow will increase again, until the operation shifts to
point 3. On the other hand, a decrease in the flow of point 2 will
shift the system to point 1. Thus, the operation in region 2 is
Part VII: Current Methods and Future Trend on the Reactor

Issues and R&D requirements for the existing
nuclear power reactors

The issues that challenge the fuel and plant performance of

existing reactors include:
• Power uprates: in USA alone, more than 6000 MWe has
been added by power uprates of existing plants before 2011
• Higher fuel burnup/longer fuel cycle length
• Plant life extension

Requirements for R&D:

• Plant modifications and advanced fuel development
• Advanced modeling and simulation methods

AREVA technologies on the advanced fuel
assembly designs
Advanced fuel development:
• M5 fuel cladding materials
• High performance HTPTM fuel assembly design

AREVA Technologies-Current Simulation Methods

Current reactor design analysis tools are separate and applied in series using
simplistic models and conservatisms in the analyses for neutronics, thermal
hydraulics, fuel rod performance, reactor safety and structural mechanics.

 Reactor core neutronic analysis (NEMO/CASMO). NEMO is a nodal code to

generate fuel assembly power throughout the core. CASMO is a lattice code to
generate specific pin power.

 Reactor core thermal-hydraulic analysis (LYNXT). Mainly Departure from

Nucleate Boiling (DNB) analysis.

 Fuel rod performance analysis. TACO3 is used for thermal evaluations on

internal pin pressure and centerline fuel temperature. COPERNIC is used for
cladding mechanical evaluations on stress, strain, collapse and corrosion.

Reactor safety analysis. RELAP5 is used for LOCA/non-LOCA transient events.

 Structural mechanics (ANSYS).

AREVA Technologies - A 12-channel subchannel analysis model

AREVA Technologies-Future Simulation Trend

• Statistical methods are being used to recover the significant conservatisms

used in the reactor design and safety analysis. The following are being used
 Statistical core design (Departure from Nucleate Boiling analysis),
 Statistical fuel assembly hold-down analysis,
 Realistic LOCA analysis

• The future trend on reactor simulations

 Development of multi-physics tools to integrate the specific analyses,
 More detailed core modeling,
 Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) applications. While not suited for
system calculations, CFD is very well suited for component performance
and design optimization, which has been widely used in the Gen-III/III+/IV