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POWER PLANT ENGINEERING

UNIT - III

NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS


Introduction
Life without electricity is unthinkable. This electricity is generated by power plants using coal, water etc., Use of nuclear energy as a power source is becoming a common trend in the world. This is due to the rapid depletion of conventional energy source. Fuel transportation network and large storage facility in case of thermal power plants and dependence on whether conditions in case of hydel power plants are the major hurdles faced by today's power sectors. Utilization of nuclear power helps to save a considerable amount of fossil fuels which can be used in other areas. Nuclear power engineering is basically concerned with the phenomenon taking place within the nucleus of the atoms. One of the outstanding attractions is the large amount of energy that can be released from a small mass of active material. Complete fission of one kg of uranium,92U235 results in energy equivalent to 4500 tonnes of high grade coal or 1900 tonnes of oil. The economic advantage of nuclear power can be realised only at a load of about 75%. Advantages of nuclear power plants The following are the merits of nuclear power plant over conventional power plants. 1. Power generation is more economic when compared with thermal plant. 2. Fuel transportation, handling and storage charges are absent. 3. No ash disposal problems. 4. Power production is not affected by weather conditions. 5. Space requirement is less. 6. Capital cost is low for bigger unit sizes. 7. Less number of workers is needed than thermal plant. 8. Water quantity required is very less. 9. Enormous amount of heat can be generated from small quantity of fuel consumption. 10. It is well suited for large power requirements. 11. Highly reliable operation. 12. Nuclear power plants has no effect on atmosphere by pollution.

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Disadvantages of nuclear power plants 1. Disaster is the major safety problem faced by nuclear power plants due to nuclear explosions. 2. Radioactive wastes may affect the health of workers and other surrounding people. 3. High initial cost and maintenance cost. 4. Nuclear waste disposal is a major problem. 5. Nuclear plants require well trained personals for its operation.

Nuclear energy
The energy released due to the split up of nucleus into two or more smaller nuclei is known as atomic or nuclear energy. An atom consists of a relatively heavy, positively charged nucleus and a number of much lighter negatively charged electrons that revolves in different orbits around the nucleus. These electrons are held in their orbits by electro static forces. The nucleus consist of sub particles nucleons which, in turn, has electrically neutral charge neutrons and positively charged protons. It is difficult to bring these protons together in a nucleus of atoms. There, it requires some to bring and keep the protons together in the nucleus of an atom. This energy is known as binding energy. The forces that hold the protons and neutrons inside the nucleus are million times as strong as the electrostatic forces holding the electrons to the nucleus. Thus, the binding energy is very large compared with chemical bond energy. Therefore, if a nucleus disintegrates then a very large amount of energy is released. This energy is due to the fission of a neutron and is used for power production in nuclear plants. This energy is known as atomic energy or prompt energy or nuclear energy. In other words, the amount of energy what released now is only at the time of fission. At the time of fission, the neutron is under fast moving conditions. If the reaction proceeds at this rapid movement, then maximum utilization of energy is not possible. So, fast moving neutrons are decelerated with the help of moderator to get more amount of energy. Thus, more energy is produced due to slow decay of the fission fragments into fission products and the non fission capture of excess neutrons in reactions (by means of reflectors). This produces energy much lesser than that of energy obtained by fission. So, the total energy produced per fission reaction is greater than the prompt energy and is about 200 MeV.

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Nuclear fission and fusion reactions


Nuclear reaction plays a vital role in power production. So, it is necessary to study the basic concepts behind the operation of nuclear reactors. These reactions are three types namely fission, fusion and radioactivity. The fission and fusion concepts are well. applicable to power production systems as these reactions will release enormous amount of heat energy than radioactivity.

Nuclear fusion
In nuclear fusion, two or more lighter nuclei (of similar electric charge) are made to collide to fuse them together in a plasma at high temperatures (above 108 oc i.e., high particle velocities). As a result of this, a heavier nucleus is formed and the mass difference is transformed into enormous amount of heat which is much greater than that was produced by fission reaction. To cause fusion, the nuclei are necessary to accelerate to high kinetic energies by raising their temperature to hundreds of millions of degrees in order to overcome electrical repulsive forces. The tremendous energy produced in the sun and stars are by continuous fusion reactions. In the sun, quintillions of hydrogen nuclei collide with each another and fuse to become helium nuclei. During this, they loose a small amount of their original mass which is converted into extremely energetic particles, radiation and heat. This process is also known as thermo-nuclear fusion. For generating power by this process, a controlled, relatively slow and sustained fusion is needed. The nuclear fusion is presently under experimentation and the results are expected by 2015.

Nuclear fission

In nuclear fission, a high energy neutron is made to strike with a heavy nuclei. Due to this effect the heavy nucleus will split into two almost equal fragments of lighter atoms accompanied by release of heat plus two to three free neutrons. Fission can be caused by bombarding with high energy particles, protons, deutrons, X-rays as well as neutrons.

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But, neutrons are most suitable for fission reaction because they are electrically neutral and thus do not require high kinetic energy to overcome the electrical repulsion from positively charged nuclei. One of the elements whose nucleus easily fissions is
235 92U

.All the other are naturally

available stable elements and hence splitting the nucleus of these atoms is not as easy thing. Thus in a fission process, a high energy neutron is made to struck with heavy unstable uranium (92U235) nuclei. During fission reaction, the following results. 1. The immediate (prompt) products of a fission reaction, such as (54Xe140) Xenon and strontium (38Sr94) are called fission fragments. 2. Fission fragments are released along with other decay products (, , ) etc.) are called fission products. 3. Two to three fast free neutrons accompanied by the release of heat for every bombardment.

Controlled and uncontrolled chain reaction


As discussed in nuclear fission reaction, when an unstable neutron enters the uranium
235 92U

nucleus, the nucleus splits into two fragments and releases 2 to 3 neutrons per fission
235

accompanied with heat. The neutrons released during the fission can strike other nuclei of
92U

and causes further fission reactions under favourable conditions. Thus the reaction

becomes self-sustaining and results in continuous chain reaction. Thus, a chain reaction is a self-sustained, continuing sequence of fission reactions which is maintained under favourable conditions. This chain reaction may either occur in controlled manner or uncontrolled manner shown in figure.

As discussed above, 2 to 3 neutron will be releasing as a result of fission reaction. As an average, 2.5 neutrons are ejected per neutron absorbed. Out of 2.5 neutrons, nearly 0.2 to 0.3

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neutrons is 1ost due to escape at the surface and the remaining is 2.2 neutrons, If these 2.2 neutrons are allowed to continue the chain reaction, an exponential increase in reaction rate can be noticed. As a result of this, enormous amount of heat energy will be evolved and such a type of chain reaction is known as uncontrolled chain reaction. This extremely large amount of energy is applied in atomic explosion. In other case, out of 2.5 neutrons, about 0.9 neutron is absorbed by U238 converting it into fissionable material PU239. 0.5 neutron is captured by control rod material, coolant moderator and partly escape from the reactor and 0.1 neutrons are lost from the reaction and the remaining is only one neutron. The only one neutron after every fission is allowed to continue to cause further fission reaction. It is known as controlled chain reaction. The energy produced by such a chain reaction is used in nuclear power production.

Nuclear reactors
A nuclear reactor is an assembled apparatus in which, a self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction is initiated and maintained at a steady controlled rate so that heat is produced continuously. Its main function is to control the release and absorption of neutrons during a chain reactor. It may be regarded as a furnace for burning nuclear fuels like U235, U233 or PU239 and produces useful products like heat, neutrons and radio isotopes. The figure shows the various essential elements of a typical nuclear reactor. It consists of the following components. 1. Reactor core Reactor core is a chamber in which nuclear fission chain reaction occurs and as a result of this, large amount of heat is liberated. It consists of assemblage of fuel elements, control rods, coolant and moderator. Fuel elements are usually made of plates or rods of uranium metal and are usually clod in thin stainless steel sheet to provide corrosion resistance and structural support. 2. Moderator Moderator is a device used to slow down the high energy fast moving neutrons by reducing their kinetic energy so that neutrons are utilized completely before it escapes. This increases the possibility of absorption of neutrons by the fuel to cause further fission and hence the quantity of fuel required to maintain a chain reaction is also reduced. The common moderators used are ordinary water, heavy water, graphite and beryllium.

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3. Control rods Control rods are inserted to control the chain reaction and controlling the heat production rate. To startup the reaction, the control rods are moved out which increases the heat

production rate and the reaction are maintained by adjusting the position of control rods. To shutdown the reaction under emergency, the control rods are pushed in, which reduces the heat production rate. The common materials for control rods are boron, cadmium, indium or silver. 4. Reflector The main purpose of a reflector is to conserve the neutrons by decreasing the loss of the same. This results in the reduction of fuel consumption. The neutrons produced during the chain reaction will be partly absorbed by the fuel rods, moderator, coolant or structural material etc., while the remaining will try to escape from the reactor core. These escaping neutrons can be reflected back into the core by reflectors to take part in the fission reaction. 5. Reactor vessel It is a strong walled container that encloses the reactor core at its bottom, reflector and thermal shield. It also has holes at the top for inserting the control rods and has passages for entrance and exit of the coolant. 6. Thermal shielding It surrounds the entire reactor core and absorbs some of the radiations in the form of - rays, -rays and escaping neutrons. So, it gets heated and prevents the reactor wall from getting heated. This shield is cooled by circulating water over it. It is made up of steel plate lined with concrete. 7. Coolant The main purpose of coolant is to transfer the large amount of heat produced in the reactor due to the continuous fission reaction. It also keeps the fuel assemblies at a safe temperature to avoid their melting and destruction. The commonly used coolants are ordinary water, heavy water. gas (He, Co2 ) liquid metal (Na, K) and an organic fluid.
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8. Biological (or) External (or) Radiation shield It surrounds the whole reactor unit and prevents the escape or leakage of fast moving neutrons and slow neutrons. It also prevents the operating personnel from the harmful effects of dangerous radiations like , , rays which tends to escape to the atmosphere.

Types of nuclear reactors


Nuclear reactors can be classified as follows 1. Depending on the way of energy released by fission. a. Fast reactors (Fission is caused by high energy fast neutrons) b. Thermal or slow reactors (Fission is caused by slow neutrons) c. Intermediate reactors (Fission is caused by neutrons in course of slowing down) 2. Depending on the type of fuel used a. Fissile material (Natural and enriched uranium) b. Fertile material ( PU239 and U 233 ) 3. Depending on the moderator used a. Ordinary water moderated reactors. c. Graphite moderated reactors. 4. Depending on the type of coolant used a. Water cooled reactors b. Gas cooled reactors. c. Liquid metal (Na, K) cooled reactors d. Organic liquid cooled reactors 5. Depending on the fuel moderator assembly (core type) a. Homogeneous reactors (Fuel and moderator are mixed) b. Heterogeneous reactors (Separate fuel rods are surrounded by moderators) b. Heavy water moderated reactors d. Beryllium moderated reactors

Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR)


Water is an excellent moderator and coolant for the reactor and thus water cooled reactor are developed in nuclear power plants. PWR power plant shown in figure. Uses enriched uranium as fuel.

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The water under pressure is used here for both moderator and coolant. A constant pressure of about 150 bar is maintained in the primary loop so as to avoid the boiling of water. In this reactor, a pressuriser is mounted in which water and steam is filled and provided with electric heater at bottom and water spray at the top. If the pressure in primary loop drops, the heater is opened which generates steam and increases the steam content in the vessel so that pressure is increased in the primary loop. If the pressure in primary loop is high, then too high cold water is sprayed into the steam and so the steam gets condensed so that pressure is reduced in the primary loop. Inside the reactor, continuous chain reaction takes place and is accompanied by the liberation of a large amount of heat which is absorbed by the coolant (water). This hot pressurised coolant flows to heat exchanger (steam generator) through pressuriser. Here, heat exchanger acts as steam generator. The steam is generated by transferring the heat, from the coolant to the feed water of secondary loop. Then, the pump returns the coolant into the reactor again through primary loop. The steam generated in heat exchanger is expanded in the turbine which is coupled with the generator. From the turbine exit, the condensate passes to condenser and it condenses. The feed pump delivers the same as feed water to the heat exchanger. Advantages 1. Single fluid used here is water which is cheaper, available in plenty and multipurpose (coolant, moderator and reflector). 2. Reactor is more compact and higher power density.

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3. Lesser number of control rods is required. 4. Steam is free from contamination by radiation and hence normal turbine maintenance is enough. 5. Fuel is utilized efficiently and thus minimizes the fuel cost. Disadvantages 1. High primary loop pressure requires strong and leak proof pressure vessel and so high capital cost. 2. Low pressure in the secondary circuit leads to poor thermodynamic efficiency of the plant. 3. Use of high pressure, high temperature water causes severe corrosion problems. 4. Reactor must be shutdown for fuel recharging. 5. Fuel reprocessing is difficult as fuel suffers radiation damage. 6. Preparation of fue1 element is expensive.

Boiling Water Reactor (BWR)


Boiling water reactor also uses enriched uranium as a primary fuel. Here, the reactor pressure is substantially reduced to allow the boiling of coolant (feed) water. Figure illustrates the BWR power plant. This system is also known as direct cycle boiling water reactor power plant. In this reactor, the steam is generated inside the reactor itself. Coolant (water) enters the reactor at the bottom and gets heated by the heat liberated

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due to the fission reaction. Inside the reactor itself, the water is completely converted into steam. The steam is leaves the reactor top and supplied to the steam turbine and gets expanded. Exhaust steam from the turbine passes through the condenser and condensed. . The condensed water is rerouted again by using feed pump. Advantages 1. Elimination of heat exchanger results in reduction in cost. 2. Maintenance of comparatively lower pressure inside the reactor makes the reactor much lighter and reduces the cost. 3. Low metal surface temperature. 4. Thermal efficiency is high of about 30% due to single loop operation. Disadvantages 1. Steam leaving the reactor is slightly radioactive. 2. Safety is a major problem in BWR plants than PWR plants. 3. Steam wastage during part load operation results in lower thermal efficiency. 4. Lower power density makes to use larger vessel.

Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR)


Fast breeder reactor is a small vessel in which the chain reaction is sustained Primarily by fast moving neutrons (without using moderator). In fast breeder reactor, fuel such as enriched uranium and plutonium or a mixture of these is kept inside the reactor core without using moderator. This active core region is surrounded by a blanket of breeding material (fissile material) such as fertile uranium to absorb the excess neutrons otherwise those neutrons would possibly lost by leakage. The reactor core is cooled commonly by liquid sodium. Fast breeder reactors are normally designed to produce more amount of fissile material than that is being consumed by it. The figure shows the fast breeder reactor power plant which is more similar to liquid metal (sodium graphite) cooled reactor plant. When the enriched uranium undergoes fission reaction, heat will be liberated with the release of fast moving neutrons. Excess neutrons are absorbed by the surrounded uranium blanket and are converted into fissionable material (PU239 ) which is capable of sustaining chain reaction continuously.

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Heat evolved in the reaction is carried by the primary coolant (sodium) and given to the primary heat exchanger. In primary heat exchanger the heat is transferred to the secondary coolant (sodium, however different coolant could be used). The hot secondary coolant passes through the secondary heat exchanger (steam generator) and the feed water coming from the condenser is heated and converted into steam. It is then supplied to steam turbine for mechanical power. The electric power is produced by coupling an electric generator to the steam turbine. Advantages 1. It does not require moderator. 2. High breeding is possible. 3. High power density makes to use small core. 4. More fuel is produced than consumed. 5. Absorption of neutrons is low. Disadvantages 1. It requires highly enriched fuel and thus initial cost is very high. 2. Safety is essential against melt-down. 3. Circulation of special coolants is essential to carryout large quantity of heat from the reactor core. 4. Handling of sodium is difficult as it becomes highly radioactive.

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Waste disposal and safety


Disposal of waste materials is a major and common problem in nuclear power industry. All the wastes being highly radioactive and are injurious to human, animals and plant life. Therefore, proper care must be taken to dispose the waste safely without polluting the atmosphere. The waste materials produced in the nuclear plants are in the form of solids, liquids and gaseous. 1. Solid waste Solid waste consists of discarded control rods, fuel cans, scrap material or disordered objects contaminated with radioactive matter. The solid containing the combustible matter is burnt and the resulting gases are disposed to atmosphere after dilution. The remaining is mixed with concrete and buried deep in the ground. It is necessary to keep the radioactive solid waste first in water as nearly 50% of the radioactive material disappear during cooling. 2. Liquid waste Liquid wastes are diluted by adding water to remove most of the activity in the form of solid precipitate and then discharged into the ground if the activity level is low. However, ground water may get contaminated, if dilution is insufficient. So, the treated liquids are kept in holdup tanks before discharge for a period to allow part of the radioactivity to decay and then buried in ground. The tank should be leak proof and has long term strength. 3. Gaseous waste Gaseous waste could easily pollute air and hence the gas should be treated in a clean-up plant to remove radio active iodine which causes major health hazards. They are also commonly diluted with air and after passing through the filters and then released to the atmosphere through a high chimney.

Site selection of nuclear power plant


i) Availability of water The modern nuclear power plant requires plenty of water for condenser cooling and makeup water requirement. Therefore it should be nearer to a river, reservoir or sea. ii) Distance from populated area The nuclear power plant should be constructed far away from the populated area to avoid the radioactive hazard. iii) Distance from load centre It should be located nearer to the load centre to reduce the transmission loss and power loss.

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iv) Waste disposals The nuclear wastes are radioactive. Therefore the sufficient safely space for disposal is required. v) Safe against Earth Quakes The country divided in to five seismic zone codes (zone 1,2,3,4 and 5) by seismic survey of geological survey of India. The zone 5 will not be the most suitable because of frequently occurred tremors and earth-quakes. The zone 1 will be highly suitably place for nuclear plant. vi) Soil condition The bearing capacity of the soil place very important role in selection of foundation. vii) Accessibility The power plant should be connected with excellent transport facility.

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