Feasibility of Breeding in Hard Spectrum Boiling Water Reactors with Oxide and Nitride Fuels
Author(s)Feng, Bo; Kazimi, Mujid S.; Forget, Benoit
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Program
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This study assesses the neutronic, thermal-hydraulic, and fuel performance aspects of using nitride fuel in place of oxides in Pu-based high conversion light water reactor designs. Using the higher density nitride fuel hardens the neutron energy spectrum and results in higher breeding ratios. The state-of-the-art high conversion light water reactor, the Resource-renewable Boiling Water Reactor (RBWR), served as the template core upon which comparative studies between nitride and oxide fuels were performed. A 1/3 core reactor physics model was developed for the RBWR using the stochastic transport code MCNP. The code was coupled with a lumped channel thermal-hydraulics 5-channel model for steady-state analyses. The depletion code MCODE, which links MCNP with ORIGEN, was used for all burnup calculations. Select physics parameters were calculated and with the exception of the void coefficients, agreed with reported data. The void coefficients of the coupled core were calculated to be slightly positive using two different methods (10% power increase and 5% flow reduction). The standard RBWR assembly designs, which use tight lattice hexagonal fuel rod arrays, with oxide fuel were then replaced with various nitride fuel assembly designs to determine the potential increase in breeding ratio, the potential to breed with pressurized water, and the potential to improve the critical power ratio with a wider pin pitch. Without changing the assembly geometry or discharge burnup, using nitride fuel resulted in a breeding ratio of 1.14. Using single-phase liquid water, the nitride fuel RBWR assembly resulted in a conversion ratio of 1.00. Another nitride fuel assembly design with boiling water maintained a 1.04 breeding ratio while increasing the pitch-to-diameter ratio from 1.13 to 1.20. This modification increased the hot assembly critical power ratio from 1.22 to 1.36, as calculated using the Liu- 2007 correlation. A high-porosity nitride fuel is recommended for high burnup conditions, to accommodate the nitride fuel’s higher swelling and less favorable mechanical properties compared to the oxide fuel. The high porosity allows additional volume for pressure-induced densification, alleviating swelling and subsequent cladding strain. To predict the performance of high-porosity nitride fuel, fission gas and fuel behavior mechanistic models were developed for high burnup and low-temperature conditions. These models were validated with reported irradiation data and implemented, along with fuel material properties, into the steady-state fuel behavior code FRAPCON-EP. Under simulated RBWR conditions, a fuel density no more than 85% of theoretical density is recommended to maintain satisfactory fuel performance.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Program