Conceptual Design of a Lead-Bismuth Cooled Fast Reactor with In-Vessel Direct-Contact Steam Generation
Author(s)Buongiorno, J.; Todreas, N. E; Kazimi, Mujid S.; Czerwinski, K. R.
Advanced Nuclear Power Technology Program (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
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The feasibility of a lead-bismuth (Pb-Bi) cooled fast reactor that eliminates the need for steam generators and coolant pumps was explored. The working steam is generated by direct contact vaporization of water and liquid metal in the chimney above the core and then is sent to the turbine. The presence of a lighter fluid in the chimney drives the natural circulation of the Pb-Bi within the reactor pool. Three key technical issues were addressed: The maximum thermal power removable by direct contact heat transfer without violating the fuel, clad and vessel temperature limits; The consequences of Pb-Bi aerosol transport on the design and operation of the turbine; The release of radioactive polonium (a product of coolant activation) to the steam. Modeling of the multi-phase phenomena occurring in the chimney confirmed the effectiveness of the direct contact heat transfer mode within a well-defined design envelope for the reactor power, chimney height and steam superheat. A 1260MWth power is found possible for 10m chimney height and 25ºC superheat. The temperature of the low-nickel steel clad is maintained below 600ºC, which results in limited corrosion if tight control of the coolant oxygen concentration is adopted. Generation, transport and deposition of Pb-Bi aerosols were also modeled. It was found that the design of a chevron steam separator reduces the heavy liquid metal in the steam lines by about three orders of magnitude. Nevertheless, the residual Pb-Bi is predicted to cause embrittlement of the turbine blades. Four solutions to this problem were assessed: blade coating, employment of alternative materials, electrostatic precipitation and oxidation of the Pb-Bi droplets. An experimental campaign was conducted to investigate the polonium release from a hot Pb-Bi bath to a gas stream. The thermodynamics of the polonium hydride formation reaction (free-energy vs. temperature) as well as the vapor pressure of the lead-polonide were measured and then utilized to model the polonium transport in the reactor. It was found that the polonium concentration in the steam and on the surface of the power cycle components is significantly above the acceptable limits, which makes the very concept of a direct contact reactor open to question.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems. Advanced Nuclear Power Program