Performance and Safety Analysis of a Generic Small Modular Reactor



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The high and ever growing demand for electricity coupled with environmental concerns and a worldwide desire to shed petroleum dependence, all point to a shift to utilization of renewable sources of energy. The under developed nature of truly renewable energy sources such as, wind and solar, along with their limitations on the areas of applicability and the energy output calls for a renaissance in nuclear energy. In this second nuclear era, deliberately small reactors are poised to play a major role with a number of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) currently under development in the U.S.

In this work, an SMR model of the Integral Pressurized Water Reactor (IPWR) type is created, analyzed and optimized to meet the publically available performance criteria of the mPower SMR from B&W.

The Monte Carlo codes MCNP5/MCNPX are used to model the core. Fuel enrichment, core inventory, core size are all variables optimized to meet the set goals of core lifetime and fuel utilization (burnup). Vital core behavior characteristics such as delayed neutron fraction and reactivity coefficients are calculated and shown to be typical of larger PWR systems, which is necessary to ensure the inherent safety and to achieve rapid deployment of the reactor by leveraging the vast body of operational experience amassed with the larger commercial PWRs.

Inherent safety of the model is analyzed with the results of an analytical single channel analysis showing promising behavior in terms of axial and radial fuel element temperature distributions, the critical heat flux, and the departure from nucleate boiling ratio.

The new fleet of proposed SMRs is intended to have increased proliferation resistance (PR) compared to the existing fleet of operating commercial PWRs. To quantify this PR gain, a PR analysis is performed using the Proliferation Resistance Analysis and Evaluation Tool for Observed Risk (PRAETOR) code developed by the Nuclear Science and Security Policy Institute at Texas A&M University. The PRAETOR code uses multi-attribute utility analysis to combine 63 factors affecting the PR value of a facility into a single metric which is easily comparable. The analysis compared hypothetical spent fuel storage facilities for the SMR model spent fuel assembly and one for spent fuel from a Westinghouse AP1000. The results showed that from a fuel material standpoint, the SMR and AP1000 had effectively the same PR value. Unable to analyze security systems and methods employed at specific nuclear power plant sites, it is premature to conclude that the SMR plants will not indeed show increased PR as intended.