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Title: Preliminary Evaluation of Alternate Designs for HFIR Low-Enriched Uranium Fuel

Engineering design studies of the feasibility of conversion of the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) from high-enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel are ongoing at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as part of an effort sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI)/Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) program. The fuel type selected by the program for the conversion of the five high-power research reactors in the U.S. that still use HEU fuel is a new U-Mo monolithic fuel. Studies by ORNL have previously indicated that HFIR can be successfully converted using the new fuel provided (1) the reactor power can be increased from 85 MW to 100 MW and (2) the fuel can be fabricated to a specific reference design. Fabrication techniques for the new fuel are under development by the program but are still immature, especially for the “complex” aspects of the HFIR fuel design. In FY 2012, the program underwent a major shift in focus to emphasize developing and qualifying processes for the fabrication of reliable and affordable LEU fuel. In support of this new focus and in an effort to ensure that the HFIR fuel design is asmore » suitable for reliable fabrication as possible, ORNL undertook the present study to propose and evaluate several alternative design features. These features include (1) eliminating the fuel zone axial contouring in the previous reference design by substituting a permanent neutron absorber in the lower unfueled region of all of the fuel plates, (2) relocating the burnable neutron absorber from the fuel plates of the inner fuel element to the side plates of the inner fuel element (the fuel plates of the outer fuel element do not contain a burnable absorber), (3) relocating the fuel zone inside the fuel plate to be centered on the centerline of the depth of the plate, and (4) reshaping the radial contour of the relocated fuel zone to be symmetric about this centerline. The present studies used current analytical tools to evaluate the various alternate designs for cycle length, scientific performance (e.g., neutron scattering), and steady-state and transient thermal performance using both safety limit and nominal parameter assumptions. The studies concluded that a new reference design combining a permanent absorber in the lower unfueled region of all of the fuel plates, a burnable absorber in the inner element side plates, and a relocated and reshaped (but still radially contoured) fuel zone will allow successful conversion of HFIR. Future collaboration with the program will reveal whether the new reference design can be fabricated reliably and affordably. Following this feedback, additional studies using state-of-the-art developmental analytical tools are proposed to optimize the design of the fuel zone radial contour and the amount and location of both types of neutron absorbers to further flatten thermal peaks while maximizing the performance of the reactor.« less
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  1. ORNL
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
R&D Project: NN9100000
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI)
Contributing Orgs:
technical review provided by E. Wilson, et al of Argonne National Laboratory. User Facility High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR)
Country of Publication:
United States