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Title: Space Nuclear Reactor Engineering

Abstract

We needed to find a space reactor concept that could be attractive to NASA for flight and proven with a rapid turnaround, low-cost nuclear test. Heat-pipe-cooled reactors coupled to Stirling engines long identified as the easiest path to near-term, low-cost concept.

Authors:
 [1]
  1. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA); USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1345963
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-17-21903
DOE Contract Number:
AC52-06NA25396
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
22 GENERAL STUDIES OF NUCLEAR REACTORS; 42 ENGINEERING; kilopower; space nuclear power; space fission power; space reactor

Citation Formats

Poston, David Irvin. Space Nuclear Reactor Engineering. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.2172/1345963.
Poston, David Irvin. Space Nuclear Reactor Engineering. United States. doi:10.2172/1345963.
Poston, David Irvin. Mon . "Space Nuclear Reactor Engineering". United States. doi:10.2172/1345963. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1345963.
@article{osti_1345963,
title = {Space Nuclear Reactor Engineering},
author = {Poston, David Irvin},
abstractNote = {We needed to find a space reactor concept that could be attractive to NASA for flight and proven with a rapid turnaround, low-cost nuclear test. Heat-pipe-cooled reactors coupled to Stirling engines long identified as the easiest path to near-term, low-cost concept.},
doi = {10.2172/1345963},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Mar 06 00:00:00 EST 2017},
month = {Mon Mar 06 00:00:00 EST 2017}
}

Technical Report:

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  • This document reviews the design status of the SP-100, heat pipe space nuclear reactor system. It also identifies those systems and components requiring additional research to support continued SP-100 system development. The heat pipe reactor was designed to produce 100 kWe of continuous power in a space environment. The design constraints include an expected system operation time of 7 years and a maximum weight of approx. 3000 kg. The reactor, employing an unclad, highly enriched uranium dioxide core, operates as a fast reactor, and is cooled by high-temperature molybdenum -- 13% rhenium, heat pipes with lithium working fluid. Electric powermore » is generated by thermoelectric converters, with the bulk of the thermal energy rejected to space by a radiator panel system.« less
  • The feasibility of upgrading the power of the Heat Pipe Space Nuclear Reactor (HPSNR) system design was investigated. This report discusses the four primary methods for power upgrading: increasing the thermal power output to the reactor core, pulse-mode operation, improving the heat rejection, and improving the thermal-to-electric energy conversion.
  • Submitted to Massachusetts Inst. of Tech., Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Cambridge. Analytical and experimental studies on the describing function of a nuclear reactor and analytical studies on the effect of a refiector on reactor dynamics were carried out. Earlier analytical work on the reactor describing function both at low and high power levels was substantially extended and clarified. Some of the earlier results on the high-power reactor describing function were shown to be incomplete or incorrect. Several IBM-650 programs were written to facilitate accurate calculation of the low- and high-power reactor describing function for a variety of reactor types, andmore » illustrative calculations were presented. The analytical results for the low-power describing function were confirmed by pile-oscillator, frequency-response measurements in a small, enriched, plate-type, H/sub 2/Omoderated and -refiected reactor (the Spert-I P-18/ 19 reactor), for reactivity amplitudes up to 145 and for frequencies from 0.002 to 18.4 cps. A reflector-located, rotary, reactivity-oscillator mechanism of adjustable reactivity amplitude was used. Agreement between the experimental and theoretical describing-function results was shown to be better when a slightly modified version of Keepin and Wimett's U/sup 235/ fast-fission delayed- neutron data were used for the calculations than when Keepin and Wimett's thermal- fission data were used, regardless of the reactivity amplitude or the method of data handling. By means of tests with the neutron detector placed in various positions about the core periphery, the space and time variations of the neutron density, for a reactivity amplitude of 064 and frequencies up to 18.4 cps, were shown to be separable everywhere except in the immediate vicinity of the asymmetrically located oscillator. The prompt-neutron generation time was deduced from the experimental results and found to be in good agreement with results obtained in short-period, step-transient tests and in static, l/v-poison perturbation tests. Analysis of the effect of a reflector on reactor dynamics showed that, under appropriate conditions, the effective lifetime of a reflected reactor can become frequency-dependent at high frequencies, causing the reactor response to rapid reactivity changes to differ from that of an equivalent bare reactor having the same lifetime as the reflected reactor at criticality. Several aspects of this phenomenon were examined, and the results of a number of previously reported experiments illustrating this effect were summarized. (auth)« less