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Title: Transition Core Planning and Safety Analyses in Support of LEU Fuel Conversion of the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR)

Abstract

The University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR®) is one of six U.S. High Performance Research Reactors (USHPRR), including one critical facility, that is working with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Material Management and Minimization (M3) Reactor Conversion Program to convert from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. The M3 Reactor Conversion USHPRR Project objectives include the development of LEU fuel element designs that will ensure safe reactor operations and to maintain the existing experimental performance of each facility. The work is being conducted through many inter-related activities being completed by four Project Pillars: Fuel Qualification (FQ), Fuel Fabrication (FF), Reactor Conversion (RC), and Cross Cutting (CC). A new type of LEU fuel based on an alloy of uranium-10 wt% molybdenum (U-10Mo) is expected to allow the conversion of those USHPRR, like MURR, requiring higher density fuels. The very-high-density LEU U-10Mo monolithic fuel is currently undergoing irradiation testing and post-irradiation examination under a planned and documented fuel qualification effort. The FQ Pillar will document fuel property and fuel performance data and qualify the fuel for use in these reactors. The FF Pillar is fabricating fuel for ongoing and future irradiation tests, as well as conductingmore » fabrication demonstrations to validate or update preliminary fabrication assumptions. The FF Pillar is also working to develop and install commercial manufacturing capacity with the U-10Mo monolithic fuel to produce prototypic fuel. Working with the RC Pillar at Argonne, MURR has progressed through a preliminary fuel element design using preliminary data for the proposed monolithic alloy of U-10Mo. Analyses were completed in previous work that found for typical equilibrium operations with the preliminary LEU fuel element design, in conjunction with a power uprate to 12 MW and appropriate changes to the MURR Limiting safety system settings (LSSS), MURR will have adequate margins to safety for steady-state operations and postulated transient accidents and will have experimental performance in key locations that meets or exceeds current operations with HEU fuel. The purpose of this work is to develop a sequence of transition cycles that will enable MURR to transition from operation with the reactor core loaded with fresh LEU fuel elements only to typical equilibrium operations with mixed-burnup cores following conversion while meeting operational requirements on safety and experimental performance. It is expected that the use of fresh LEU fuel at conversion and subsequent low burnup of the LEU fuel elements that will initially be available for use following conversion will result in critical control blade positions that will substantially change the axial power distribution in the core and the neutron flux available in key experimental locations relative to equilibrium LEU operations. Given the constraints of MURR safety margins, operational practices, and production and research, a novel method has been developed to identify a transition sequence that minimizes the time MURR operates atypically compared to the current prototypic cycles using HEU fuel. The proposed transition sequence moves quickly to the same sort of equilibrium cycles for the LEU fuel that have already been evaluated in documented preliminary safety analyses. Although shifting the neutron flux peak to the lower half of the core during initial cycles with LEU at 12 MW reduces the experiment performance in some key locations relative to current HEU operations at 10 MW, all LEU cores provide an average performance that meets or exceeds that of HEU. An LEU cycle is reached that meets or exceeds the level of experimental performance predicted for current HEU and equilibrium LEU operations in more than 450 key locations identified by a reactor specialist at MURR by the 23rd cycle following conversion and that afterwards will enable MURR to consistently meet its experimental performance requirements. The proposed transition sequence only requires the fabrication of 34 fresh LEU elements in the first year of operation and does not exceed the anticipated availability of fresh elements that can be produced by the fuel fabricator. By the third year after conversion, 22 fresh LEU elements will be required each year, which is the same as expected for equilibrium LEU operations and the same as current operations with HEU fuel. The proposed transition sequence thus combines a relatively short time period before equilibrium burnup is achieved, a temporary increase of fuel elements needed annually relative to typical operations that are within the production capabilities of the fuel fabricator, and demonstrates comparable experimental performance of the LEU cores relative to current HEU operations. Further measures may be taken to reduce any initial experimental performance penalty even further, where possible, by repositioning certain experiments to leverage the increased performance in the lower axial experimental positions in the initial cycles following conversion or leaving the experiments in the irradiation facilities longer in order to achieve the required neutron fluence. This analysis may require refinement depending on the experimental facilities in use at the time of conversion. Nonetheless, the results presented here, including the experimental performance, core burnup, and critical control blade positions throughout the transition cycles, show that the proposed transition cycle fuel management patterns are consistent with what is expected and desired for MURR operation with LEU U-10Mo fuel. Detailed core power distributions from the neutronics models were also used to evaluate safety margins during steady-state operations for the selected transition cycles and the equilibrium LEU core. It is shown that there are adequate safety margins for both steady-state operations and postulated accident scenarios. For the steady-state operations with the preliminary LEU fuel element design the analysis predicts at least 2.49 MW margin to the onset of flow instability at the LSSS power of 15 MW. Considering the LSSS power is 125% of full license power, the margin to OFI is sufficient. In addition, the critical heat flux ratio at LSSS power is well above the requirement of CHFR > 2.0 from NUREG-1537 for all considered cases. For postulated transient accidents, the minimum margin to the fuel temperature safety limit is at least 109 °C. In summary, the proposed sequence of core loadings for MURR operations following conversion to LEU fuel and a power uprate to 12 MW provides sufficient safety margins for both steady-state operations and postulated transient accidents during a proposed sequence of transition cycles to equilibrium operations. Analysis has shown that there are some local experimental performance penalties during the initial cycles. Although there are local shifts in the experimental performance, on average all LEU cores at 12 MW have equal or higher performance than HEU at 10 MW. Temporary adjustments are being planned that will produce suitable experimental performance during these cycles. The results indicate that for the equilibrium LEU core the experimental performance exceeds that of current HEU operations in all key locations while also demonstrating sufficient safety margins.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [1];  [1];  [2];  [2];  [2];  [2];  [1]
  1. Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
  2. Univ. of Missouri, Columbia, MO (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
OSTI Identifier:
1708833
Report Number(s):
ANL/RTR/TM-19/18
163132
DOE Contract Number:  
AC02-06CH11357
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English

Citation Formats

Stillman, J. A., Cowherd, W. M., Yoon, D. S., Feldman, E. E., Kutikkad, K., Peters, N. J., Gahl, J., Foyto, L. P., and Wilson, E. H.. Transition Core Planning and Safety Analyses in Support of LEU Fuel Conversion of the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR). United States: N. p., 2020. Web. doi:10.2172/1708833.
Stillman, J. A., Cowherd, W. M., Yoon, D. S., Feldman, E. E., Kutikkad, K., Peters, N. J., Gahl, J., Foyto, L. P., & Wilson, E. H.. Transition Core Planning and Safety Analyses in Support of LEU Fuel Conversion of the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR). United States. https://doi.org/10.2172/1708833
Stillman, J. A., Cowherd, W. M., Yoon, D. S., Feldman, E. E., Kutikkad, K., Peters, N. J., Gahl, J., Foyto, L. P., and Wilson, E. H.. 2020. "Transition Core Planning and Safety Analyses in Support of LEU Fuel Conversion of the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR)". United States. https://doi.org/10.2172/1708833. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1708833.
@article{osti_1708833,
title = {Transition Core Planning and Safety Analyses in Support of LEU Fuel Conversion of the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR)},
author = {Stillman, J. A. and Cowherd, W. M. and Yoon, D. S. and Feldman, E. E. and Kutikkad, K. and Peters, N. J. and Gahl, J. and Foyto, L. P. and Wilson, E. H.},
abstractNote = {The University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR®) is one of six U.S. High Performance Research Reactors (USHPRR), including one critical facility, that is working with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Material Management and Minimization (M3) Reactor Conversion Program to convert from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. The M3 Reactor Conversion USHPRR Project objectives include the development of LEU fuel element designs that will ensure safe reactor operations and to maintain the existing experimental performance of each facility. The work is being conducted through many inter-related activities being completed by four Project Pillars: Fuel Qualification (FQ), Fuel Fabrication (FF), Reactor Conversion (RC), and Cross Cutting (CC). A new type of LEU fuel based on an alloy of uranium-10 wt% molybdenum (U-10Mo) is expected to allow the conversion of those USHPRR, like MURR, requiring higher density fuels. The very-high-density LEU U-10Mo monolithic fuel is currently undergoing irradiation testing and post-irradiation examination under a planned and documented fuel qualification effort. The FQ Pillar will document fuel property and fuel performance data and qualify the fuel for use in these reactors. The FF Pillar is fabricating fuel for ongoing and future irradiation tests, as well as conducting fabrication demonstrations to validate or update preliminary fabrication assumptions. The FF Pillar is also working to develop and install commercial manufacturing capacity with the U-10Mo monolithic fuel to produce prototypic fuel. Working with the RC Pillar at Argonne, MURR has progressed through a preliminary fuel element design using preliminary data for the proposed monolithic alloy of U-10Mo. Analyses were completed in previous work that found for typical equilibrium operations with the preliminary LEU fuel element design, in conjunction with a power uprate to 12 MW and appropriate changes to the MURR Limiting safety system settings (LSSS), MURR will have adequate margins to safety for steady-state operations and postulated transient accidents and will have experimental performance in key locations that meets or exceeds current operations with HEU fuel. The purpose of this work is to develop a sequence of transition cycles that will enable MURR to transition from operation with the reactor core loaded with fresh LEU fuel elements only to typical equilibrium operations with mixed-burnup cores following conversion while meeting operational requirements on safety and experimental performance. It is expected that the use of fresh LEU fuel at conversion and subsequent low burnup of the LEU fuel elements that will initially be available for use following conversion will result in critical control blade positions that will substantially change the axial power distribution in the core and the neutron flux available in key experimental locations relative to equilibrium LEU operations. Given the constraints of MURR safety margins, operational practices, and production and research, a novel method has been developed to identify a transition sequence that minimizes the time MURR operates atypically compared to the current prototypic cycles using HEU fuel. The proposed transition sequence moves quickly to the same sort of equilibrium cycles for the LEU fuel that have already been evaluated in documented preliminary safety analyses. Although shifting the neutron flux peak to the lower half of the core during initial cycles with LEU at 12 MW reduces the experiment performance in some key locations relative to current HEU operations at 10 MW, all LEU cores provide an average performance that meets or exceeds that of HEU. An LEU cycle is reached that meets or exceeds the level of experimental performance predicted for current HEU and equilibrium LEU operations in more than 450 key locations identified by a reactor specialist at MURR by the 23rd cycle following conversion and that afterwards will enable MURR to consistently meet its experimental performance requirements. The proposed transition sequence only requires the fabrication of 34 fresh LEU elements in the first year of operation and does not exceed the anticipated availability of fresh elements that can be produced by the fuel fabricator. By the third year after conversion, 22 fresh LEU elements will be required each year, which is the same as expected for equilibrium LEU operations and the same as current operations with HEU fuel. The proposed transition sequence thus combines a relatively short time period before equilibrium burnup is achieved, a temporary increase of fuel elements needed annually relative to typical operations that are within the production capabilities of the fuel fabricator, and demonstrates comparable experimental performance of the LEU cores relative to current HEU operations. Further measures may be taken to reduce any initial experimental performance penalty even further, where possible, by repositioning certain experiments to leverage the increased performance in the lower axial experimental positions in the initial cycles following conversion or leaving the experiments in the irradiation facilities longer in order to achieve the required neutron fluence. This analysis may require refinement depending on the experimental facilities in use at the time of conversion. Nonetheless, the results presented here, including the experimental performance, core burnup, and critical control blade positions throughout the transition cycles, show that the proposed transition cycle fuel management patterns are consistent with what is expected and desired for MURR operation with LEU U-10Mo fuel. Detailed core power distributions from the neutronics models were also used to evaluate safety margins during steady-state operations for the selected transition cycles and the equilibrium LEU core. It is shown that there are adequate safety margins for both steady-state operations and postulated accident scenarios. For the steady-state operations with the preliminary LEU fuel element design the analysis predicts at least 2.49 MW margin to the onset of flow instability at the LSSS power of 15 MW. Considering the LSSS power is 125% of full license power, the margin to OFI is sufficient. In addition, the critical heat flux ratio at LSSS power is well above the requirement of CHFR > 2.0 from NUREG-1537 for all considered cases. For postulated transient accidents, the minimum margin to the fuel temperature safety limit is at least 109 °C. In summary, the proposed sequence of core loadings for MURR operations following conversion to LEU fuel and a power uprate to 12 MW provides sufficient safety margins for both steady-state operations and postulated transient accidents during a proposed sequence of transition cycles to equilibrium operations. Analysis has shown that there are some local experimental performance penalties during the initial cycles. Although there are local shifts in the experimental performance, on average all LEU cores at 12 MW have equal or higher performance than HEU at 10 MW. Temporary adjustments are being planned that will produce suitable experimental performance during these cycles. The results indicate that for the equilibrium LEU core the experimental performance exceeds that of current HEU operations in all key locations while also demonstrating sufficient safety margins.},
doi = {10.2172/1708833},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1708833}, journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2020},
month = {9}
}