skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: A gas-cooled reactor surface power system

Abstract

A human outpost on Mars requires plentiful power to assure survival of the astronauts. Anywhere from 50 to 500 kW of electric power (kWe) will be needed, depending on the number of astronauts, level of scientific activity, and life-cycle closure desired. This paper describes a 250-kWe power system based on a gas-cooled nuclear reactor with a recuperated closed Brayton cycle conversion system. The design draws upon the extensive data and engineering experience developed under the various high-temperature gas cooled reactor programs and under the SP-100 program. The reactor core is similar in power and size to the research reactors found on numerous university campuses. The fuel is uranium nitride clad in Nb1%Zr, which has been extensively tested under the SP-100 program. The fuel rods are arranged in a hexagonal array within a BeO block. The BeO softens the spectrum, allowing better use of the fuel and stabilizing the geometry against deformation during impact or other loadings. The system has a negative temperature feedback coefficient so that the power level will automatically follow a variable load without the need for continuous adjustment of control elements. Waste heat is removed by an air-cooled heat exchanger using cold Martian air. The amount ofmore » radioactivity in the reactor at launch is very small (less than a Curie, and about equal to a truckload of uranium ore). The system will need to be engineered so that criticality can not occur for any launch accident. This system is also adaptable for electric propulsion or life-support during transit to and from Mars.« less

Authors:
; ; ;  [1]
  1. Sandia National Laboratories, MS-1146, P.O. Box 5800, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
21202506
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: AIP Conference Proceedings; Journal Volume: 458; Journal Issue: 1; Conference: Space technology and applications international forum - 1999, Albuquerque, NM (United States), 31 Jan - 4 Feb 1999; Other Information: DOI: 10.1063/1.57544; (c) 1999 American Institute of Physics; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
21 SPECIFIC NUCLEAR REACTORS AND ASSOCIATED PLANTS; BERYLLIUM OXIDES; BRAYTON CYCLE; CONTROL ELEMENTS; CRITICALITY; ENERGY CONVERSION; FUEL RODS; HEAT EXCHANGERS; HTGR TYPE REACTORS; KILOWATT POWER RANGE; MARS PLANET; NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS; POWER SYSTEMS; REACTOR CORES; RESEARCH REACTORS; URANIUM NITRIDES; NESDPS Office of Nuclear Energy Space and Defense Power Systems

Citation Formats

Lipinski, Ronald J., Wright, Steven A., Lenard, Roger X., and Harms, Gary A.. A gas-cooled reactor surface power system. United States: N. p., 1999. Web. doi:10.1063/1.57544.
Lipinski, Ronald J., Wright, Steven A., Lenard, Roger X., & Harms, Gary A.. A gas-cooled reactor surface power system. United States. doi:10.1063/1.57544.
Lipinski, Ronald J., Wright, Steven A., Lenard, Roger X., and Harms, Gary A.. Fri . "A gas-cooled reactor surface power system". United States. doi:10.1063/1.57544.
@article{osti_21202506,
title = {A gas-cooled reactor surface power system},
author = {Lipinski, Ronald J. and Wright, Steven A. and Lenard, Roger X. and Harms, Gary A.},
abstractNote = {A human outpost on Mars requires plentiful power to assure survival of the astronauts. Anywhere from 50 to 500 kW of electric power (kWe) will be needed, depending on the number of astronauts, level of scientific activity, and life-cycle closure desired. This paper describes a 250-kWe power system based on a gas-cooled nuclear reactor with a recuperated closed Brayton cycle conversion system. The design draws upon the extensive data and engineering experience developed under the various high-temperature gas cooled reactor programs and under the SP-100 program. The reactor core is similar in power and size to the research reactors found on numerous university campuses. The fuel is uranium nitride clad in Nb1%Zr, which has been extensively tested under the SP-100 program. The fuel rods are arranged in a hexagonal array within a BeO block. The BeO softens the spectrum, allowing better use of the fuel and stabilizing the geometry against deformation during impact or other loadings. The system has a negative temperature feedback coefficient so that the power level will automatically follow a variable load without the need for continuous adjustment of control elements. Waste heat is removed by an air-cooled heat exchanger using cold Martian air. The amount of radioactivity in the reactor at launch is very small (less than a Curie, and about equal to a truckload of uranium ore). The system will need to be engineered so that criticality can not occur for any launch accident. This system is also adaptable for electric propulsion or life-support during transit to and from Mars.},
doi = {10.1063/1.57544},
journal = {AIP Conference Proceedings},
number = 1,
volume = 458,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Jan 22 00:00:00 EST 1999},
month = {Fri Jan 22 00:00:00 EST 1999}
}
  • A human outpost on Mars requires plentiful power to assure survival of the astronauts. Anywhere from 50 to 500 kW of electric power (kWe) will be needed, depending on the number of astronauts, level of scientific activity, and life-cycle closure desired. This paper describes a 250-kWe power system based on a gas-cooled nuclear reactor with a recuperated closed Brayton cycle conversion system. The design draws upon the extensive data and engineering experience developed under the various high-temperature gas cooled reactor programs and under the SP-100 program. The reactor core is similar in power and size to the research reactors foundmore » on numerous university campuses. The fuel is uranium nitride clad in Nb1{percent}Zr, which has been extensively tested under the SP-100 program. The fuel rods are arranged in a hexagonal array within a BeO block. The BeO softens the spectrum, allowing better use of the fuel and stabilizing the geometry against deformation during impact or other loadings. The system has a negative temperature feedback coefficient so that the power level will automatically follow a variable load without the need for continuous adjustment of control elements. Waste heat is removed by an air-cooled heat exchanger using cold Martian air. The amount of radioactivity in the reactor at launch is very small (less than a Curie, and about equal to a truckload of uranium ore). The system will need to be engineered so that criticality can not occur for any launch accident. This system is also adaptable for electric propulsion or life-support during transit to and from Mars. {copyright} {ital 1999 American Institute of Physics.}« less
  • The heat transfer properties vary considerably along the length of polyzonal spiral fuel elements. These variations result in hot spots, which limit reactor output. A largescale model cam, constructed to allow a detailed survey to be made of fluid flow and heat transfer patterns, is scribed together with the experimental techniques employed. The experimentel results enable an analysis to be made of the factors contributing towards the pattern of axial heat transfer variation, and allow an approach to be adopted towards its elimination or reduction. (auth)
  • The solid-core, gas-cooled, Submersion-Subcritical Safe Space (S and 4) reactor is developed for future space power applications and avoidance of single point failures. The Mo-14%Re reactor core is loaded with uranium nitride fuel in enclosed cavities, cooled by He-30%Xe, and sized to provide 550 kWth for seven years of equivalent full power operation. The beryllium oxide reflector disassembles upon impact on water or soil. In addition to decreasing the reactor and shadow shield mass, Spectral Shift Absorber (SSA) materials added to the reactor core ensure that it remains subcritical in the worst-case submersion accident. With a 0.1 mm thick boronmore » carbide coating on the outside surface of the core block and 0.25 mm thick iridium sleeves around the fuel stacks, the reflector outer diameter is 43.5 cm and the combined reactor and shadow shield mass is 935.1 kg. With 12.5 atom% gadolinium-155 added to the fuel, 2.0 mm diameter gadolinium-155 sesquioxide intersititial pins, and a 0.1 mm thick gadolinium-155 sesquioxide coating, the S and 4 reactor has a slightly smaller reflector outer diameter of 43.0 cm, and a total reactor and shield mass of 901.7 kg. With 8.0 atom% europium-151 added to the fuel, 2.0 mm diameter europium-151 sesquioxide interstitial pins, and a 0.1 mm thick europium-151 sesquioxide coating, the reflector's outer diameter and the total reactor and shield mass are further reduced to 41.5 cm and 869.2 kg, respect0011ive.« less
  • In the current 2005 US budget environment, competition for fiscal resources make funding for comprehensive space reactor development programs difficult to justify and accommodate. Simultaneously, the need to develop these systems to provide planetary and deep space-enabling power systems is increasing. Given that environment, designs intended to satisfy reasonable near-term surface missions, using affordable technology-ready materials and processes warrant serious consideration. An initial lunar application design incorporating a stainless structure, 880 K pumped NaK coolant system and a stainless/UO2 fuel system can be designed, fabricated and tested for a fraction of the cost of recent high-profile reactor programs (JIMO, SP-100).more » Along with the cost reductions associated with the use of qualified materials and processes, this design offers a low-risk, high-reliability implementation associated with mission specific low temperature, low burnup, five year operating lifetime requirements.« less
  • A human outpost on Mars requires plentiful power to assure survival of the astronauts. Anywhere from 50 to 500 kW of electric power (kWe) will be needed, depending on the number of astronauts, level of scientific activity, and life- cycle closure desired. This paper describes a 250-kWe power system based on a gas-cooled nuclear reactor with a recuperated closed Brayton cycle conversion system. The design draws upon the extensive data and engineering experience developed under the various high-temperature gas cooled reactor programs and under the SP-100 program. The reactor core is similar in power and size to the research reactorsmore » found on numerous university campuses. The fuel is uranium nitide clad in Nb 1 %Zr, which has been extensively tested under the SP-I 00 program The fiel rods are arranged in a hexagonal array within a BeO block. The BeO softens the spectrum, allowing better use of the fbel and stabilizing the geometty against deformation during impact or other loadings. The system has a negative temperature feedback coefficient so that the power level will automatically follow a variable load without the need for continuous adjustment of control elements. Waste heat is removed by an air-cooled heat exchanger using cold Martian air. The amount of radioactivity in the reactor at launch is very small (less than a Curie, and about equal to a truckload of uranium ore). The system will need to be engineered so that criticality cannot occur for any launch accident. This system is also adaptable for electric propulsion or life-support during transit to and from Mars.« less