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Title: Development of Liquid-Vapor Core Reactors with MHD Generator for Space Power and Propulsion Applications

Abstract

Any reactor that utilizes fuel consisting of a fissile material in a gaseous state may be referred to as a gaseous core reactor (GCR). Studies on GCRs have primarily been limited to the conceptual phase, mostly due to budget cuts and program cancellations in the early 1970's. A few scientific experiments have been conducted on candidate concepts, primarily of static pressure fissile gas filling a cylindrical or spherical cavity surrounded by a moderating shell, such as beryllium, heavy water, or graphite. The main interest in this area of nuclear power generation is for space applications. The interest in space applications has developed due to the promise of significant enhancement in fuel utilization, safety, plant efficiency, special high-performance features, load-following capabilities, power conversion optimization, and other key aspects of nuclear power generation. The design of a successful GCR adapted for use in space is complicated. The fissile material studied in the pa st has been in a fluorine compound, either a tetrafluoride or a hexafluoride. Both of these molecules have an impact on the structural material used in the making of a GCR. Uranium hexafluoride as a fuel allows for a lower operating temperature, but at temperatures greater than 900K becomesmore » essentially impossible to contain. This difficulty with the use of UF6 has caused engineers and scientists to use uranium tetrafluoride, which is a more stable molecule but has the disadvantage of requiring significantly higher operating temperatures. Gas core reactors have traditionally been studied in a steady state configuration. In this manner a fissile gas and working fluid are introduced into the core, called a cavity, that is surrounded by a reflector constructed of materials such as Be or BeO. These reactors have often been described as cavity reactors because the density of the fissile gas is low and criticality is achieved only by means of the reflector to reduce neutron leakage from the core. Still there are problems of containment since many of the proposed vessel materials such as W or Mo have high neutron cross sections making the design of a critical system difficult. There is also the possibility for a GCR to remain in a subcritical state, and by the use of a shockwave mechanism, increase the pressure and temperature inside the core to achieve criticality. This type of GCR is referred to as a shockwave-driven pulsed gas core reactor. These two basic designs were evaluated as advance concepts for space power and propulsion.« less

Authors:
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
University of Florida (US)
Sponsoring Org.:
(US)
OSTI Identifier:
799231
Report Number(s):
DOE/ID/13635
TRN: US0204970
DOE Contract Number:
FG07-98ID13635
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Resource Relation:
Other Information: PBD: 13 Aug 2002
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY AND ECONOMY; 30 DIRECT ENERGY CONVERSION; BUILDING MATERIALS; CROSS SECTIONS; FISSILE MATERIALS; FLUORINE COMPOUNDS; HEAVY WATER; MHD GENERATORS; NEUTRON LEAKAGE; NUCLEAR POWER; PROPULSION; URANIUM HEXAFLUORIDE; URANIUM TETRAFLUORIDE; WORKING FLUIDS; NESDPS Office of Nuclear Energy Space and Defense Power Systems

Citation Formats

Samim Anghaie. Development of Liquid-Vapor Core Reactors with MHD Generator for Space Power and Propulsion Applications. United States: N. p., 2002. Web. doi:10.2172/799231.
Samim Anghaie. Development of Liquid-Vapor Core Reactors with MHD Generator for Space Power and Propulsion Applications. United States. doi:10.2172/799231.
Samim Anghaie. 2002. "Development of Liquid-Vapor Core Reactors with MHD Generator for Space Power and Propulsion Applications". United States. doi:10.2172/799231. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/799231.
@article{osti_799231,
title = {Development of Liquid-Vapor Core Reactors with MHD Generator for Space Power and Propulsion Applications},
author = {Samim Anghaie},
abstractNote = {Any reactor that utilizes fuel consisting of a fissile material in a gaseous state may be referred to as a gaseous core reactor (GCR). Studies on GCRs have primarily been limited to the conceptual phase, mostly due to budget cuts and program cancellations in the early 1970's. A few scientific experiments have been conducted on candidate concepts, primarily of static pressure fissile gas filling a cylindrical or spherical cavity surrounded by a moderating shell, such as beryllium, heavy water, or graphite. The main interest in this area of nuclear power generation is for space applications. The interest in space applications has developed due to the promise of significant enhancement in fuel utilization, safety, plant efficiency, special high-performance features, load-following capabilities, power conversion optimization, and other key aspects of nuclear power generation. The design of a successful GCR adapted for use in space is complicated. The fissile material studied in the pa st has been in a fluorine compound, either a tetrafluoride or a hexafluoride. Both of these molecules have an impact on the structural material used in the making of a GCR. Uranium hexafluoride as a fuel allows for a lower operating temperature, but at temperatures greater than 900K becomes essentially impossible to contain. This difficulty with the use of UF6 has caused engineers and scientists to use uranium tetrafluoride, which is a more stable molecule but has the disadvantage of requiring significantly higher operating temperatures. Gas core reactors have traditionally been studied in a steady state configuration. In this manner a fissile gas and working fluid are introduced into the core, called a cavity, that is surrounded by a reflector constructed of materials such as Be or BeO. These reactors have often been described as cavity reactors because the density of the fissile gas is low and criticality is achieved only by means of the reflector to reduce neutron leakage from the core. Still there are problems of containment since many of the proposed vessel materials such as W or Mo have high neutron cross sections making the design of a critical system difficult. There is also the possibility for a GCR to remain in a subcritical state, and by the use of a shockwave mechanism, increase the pressure and temperature inside the core to achieve criticality. This type of GCR is referred to as a shockwave-driven pulsed gas core reactor. These two basic designs were evaluated as advance concepts for space power and propulsion.},
doi = {10.2172/799231},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = 2002,
month = 8
}

Technical Report:

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  • An innovative reactor core design based on advanced, mixed carbide fuels was analyzed for nuclear space power applications. Solid solution, mixed carbide fuels such as (U,Zr,Nb)c and (U,Zr, Ta)C offer great promise as an advanced high temperature fuel for space power reactors.
  • To make a manned mission to the surface of the moon or to Mars with any significant residence time, the power requirements will make a nuclear reactor the most feasible source of energy. To prepare for such a mission, NASA has teamed with the DOE to develop Fission Surface Power technology with the goal of developing viable options. The Fission Surface Power System (FSPS) recommended as the initial baseline design includes a liquid metal reactor and primary coolant system that transfers heat to two intermediate liquid metal heat transfer loops. Each intermediate loop transfers heat to two Stirling heat exchangersmore » that each power two Stirling converters. Both the primary and the intermediate loops will use sodium-potassium (NaK) as the liquid metal coolant, and the primary loop will operate at temperatures exceeding 600°C. The alloy selected for the heat exchangers and piping is AISI Type 316L stainless steel. The extensive experience with NaK in breeder reactor programs and with earlier space reactors for unmanned missions lends considerable confidence in using NaK as a coolant in contact with stainless steel alloys. However, the microstructure, chemical segregation, and stress state of a weld leads to the potential for corrosion and cracking. Such failures have been experienced in NaK systems that have operated for times less than the eight year goal for the FSPS. For this reason, it was necessary to evaluate candidate weld techniques and expose welds to high-temperature, flowing NaK in a closed, closely controlled system. The goal of this project was to determine the optimum weld configuration for a NaK system that will withstand service for eight years under FSPS conditions. Since the most difficult weld to make and to evaluate is the tube to tube sheet weld in the intermediate heat exchangers, it was the focus of this research. A pumped loop of flowing NaK was fabricated for exposure of candidate weld specimens at temperatures of 600°C, the expected temperature within the intermediate heat exchangers. Since metal transfer from a high-temperature region to a cooler region is a predominant mode of corrosion in liquid metal systems, specimens were placed at zones in the loop at the above temperature to evaluate the effects of both alloy component leaching and metal deposition. Microstructural analysis was performed to evaluate weld performance on control weld specimens. The research was coordinated with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) where most of the weld samples were prepared. In addition, ORNL participated in the loop operation to assist in keeping the testing relevant to the project and to take advantage of the extensive experience in liquid metal research at ORNL.« less
  • The three-volume report describes a dual-mode nuclear space power and propulsion system concept that employs an advanced solid-core nuclear fission reactor coupled via heat pipes to one of several electric power conversion systems. The NUROC3A systems analysis code was designed to provide the user with performance characteristics of the dual-mode system. Volume 3 describes utilization of the NUROC3A code to produce a detailed parameter study of the system.
  • The three-volume report describes a dual-mode nuclear space power and propulsion system concept that employs an advanced solid-core nuclear fission reactor coupled via heat pipes to one of several electric power conversion systems. Such a concept could be particularly useful for missions which require both relatively high acceleration (e.g., for planetocentric maneuvers) and high performance at low acceleration (e.g., on heliocentric trajectories or for trajectory shaping). The first volume develops the mathematical model of the system.
  • The three-volume report describes a dual-mode nuclear space power and propulsion system concept that employs an advanced solid-core nuclear fission reactor coupled via heat pipes to one of several electric power conversion systems. The second volume describes the computer code and users' guide for the preliminary analysis of the system.