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Title: A gas-cooled reactor surface power system

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