The United States currently has no infrastructure to provide a fast neutron flux for research purposes. With the increased interest in Sodium Fast Reactor (SFR) technology, this type of infrastructure is necessary for further development of key components such as Versatile Test Reactor. The purpose of this research is to characterize the thermal hydraulics of a test loop capable of providing SFR like operating conditions. This includes showcasing feasibility in mechanical design, reaching a high fast to thermal neutron flux ratio ideally near 15, an inlet temperature of 600 K, a temperature increase of 50 K from inlet to outlet, and test chamber radial temperature profiles similar to SFR fuel rods. Existing infrastructure must be used to provide the neutron flux for the test loop, and it was decided that the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) was the optimal choice due to its availability and previous work conducted similar to this project.
To achieve the goals of this project, several mechanical designs were put forward with the most feasible design being chosen. The neutronics and thermal hydraulics analysis were conducted in tandem, with an iterative process used to maximize efficiency of both systems. Analysis of the neutronics system was done using Attila and MCNP while the
thermal hydraulic analysis was done using RELAP5. This document outlines the thermal hydraulic analysis, though it includes the results from the mechanical design and neutronics analysis.
The loop design includes a primary system with molten sodium, a set of “booster fuel plates” to increase the fast flux within the test section, a water system to cool the booster fuel plates, a helium system to separate the sodium and water systems, and a thermal neutron shield to decrease the thermal flux. Each of these systems is modeled in the neutronics and thermal hydraulic analyses.
The RELAP5 model showcased the feasibility of the design proposed by this report. For all designs tested, the desired 50 K temperature increase from inlet to outlet was reached. The fuel rod radial temperature profile was lower than was expected, likely due to a lower rod thermal power than expected. A parametric study was also conducted to characterize the system with three fuel pins. This study showed the effect of thermal power, fluid pressure, fluid velocity, and inlet temperature on the system.