Reactor physics analysis of Molten Salt Reactor systems for application to civilian marine propulsion

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Eng

Abstract

Almost all operating reactors in the world (both civil and military) are based on light-water cooled systems that were first developed in the 1950s. Although these have been optimised over the intervening period, it is recognised that the scope for further improvements is limited. Consequently, recent research into systems that could offer significant improvements in safety, economics, and sustainability (so- called Generation-IV systems) has focused on alternative reactor designs. At the same time, concern over greenhouse gas emissions from maritime sources has renewed interest in the use of nuclear propulsion for commercial shipping. A system of particular interest for such applications is the Molten Salt Reactor, not least because it employs a low-pressure fluid system that could offer increased safety whilst reducing both the capital cost and the weight of the plant. However, the analysis of such systems is challenging, not least because in their "conventional" form, the fuel comprises a multi-component salt containing the fissile material that circulates through the reactor core and subsequently through heat exchangers before entering the core again. The analysis of such systems calls for coupled reactor physics and thermal-hydraulic analyses, which have hitherto been difficult to implement.

The project will build on previous work in this area conducted within the Fuels and Reactors Research Group, and will focus on further developing analytical models to explore the performance of both "conventional" MSRs (i.e. fluid fuel) and "simplified" MSRs (e.g. separate fuel and coolant salts) under both steady-state and off-normal conditions, including the design of reactivity control systems (rods, removable BPs, etc.), and an investigation into the effects on core performance of continuous and intermittent fission product removal. If time permits, it would also be interesting to investigate the relative performance of a hybrid MSR design that employs fixed fuel elements of the HTR design (i.e. TRISO particles embedded in compacts), and to compare the relative merits of the two systems for marine propulsion applications. It is expected that specific research goals will be set following the initial period of research.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509565/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1950961 Studentship EP/N509565/1 19/10/2017 30/09/2020 Alexander Joseph Pressley
 
Description As the award is not complete key findings are still incomplete and I am unwilling to share them in in-depth detail.
What I am willing to say is that I have successfully continued the development of an external coupling technique for the Serpent and OpenFOAM codes which simulate neutronics and fluid dynamics respectively. I have increased the speed of the calculations, added additional physics to the models to improve their accuracy and tested the model's viability for a variety of investigations. These include geometrical design of MSRs, and very basic modelling of certain time-dependent scenarios during reactor operation.
Current work aims to address issues raised during these investigations and develop a new coupling methodology for more accurate, time-dependent neutronic calculations in Serpent.
Exploitation Route Unlike all the research groups trying to do similar work in Europe, we at Manchester are not part of a large varied group of scientists working to improve MSR modelling techniques. As a result, the two of us involved are not able to model all aspects of the reactors to an appropriate degree. In future, the work would greatly benefit from the input of thermal hydraulics experts and chemists who will be able to advance the modelling of fuel flow, heat exchange, fuel reprocessing, and corrosion.

The basic model can already be used for basic, preliminary design of new molten salt reactors for a variety of purposes that would be of interest to multiple industries interested in adopting advanced reactor technology.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Environment,Other

 
Description Dalton Nuclear Institute Outreach at BlueDot Festival, July 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Different groups from across the University of Manchester were invited to take part in outreach activities at BlueDot Festival 2019, which takes place at the Jodrell Bank Observatory annually in the summer.
The Dalton Nuclear Institute provided a team of up to 20 volunteers to showcase the advantages of nuclear power and its necessity in achieving sustainable energy supply that is free from carbon emissions.
The stand included an interactive "working" scale model of a typical nuclear reactor as well as multiple games to help understand essential processes in the generation of nuclear power.
We also had a team of roaming bananas that walked throughout the shopping centre with some weak, everyday sources of radioactivity found in the home to demonstrate the normality of radioactivity and remove the stigma surrounding it.
The stand featured an opinion wall that members of the public could write on, to ask their own questions, express their opinions and generally to spark some train of thought we could build on in conversation.
We also handed out information leaflets suitable for all ages and a card game that allows players to build an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of all the different forms of energy production. Large bundles of these were given to school teachers for use in classrooms.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Dalton nuclear Institute Outreach at ScienceX event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Different groups from across the University of Manchester were invited to take part in the ScienceX engagement event which takes place annually at the Trafford Centre, Greater Manchester.
The Dalton Nuclear Institute provided a team of up to 20 volunteers to showcase the advantages of nuclear power and its necessity in achieving sustainable energy supply that is free from carbon emissions.
The stand included an interactive "working" scale model of a typical nuclear reactor as well as multiple games to help understand essential processes in the generation of nuclear power.
We also had a team of roaming bananas that walked throughout the shopping centre with some weak, everyday sources of radioactivity found in the home to demonstrate the normality of radioactivity and remove the stigma surrounding it.
We also handed out information leaflets suitable for all ages and a card game that allows players to build an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of all the different forms of energy production. Large bundles of these were given to school teachers for use in classrooms.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019