How a pressurized water reactor works (M J Rhoades) part 2 reactor physics For Susan BSC

Recall from part one that we had assembled our core and the system was filled with borated water, control rods inserted, pumps running, and the system is heating up (heat from pumps running and presurizer heaters, and ready to start up. The next thing we need to do is pull the control rods out until we go critical. Not so fast, there are a few things we need to talk about before we start pulling control rods. The best way to do this without any hard math is to give you the definitions for the words we will be using throughout this part. Also for part 2, I am going to keep it simple and will be leaving out some items that you will have to pick up later. You can go to the DOE hand book section and download the nuclear physics hand book for more information and with some of the math. Also go to my radiation interaction paper and read up on neutrons. So, let's start a list: Fast neutrons: Neutrons that are in the core that have high kinetic energy. These are high speed >2200 meter/sec and have more energy than .25 Mev. In most cases these come from fission of U-235 but not all. Prompt neutrons: Those neutrons born from fission in less than 10-13 seconds. Usually 2 to 3 fast neutrons. Delayed neutrons: when fission occurs, two daughter products are formed and some of them will emit neutrons after β- decay at some later time (less than a minute) these products are called delayed neutron precursors and are very important for control of the reactor Slowing down length: This is the distance that a fast neutron travels before it becomes a thermal neutron. Thermal neutron: Neutrons that are in the core that have become thermalized or slowed down to an energy of about .25 Mev and moving at 2200 meters/sec @ 680F Mev: Million electron volts of energy Control rod worth: the amount of reactivity added or subtracted by a control rod per inch of travel Critical or criticality: This is when the reactor is self sustaining on neutrons ie as many are being made as being lost and a sustained chain reaction is in progress. Prompt critical: This is when the reactor is critical by prompt neutrons alone. (Not with any delayed neutrons taken into account) Let's try to avoid this condition. Moderator and moderation: In our reactor, plain old water or "light water" is our moderator and moderation is what water does to neutrons ie slow them down. Point of adding heat: This is when the reactor has reached enough power to start adding heat to the reactor coolant system.

Uranium-235 fission: What does it take to make a U-235 atom split? It takes a neutron. U235 like to absorb slow or thermal neutrons. It has a large crossection of absorption for them, and when it gets one the nucleus of the new atom is so unstable that it splits giving us the power we want. Mass defect: Measure the mass of the stuff before, (U-235) and the mass of stuff after, (Fission Fragments and particles) the difference is mass defect. Then apply E = MC2 to figure out how much energy was created. For fission, this is about 200 Mev. Fission: When an atom splits into two or more byproducts and gives up energy. Crossection for absorption: This is how wide an atom appears to a particle and is a measure of its ability to absorb the particle or ray. Critical geometry: This is the shape needed, with the amount of enriched fuel you have, to cause criticality. Reactivity: Let me put this one like this. You add positive reactivity by things like pulling control rods out, cooling the RCS water, removing boron. You add negative reactivity by things like inserting control rods, heating the RCS, adding boron. All of these things affect the K eff below. Keff : This one is a hard one to explain without math and the six factor formula, but I will give it a shot. Neutrons can do a lot of things in the core, they can leak out while fast, they can leak out while slow, they can be absorbed by something other than fuel, how they are utilized, fission factors with neutrons etc. If all these things are taken into account then it gives you a factor of what the neutron population is doing at a cretin point of reactor operation. Either neutron population is going up, steady, or going down. It is essentially the amount of reactivity at a given point. I am way over simplifying this but it will get you through this discussion. Start up rate: this is the rate at which the reactor is adding power usually given as decades per minute ie factors of ten changes in power per minute. Neuron poisons: These are elements that suck up neutrons in the core. Two that are of concern are Xenon and Samarium which are formed during reactor operation and must be counteracted by rod operation or boric acid levels. Some poisons are fixed and deliberate such as Hafnium in the control rods or boric acid addition etc. Shut down margin: This is the reactivity in the core with all control rods inserted and the boric acids that have been dissolved in the RCS coolant Estimated critical position: (ECP) this is the position of the control rods that we expect the reactor to go critical at. Ok, let's take this thing critical. First we need to make sure that the secondary plant is ready. We make sure that the turbine generator hot well is at the level we want and that a vacuum has been drawn and that circ water pumps are running. The steam generators have been filled to the

level we want on the secondary side by using the auxiliary feed water pump. The main turbine has been taken off the jacking gear. Our boric acid level has been set for the RCS to make sure we can achieve the criticality. We need to do an estimated critical rod position (ECP) now. This is done by taking the rod worth and basically cancelling the shut down margin with rod withdrawal. Because this is a new core, and we dont have a lot of extra neutrons around, we pull our neutron source close to the core and read our source range power level instruments to make sure that they are working. After we have or ECP calculated we start the control rod withdraw watching our source range instrumentation. Our reactor coolant pumps are running and T-hot = T-cold = Tave. A steam bubble has been drawn in the presurizer. Remember, we want to get thermalized neutrons to hit our U-235 atoms in our fuel. Our water is going to slow down our neutrons (Thermalize) to thermal speed (Takes about 11 inches to do that, this is the slowing down length) which our U-235 has a large crossection of absorption for and by pulling the control rod we are adding positive reactivity as we go. The first neutrons start hitting our fuel atoms and fission starts generating more neutrons. As we approach the estimated critical position with our control rods our Keff is approaching 1, we see the source range power instruments start to dance around. Now our start up rate meter is now reading 1 decade per minute and we stop rod withdraw (The reactor is critical). We do not want to continue rod withdrawal because we do not want to go prompt critical and cause a reactor trip. The power keeps increasing and things are going good. Soon we hit the intermediate rage power instruments and we turn off the source rage instruments as we dont want to hurt them by over powering them. We see Tave now start increasing at the top of the intermediate range and we are at the point of adding heat. As the RCS starts to heat, the density of the water starts to decrease causing the Keff to go down (Negative reactivity), we bump our control rods out again. Power now enters the power range instruments. We start to see a difference between T-hot and T-cold as the reactor keeps increasing power. As we keep heating up the RCS we need to keep bumping out our control rods to counter the negative reactivity added by the expanding moderator (WATER). We stay within the heat up rate guide lines as set forth by our technical specifications. We are now producing steam from the steam generators and are controlling level with our aux feed pumps. As we approach 5% power we start warming the turbine, start gland steam systems, condenser vacuum steam, main feed turbines, and the condensate system is brought on line. As we keep increasing power we start to produce Xenon and Samarium and we must continue to bump our control rods out until we load the main turbine, secure aux feed, and raise power to 100%. The Xenon, Samarium and other neutron poisons come into equilibrium. Now the reactor is self sustaining and T-ave will follow load and things are bright in the city as the power is flowing. I hope this helped you in understanding how a pressurized water reactor works. Was it over simplified? Yes, but this is how it generally works. All you need to do is start adding in the pieces as you go.

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