Malik Muhammad Nasir Wirali

BSc Chemical Engineering University of Gujrat,Pakistan.

Importance of Nuclear Energy There is no more sensible alternative than nuclear energy if we really want to sustain our civilization. ‡In the next 50 years the global population will use more energy than the total consumed in all previous history. ‡Fossil resources-coal, oil and natural gas-are being consumed so fast so as to be largely exhausted during the 21st Century. ‡Nuclear power plant do not emit green house gases. New reactor design, radiation safety and transportation and improved more efficient mining, is placing nuclear energy back in the scene. The UN report climate change is important. ‡The global climate change is being changed by mankind. It should at least be clear that nuclear energy significantly produces less atmosphere pollution than burning fossil fuels.

Global Population on the rise We live in a word that is just beginning to consume energy. China and India are winning to Europe and America in the race for per capital energy consumption. ‡Humanity can not go backwards. ‡The rapidly growing world population will require vast amount of energy to provide fresh water, energize factories, homes and transportation and support infrastructure for nutrition, education and health care. ‡Meeting these needs will require energy from all sources ‡Reducing consumption of fossil fuel will preserve the environment and irreplaceable resources for future generations. ‡The key is to generate vastly expanded supplies of electricity cleanly.

Realism about energy Clean energy from new renewable solar, wind, biomass and hydro electric power-deserves strong support. But the collective capacity of these technologies to produce electricity in the decades ahead is limited. ‡Even with continued subsidy and research support, these new renewable can provide only around 6% of world electricity by 2030. ‡Environmentalists have played a valuable role in warning that catastrophic climate change is a real and imminent danger. ‡Even with maximum conservation and a landscape covered by solar panels and windmills, we would still need large scale source for around the clock electricity to meet much of our energy needs. ‡This is why nuclear energy is important in countries that do not use energy themselves. We should encourage large industrialized countries to use clean nuclear energy in safe manners as a means of limiting global pollution. ‡Nuclear power-like wind, hydro and solar energy, can generate electricity with no carbon dioxide or other green house gas emissions. ‡The critical difference is that Nuclear Energy is the only option to produce vastly expanded supplies of clean electricity on a global scale. Keep in mind that sun not always shines and that the wind not always blows.

Bio combustibles: fuel for cars or hunger ‡In a recent report, the united nations warns that the fever for bio combustibles could bring hunger to the highest level in a short run if the government do not think seriously about its extensive applications. ‡It says that the last idea of converting the food like corn, sugar, palm oil and wheat into combustibles is recipe for disaster. ‡A serious risk exists on creating a battle camp between food and combustibles that could affect the poor of developing countries. ‡More than 20,000 people around the world die each day simply because they are too poor to stay alive. ‡The UN report adds that the efforts for production of bio fuels are important because it helps to control the climate change, but considers unacceptable that the right for food for humanity be jeopardized. Higher prices for food are expected if the best land is used to nourish cars instead of human beings.

Let us place this technology in perspective: The process of producing ethanol, for example, gives off large amount of carbon dioxide and that is where ethanol¶s ³green label´ starts to brown. Most ethanol plants burn natural gas or, increasingly, coal to create steam that drive the distillation, adding fossil fuel emissions to the carbon dioxide emitted by the yeast. Some studies of energy balance of corn-ethanol-the amount fossile fuel needed to make ethanol versus the energy it produces-suggest that ethanol is a looser game.

Nuclear Power Today ‡Some two-thirds of world population lives in nations where nuclear power plants are integral part of electricity production and industrial infrastructures. Half the world s people live in countries where new nuclear power reactors are in planning or under construction. ‡Today nearly 440 nuclear reactors produce electricity around the world. More than 15 countries rely on nuclear power for 25% or more of their electricity. ‡In Europe and Japan, the nuclear share of electricity is over 30% in USA, nuclear power creates about 20% of electricity. ‡Many countries have a strong commitment to nuclear power. Among these are China, India, USA, Russia and Japan which together represent half of the world population. ‡Nuclear power provides energy independence and security of supply ‡France with 60 million people, obtains over 75% of its electricity from nuclear power and is the world s largest net exporter of electricity.

Why use the nuclear energy to make the steam? Because it is clean, safe and usually competitive. ‡Nuclear energy has distinct environmental advantages over fossil fuels, is that virtually all its wastes are contained and managed. ‡Nuclear power stations do not cause any pollution ‡The fuel for nuclear power is virtually unlimited. That is to say, there is plenty of uranium in the earth s crust. ‡The safely record of nuclear energy is better that for any major industrial technology. ‡Safety of nuclear reactors has been a high priority in their design and engineering. About one third of the cost of a typical reactor is due to safety systems and structures.

Superb Record of Nuclear Safety ‡Today, nuclear power plants have a superb safety record-both for plant workers and the public. ‡In the transport of nuclear material, highly engineered containers capable of withstanding enormous impact is the industrial norm. ‡The radiation produced with in the core of nuclear reactor is similar to natural radiation but much more intense. ‡At nuclear power plants, protective shielding isolates this radiation, allowing millions of people to live in safety nearly. ‡Typically the radiation people receive comes 90% from nature and 10% from medical exposure. Radiation exposure from nuclear power is negligible.

Fuel for Nuclear power plants and waste ‡The great advantage of nuclear power lies in the vast amount of energy that can be extracted from a more handful of the element uranium, which is found in greater concentrations underground. The waste from nuclear power is concentrated to tiny volume and can be safely returned to the earth for underground storage. Because so much energy leaves only a small amount of manageable waste, uranium has been called nature s gift to clean economic development. ‡In contrast, fossil fuel waste is too large and unmanageable to be contained and must be dispersed into the environment. ‡Due to effective shielding and containment, waste from nuclear power has never caused any harm to any person or to the environment For nuclear waste that is highly radioactive, well designed long term storage is needed while its radioactivity decays to natural levels.

Nuclear Competitiveness for the Future ‡Nuclear power plants currently cost more to build than power plants using coal or gas ‡This difference is narrowing, as long experience with nuclear power helps to shrink construction periods and extend plant life times. ‡Due to low cost and improved efficiency, nuclear plants once built can be less expensive to operate. ‡Today nuclear energy provides about 16% of world electricity. Fortunately, the uranium that fuels nuclear power is found in great quantity in both earth and sea water. Uranium s worldwide availability at economically viable cost is a key factor that would allow a sharp/expansion in nuclear power. ‡Beyond producing clean electricity, the clean energy from nuclear power could be used to distill salt water on a massive scale. Desalination plants would help to meet the desperate shortage of fresh water that could afflect more that half the world s people by 2025. Nuclear Power and Sustainable development ‡Nuclear power is a sustainable development technology because its fuel will be available for multiple centuries, its safety record is superior among major energy sources; its consumption causes virtually no pollution. ‡Its use preserves valuable fossil resources for future generations ‡Its costs are competitive and still declining. ‡Its waste can be securely managed over the long term. ‡Stabilizing the accumulation of atmospheric gases requires that worldwide emissions be cut by 50%.


Nuclear cross section and reaction rates The efficiency of a nuclear reaction is usually expressed in terms of a cross section which has the dimensions of an area. The cross section has a dimensions of length squared (cm2). Fundamentally, it is the fraction of the reacting nuclei consumed by the nuclear reaction per unit time per unit flux. Cross section for reactions with neutrons vary from a lower detectable limit of around 1x 10-24 cm2 to a maximum of 2.65x 10-18cm2, which has been observed for 135xe. To avoid using such large negative exponents, cross sections are usually expressed in units of 10-24cm2, called barns (b). for instance, the Xenon cross section is 2.65 x 106b. The millibarn (mb) is 10-27cm2. There is different cross section for every different reaction of a nuclide with neutrons. Example of cross section for low energy neutrons moving at a speed of 2200 m/s are given in table. (2.6) The sum of the cross sections for all reactions in which neutron is absorbed is called the absorption cross section, denoted by a 235u = 680.8 b a 14 a N = 1.88 b The cross section generally varies with neutron speed, in many cases very strongly.

Reaction Rates ‡The number of nuclei reacting in a specified way with neutrons in unit time is proportional to the number of nuclei present and to the concentration of neutrons. In the language of chemical kinetics neutron reactions are first order with respect to concentration of nuclei and neutrons, and it is because neutron reaction are simple first order irreversible processes. The expression for the rate of change in the number of reacting nuclei N is

Where n is the concentration of neutrons per unit volume, is the specific rate constant. It has become customary to express as the product of another constant , called the cross section, and the neutron speed v, so that the equation 2.41 becomes:

The product vn is termed the neutron flues and is the measure most commonly used to describe the neutron intensity in a reactor. For a given neutron density and speed v, the product is the first order constant and is the fraction of reacting nuclei consumed by the reaction for unit time. It plays the same role in rate equation as the radioactive decay constant

Nuclear Fission and chain Reaction The nuclear fission process utilized in today s power producing reactors is initiated by interaction between a neutron and a fissile nucleus, such as 235U.The nucleus then divides into two fragments and release an enormous amount of energy and with production of several new neutrons. Under proper conditions, these product neutrons can react with additional 235U atoms and thus gives rise to a neutron chain reaction, which continues as long as sufficient 235U remains to react. Animations 1,2 and 3. To keep the rate of chain reaction constant neutrons are allowed to leak from a nuclear reactor or are absorbed in boron, 238U, or other non fissionable material placed in the reactor A steady chain reaction in depicted in Fig. 1.3. The fission of 235U can take place in a number of ways, one of which is shown in Fig 1.4. The nucleus of 235U, which contains 92 protons and 143 neutrons, divides into two fragments, plus some extra neuron, in such a manner that the total number of protons and neutrons in the product nuclei equal the total number in the reactant neutron and 235U nucleus. In the example of this figure, the fission fragments Ba144 containing 56 protons and 88 neutrons 80, Kr 89 containing 36 protons and 53 neutrons, and three extra neutrons. The fission fragments are unstable and subsequently undergo decay. The number assigned to each reactant or end product represent its mass in atomic mass units (a m u). In the present instance the mass of the product is less than that of the reactants.

The energy released when one atoms of 235U undergoes fission in the above reaction is:

Atoms of 235U may undergo fission in a variety of ways, of which the reaction shown in Fig. 1.4 is only one. In primary fission reaction shown at the top of this figure ( ) 235U splits into two parts, the radioactive fission products, while at the same time giving off several fast neutrons (2.418 on the average) and gamma radiation. One of these neutrons is used to maintain the fission reaction. The remaining neutrons may either be used to bring about the other desired nuclear reactions or lost through leakage from the reactor or through capture by elements present in the reactor to produce unwanted or waste products. Following the primary fission reaction, the radioactive fission products undergo radioactive disintegration and ending up as stable fission products. The total energy released in fission is the sum of the energy associated with the difference particles as shown in Fig 1.5, 195-205 MeV. As upto 5 MeV of gamma energy escapes from a typical power and is not utilized, a nominal figure for energy released in fission is 200 MeV

Nuclear Criticality safety It is a field of nuclear Engineering dedicated to the prevention of self sustaining nuclear reaction because of carelessness, additionally, nuclear criticality safety is concerned with decreasing the consequence of a nuclear criticality accident. A nuclear criticality accident occurs from operations that involve fissile material and results in a tremendous and potentially lethal release of radiation. Nuclear criticality safety committee attempts to minimize the probability of a nuclear criticality accident by analyzing normal and abnormal fissile material operations and providing controls on the processing of fissile materials. Contents ‡Principles ‡Calculations and analysis ‡Burn up credit

Principles Seven factors influence a criticality system. Geometry or shape of a fissile material: If neutrons escape (leak from) the fissile system they are not available to interact with the fissile material to create a fission event. Therefore the shape of the fissile material influences the probability of creating a fission event. A large surface area such as thin slab has lots of leakage and is safer than the same amount of fissile material in a small, compact shape such as a cube or sphere. Interaction of Units: Neutrons leaking from one unit can enter another. Two units, which by themselves are sub-critical, could interact with each other to form a critical system. The distance separating and any material between them influence the effect. Reflection: When neutrons collide with other atomic particles (primary nuclei) and are not absorbed, they change direction. If the change in direction is large enough, the neutron may travel back into the system, increasing the likelihood of interaction (fission). This is called ³reflection´. Good reflectors include hydrogen, beryllium, carbon, uranium, water, polyethylene, concrete and steal.

Moderation: Neutrons resulting from fission are typically fast (high energy). These fast neutrons do not cause fission as readily slower (less energetic) ones. Neutrons are slowed down (moderated) by collision with atomic nuclei. The most effective moderating nuclei are hydrogen, deuterium, beryllium and carbon. Hence hydrogenous materials including oil, polyethylene, water, wood, paraffin, and the human body are good moderators. Note that moderation comes from collisions: therefore most moderates are also good reflectors. Absorption: Absorption removes neutrons from the system. Large amount of absorbers are used to control or reduce the probability of a criticality. Good absorbers are boron, cadmium, gadolinium silver and indium. Enrichment: The probability of a neutron reacting with a fissile nucleus is influenced by the relative numbers of fissile and non fissile nuclei in a system. The process of increasing the relative number of fissile nuclei in a system is called enrichment. Typically, low enrichment means less likelihood of a criticality and high enrichment means a greater likelihood. Mass: The probability of fission increases as the total number of fissile nuclei increases. The relationship is not linear. There is a threshold below which critically will not occur. This threshold is called the ³critical mass´.

Calculation and analysis To determine whether a system containing fissile material is safe, calculations are performed using computer programmes. The analyst describes the geometry of the system and the materials, usually with conservative assumption. The density and size of any neutron absorbers is minimized while the amount of fissile material is maximized. As some moderators are also absorbers, the analyst must be careful when modeling these to be pessimistic. Computer programmes allows analyst to describe a three dimensional system with boundary conditions. These boundary conditions can represent seal boundaries such as concrete walls or the surface of pond. These are useful when representing a large system consisting of many repeated units. Nuclear criticality places special constrains on the size of contacting equipment in fuel reprocessing. This is particularly importance when reprocessing highly enriched uranium fuel or for the stripping scrubbing-contactors that separate plutonium from low enriched uranium. As shown by the criticality data in table 4.11, as little as 760 g of 235U or 510 g of plutonium can form a critical mass when dispersed at the optimum concentration through hydrogenous medium, such as nitric acid solution or organic, with relatively little fission products or non fissile uranium. The size of the contactors and other process equipment must be kept small enough to promote neutron leakage and make criticality impossible. Limiting dimensions may be as small as 14 cm in diameter for a cylindrical column contactor or 4.6 cm in height for an array of mixer settlers in horizontal slab geometry. Large equipment sizes are acceptable for process operations that do not involve solutions of relatively pure fissile materials, such as extracting-scrubbing contractors that separate the fission products from low enrichment uranium fuel. The allowable dimensions and through put of criticality limited process equipment can be increased by incorporating fixed neutron absorbers i.e ³poisons´ such as born or gadolinium without the equipment.

Conversion and Breeding The fact that the number of neutrons produced per neutron absorbed exceeds 1.0 for each fuel indicates that each will support a nuclear chain reaction. Neutrons in excess of one needed to sustains the nuclear chain reaction may be used to produce new and valuable isotopes, for example, to produce 239Pu form 238U or 233U from thorium. When the number of neutrons produced per neutron absorbed in fissile material is greater than 2.0, it is theoretically possible to generate fissile material at a faster rate when it is consumed. One neutron is used to maintain the chain reaction, and second neutron is used to produce a new atom of fissile material to replace the atom that is consumed by the first neutron. The process is known as breeding. The reaction taking place in breeding 239Pu from 238U are shown in Fig 1.6. 238U is the only material consumed overall, 239Pu is produced from 238U and then consumed in fission. In thermal reactors fueled with plutonium, the number of neutrons produced per neutron absorbed is less than 2.0 and the breeding is impossible. For 233U, on the other hand, the number is substantially greater than 2.0, and breeding is practicable in a thermal reactor. In fast reactors, the number of neutrons produced per neutron absorbed is close to the total number of neutron produced per fission, so that breeding is possible with both 235U and plutonium. Table 1.1

A fast reactor is one in which the average speed of neutrons is near that which they have at moment of fission, around 15 million m/s. At the high speeds, the probability of a neutron s being absorbed by a fissionable atom is low, and neutron-absorption cross section which is a measure of this probability is small. A thermal reactor is one in which the neutrons have been slowed down until they are in thermal equilibrium with reactor materials, in a typical power reactor, thermal neutrons have speed around 3000 m/s. At these lower speeds, neutron absorption cross sections are much larger than for fast neutrons. The critical mass of fissile material required to maintain the fission process is roughly inversely proportional to the neutron absorption cross-section. Thus the critical mass is lowest for plutonium in thermal reactors, larger for the uranium isotopes in the thermal reactors, and much greater in fast reactors. For this reason, as well as others, thermal reactors are preferred types except when breeding with plutonium is an objective, then a fast reactor must be used.

The multiplication factor In order to establish a chain reaction in fissionable material, every nucleus which undergoes fission must produce on the average at least one neutron which in turn causes the fission of another nucleus. The ratio of number of neutrons in any one generation to the number of corresponding neutrons in the previous generation is termed the multiplication factor or reproduction factor, represented by the symbol. If k is less than unity, a chain reaction is not possible. If k is exactly equal to unity, a chain reaction will proceed with constant neutron flux as in case of a controlled nuclear chain reactor. Since the multiplication factor k is the ratio of the number of neutrons in any generation to the corresponding number in the previous generation, then

This value k is for a reactor of infinite size since we have not included any loss of neutrons by leakage from the system.

Note that and are the properties of the fuel over which we have no control and that success of a chain reactor depends upon the values of p and f, which vary with the geometry, the composition of the reactor elements, and ratio of fuel to moderator. If k is greater than unity, the neutron flux will continually increase with time as in case of atom bomb. We shall use the term multiplication factor to refer to a lattice of infinite size, where loss of neutrons by leakage is ignored. Let us consider the case of nuclear chain reactor using natural uranium as fuel and graphite as moderator. For an infinite system, neutrons will be lost as a result of non-fission capture by 235U and 238U including both thermal and resonance capture and as a result of parasitic capture of neutrons by the moderator, coolant, structural materials, fission product and any other material (poisons) present in the reactor. Let us trace through the life history of n fast neutrons produced by thermal fission of 235U. Some of these fast neutrons have high enough energy to produce fission in 238U and there is a small amount of fast fission of 235U, so that to take into consideration this increase in the total number of neutrons we introduce the fast fission factor which is defined as the ratio of total number of fast neutrons produced by fissions due to neutrons of all energies Compared to the number resulting from thermal neutron fission

For a natural uranium-graphite reactor has a value of 1.029. The n fast neutrons are then rapidly slowed down to thermal energies by collision with moderation nuclei, but during the thermalizing process they will be susceptible to resonance capture until their energy is reduced below a value of 5 ev. The probability that a fast neutron will reach thermal energies without capture by 238U is given by resonance escape probability, designated by symbol p. thus we have n p neutrons reaching thermal energies and of these neutrons some are absorbed by moderator, coolant and other poisons while a fraction f are absorbed by the fuel to produce fission. The factor f is called the thermal utilization factor and is defined as the ration of thermal neutrons absorbed in the fuel to the total number of thermal neutrons absorbed by any process. If on the average fast neutrons are produced for thermal neutron capture by 235U, the number of fast neutrons produced must be n pf Reactor Control A reactor which is to operate at any appreciable power level must have a k greater than unity. This excess reactivity is necessary for overcoming temperature effects as the neutron flux is raised to the operating level. It is necessary to control any nuclear chain reactor. This is easily done by inserting in reactor a material such as boron or cadmium, which has a large capture cross-section for thermal neutrons. Adjustable control rods of boron or cadmium steel are inserted the proper distance into the reactor to maintain a k of unity at the desired power level.

Reactor components and their characteristics Reactor fuel elements Fuel elements are exposed to radiation damage. Since all radiations are generated by the fissionable material the total energy available to produce damage is considerable. Type of Fuels. Metal Fuels: Metal fuels have the advantage of a much high heat conductivity than oxide fuels but cannot survive equally high temperatures Metallic uranium can exist in three different allotropic forms, depending on Uranium: the temperature. The most spectacular effect of radiation on uranium is the radical change in dimensions as the material is irradiated. In spite of radical changes in dimension and shape during irradiation, the volume of uranium increases only slightly. Uranium alloys In a heterogeneous reactor, it is desirable to have narrow coolant channels to increase the heat transfer rate and the decrease the parasitic absorption of neutrons by the coolant. Also in a power reactor it is necessary to have high uranium burn ups to produce economic power. Because it has been impossible to eliminate all dimensional changes in pure uranium, considerable effort has been directed toward the development of suitable uranium alloys for use in heterogeneous reactors. There are three basic ways by which an alloying element can decrease the radiation damage of uranium. In the high uranium alloys it is possible to bring desired improvement in the physical properties of the uranium by proper heat treatment. Among the most satisfactory alloys are the aluminum-uranium. The changes in dimensions were less than 1% with radiation. Beryllium-uranium and zirconium-uranium alloys also have high stability. The zirconium-uranium alloys have been widely used in pressurized water reactors.

Oxide Fuel UOX The thermal conductivity of uranium dioxide in low, it is effected by porosity and burn up. The low thermal conductivity can lead to overheating of the centre parts of the pellets during use. MOX Mixed oxide, or MOX is a blend of plutonium and natural and depleted uranium. MOX fuel is an alternative to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel used in the light water reactors. Ceramics Fuels Ceramics fuels other than oxides have the advantage of high heat conductivities and melting point, but thy are prone to swelling than oxide fuels. Uranium nitride One advantage is that UN has a better thermal conductivity than UO2. This fuel has the disadvantage that unless 15N was used that a large amount of 14C would be generated from 14N (n,p). Uranium carbide The high thermal conductivity and high melting point make uranium carbide as alternate fuel. Uranium carbide could be the ideal fuel candidate for reactor such as gas cooled fast reactors.

Moderators A material which rapidly slows down fast neutrons is called a moderator, and the process of slowing down neutron is called moderation or thermal zing. The moderators which have best nuclear properties are water, heavy water, graphite, beryllium and beryllium oxide. Heavy water is best because of its low cross-section and good slowing down power, but it is expensive and does undergo dissociation. In case of water and heavy water the problem of radiation damage exists. Ordinary water has a fairly high cross-section and can only be used in an enriched fuel reactor. Beryllium and beryllium oxide are expensive, toxic and have poor mechanical properties. Graphite is readily available and given good results where a solid moderator is required. Reactor Coolants For low-power reactors where there is no attempt to recover heat, air has been widely used as a primary coolant. The one serious disadvantage of air is the high cross-section of nitrogen. To minimize absorption of neutrons by coolant, it was proposed to use helium as coolant. But difficulties are involved in handling large quantities of helium gas. Water and heavy water are also being used as primary coolants. Since heat transfer coefficients of a liquid are better than in case of a gas, they can be used for high power operation. Ordinary water has a fairly high cross-section so that it can not be present in too large amounts in reactor. The interest in heat transfer fluids has been shifted to these materials adaptable to high temperature. Of chief importance are the liquid metals which are stable to radiation, can be used at high temperatures without generating high pressure, and have very high heat transfer coefficients. The most satisfactory liquid metal coolant appears to be sodium or sodium-potassium alloy. The only advantage of N a k is its lower melting points. Pure sodium has a higher specific heat, higher thermal conductivity, and smaller cross-section.

Structural materials The one absolute requirement that any structural material going into a reactor must meet is that its cross-section must be sufficiently low that it does not reduce critically factor below unity. The only common structural material on the basis of low cross-section is aluminum. But aluminum is not particularly good material from the stand point of corrosion resistant. AISI 304 stainless steel is recommended for entire pressure vessel rather than that more commonly used steel lined carbon steal structure. Zircaloy In order to meet corrosion resistance at high temperatures, Zircaloy-4 (an alloy of zirconium +Tin +iron +chromium) is presently being used as a material of construction for many power reactors. It has good structural properties, good corrosion resistance, and undergoes only slight radiation change. Shielding materials The shield for a reactor must effectively reduce the strength of neutrons and gammas which are generated by the fission process. This means that both heavy and light elements must be present in the shield. If a material such as hydrogen is present in the shield will reduce the energy of neutron to thermal energy and is absorbed before it can diffuse much further in the shield.

Heavy concrete Ordinary concrete has been widely used as a shielding material. It is cheap and reliable and readily available. From a practical stand point, it must be realized that ordinary concrete is a better neutron shield than gamma shield, so the gamma dose will determine the shield. In use of heavy concrete, it must be remembered that any heavy concrete will be more expensive than ordinary concrete pound per pound. Several different types of heavy concrete have been used for shielding reactors and chemical processing facilities. Bayrite concrete is made by substituting a cheap barium mineral (crude barium sulphate) for the coarse and fine aggregate of ordinary concrete. Baryte concrete has a density about 50 per cent greater than ordinary concrete, and the increased cost is very little. A density of about twice that of ordinary concrete can be obtained by use of ferrophosphorous aggregate, but the material cost is about four times as great. A still higher or density can be obtained by use of iron aggregate, but the material cost and the cost of installation are much higher. Thermal Shield A thermal shield is an inner wall, often of steel, which is placed between the reactor and the biological shield. Its function is to remove most of the heat energy of gamma and thermal neutrons leaking from the reactor and thereby to protect the biological shield from damage due to heat generation in the shield. The need for a thermal shield depends on the reactor power, the amount of cooling around the reactor. An iron thermal shield has a problem of added cost, also when thermal neutrons are captured by iron there is production of capture gamma up to 10 Mev which must be shielded out by the biological shield. The problem of capture gamma can be minimized by the some boron containing thermal shield. For example, an aluminum-boron carbide complex known as Boral has been developed, which contains 35 per cent boron.

Type of Reactors Research Reactors Research reactors are nuclear reactors that serve primarily as a neutron source. They are called non-power reactors, in contrast to power reactors that are used for electricity production, heat generation, or submarine propulsion.

The neutrons produced by research reactors are used for non destructive testing, analysis and testing of materials, production of isotopes, research and education. Research reactors that produce radioisotopes for medical or industrial use are sometimes called isotopes reactors.
Technical Aspect

Research reactors are simpler than power reactors and operate at low temperatures. They need far less fuel, and for less fission products build up as the fuel is used. On the other hand their fuel is more highly enriched uranium, typically upto 20% 235U, although some use 93% 235U while 20% enrichment is not generally considered usable in nuclear weapon. 93% is commonly referred to as ³bomb grade´. Like power reactors, the core needs cooling, typically natural or forced circulation with water and a moderator is required to slow down the neutrons and enhance fission. As neutron production is their main function.

Classes of research reactors ‡Aqueous homogenous reactor ‡Argonaut class reactor ‡DIDO class-six High flux reactors world wide ‡TRIGA A high successful class with > 50 installation world wide ‡SLO POKE Reactor class developed by AEC, Canada ‡Miniature neutron source reactor, Based on the SLOW POKE design, developed by AECL. A common design (67 units) in the pool type reactor where core is a cluster of fuel elements sitting in a large pool of water. Among the fuel elements are control rods and employ channels for experimental materials. The water both moderates and cools the reactor, and graphite or beryllium is generally used for the reflector. The TRIG A reactor is another common design (40 units). The core consists of 60-100 cylindrical fuel elements about 36mm diameter with aluminum cladding enclosing a mixture of uranium fuel and zirconium hydride (as moderator). Ii sits in pool of water and generally uses graphite or beryllium as a reflector. This type of reactor can safely be pulsed to very high power level (e.g. 25,000MW) for a fraction of a second. The rapid increase in power is quickly cut short by a negative reactivity effect of the hydride moderator. Other designs are moderated by heavy water (12 units) or graphite. Homogenous type reactors have a core comprising a solution of uranium salts as liquid contained in tank about 300mm diameter. The simple design made them popular early on, but Russia has most research reactor (62), followed by USA (54), Japan (18), France (15), Germany (14) and China (13).

Nuclear Power Plants Nuclear power plants are an important source of electrical energy. At the moment there are more than 400 nuclear power plants (NPP) all over the world, which produce about 17% of the world electricity. The share can range from just few per cent in some countries and to 75% as in France. The KRSKO nuclear power plants produce almost 40% of the electrical energy in Slovenia. Different types of nuclear power plants There are a number of different types of nuclear reactors currently in operation throughout the world. Some of the most common types are: Pressurized Water Reactor Fuel Usually pellets of uranium oxide (UO2) arranged in tubes to form fuels rods. These rods are arranged into fuel assemblies in the reactor core. This is the most common types with over 230 in use for power generation and several hundred more employed for naval propulsion. The design of PWR originated as a submarine power plant. PWRs use ordinary water as coolant and moderator. The design is distinguished by having a primary cooling circuit which flows through the core of the reactor under very high pressure and a secondary circuit in which steam is generated to drive the turbine. In Russia these are known as WER types (Water Moderated and Cooled) A PWR has fuel assemblies of 200-300 rods each, arranged vertically in the core, and a large reactor would have about 150-250 fuels assemblies with 80-100 tons of uranium. Water in the core reaches about 325Co, hence it must be kept under about 150 times atmospheric pressure to prevent it boiling. Pressure is maintained by steam in a pressurizer. In the primary cooling circuit the water is also the moderator and if any of it turned to steam the fission reaction would slow down. The negative feed back is one of the safety features of the type. The secondary shut down system involves adding boron to the primary circuit.

The secondary circuit is under less pressure and the water boils in the heat exchangers which are the steam generators. The steam drives the turbine to produce electricity and in them condensed and returned to the heat exchangers in contact with the primary circuit. Boiling water reactor (BWR) The design has many similarities to the PWR except that there is only a single circuit in which the water is at lower pressure (about 75 times atmospheric pressure) so that it boils in the core at about 285 oC. The reactor is designed to operate with 12-15% of water in the top part of the core as steam and hence with less moderating effect and thus efficiency there. The steam passes through drier plates (steam separator) above the core and then directly to the turbines, which are thus part of the reactor circuit. Since the water around the core of a reactor is always contaminated with traces of nuclides. It means that the turbine must be shielded and radiological protection provided during maintenance. The cost of this tends to balance the saving due to the simple design. A BWR fuel assembly comprises 90-100 fuel rods, and there are upto 750 assemblies in a reactor core holding upto 140 tones of uranium.

Pressurized heavy water reactor (PH WR or CANDU) The PHWR reactor design has been developed since the 1950 S in Canada as the CANDU and more recently also in India. It uses natural uranium (0.79%235U) oxide as a fuel, hence needs a more efficient moderator, in this case heavy water (D2O). The moderator is in a large tank called a calendria penetrated by several hundred horizontal pressure tubes which form channels for the fuel cooled by the flow of heavy water under high pressure in the primary cooling circuit reaching 290oC. As in the PWR the primary coolant generates steam in a secondary circuit to drive the Turbines. The pressure tube design means that the reactor can be fueld progressively without shutting down by isolating individual pressure tubes from the cooling circuit. A CANDU fuels assemble consists of a bundle of 37 half meter long fuels rods (ceramic fuel pellets in Zircaloy tube) with 12 bundles lying end to end in a fuel channel. Control rods penetrate the calanderia vertically, and a secondary shut down system involves adding gadolinium to the moderator. Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor These are the second generation of British gas-cooled reactor using graphite moderator and carbon dioxide as coolant. The fuel is uranium oxide pellets, enriched to 2.5 to 3.5% in stainless steel tubes. The carbon dioxide circulation through the core reaching 650oC and then pas steam generator tubes outside it. But still inside the concrete and steel pressure vessel. Control rods penetrate the moderator and a secondary shut down system involves injecting nitrogen coolant. The AGR was developed from the Magnox reactor, also graphite moderated and CO2 cooled. They use natural uranium in metallic form. This is a Sovint designed. It employs long (7meter) vertical pressure tubes running through graphite moderator, and is cooled by water which is allowed to boil in the core at 290 oC. Fuel is low enriched uranium oxide made up into assemblies 3.5 meter long.

Fast Breeders Under appropriate operating conditions, the neutrons given off by fission reaction can breed more fuel from otherwise non-fissionable isotopes. The most common breeding reaction is that of plutonium-239 from non-fissionable uranium-238. The term fast breeder refers to the types of configurations which can actually produce more fissionable fuels than they use. This scenario is possible because the non fissionable 238U is 140 times more abundant than the fissionable 235U and can be efficiently converted into Pu-239 by the neutrons from a fission chain reaction. France has made the largest implantation of breeder reactors with its large Phenix reactor and intermediate scale reactor (BN-600) on Caspian sea for eclectic power and desalination. The plutonium -239 breeder reactor is commonly called a fast breeder reactor, and the cooling and heat transfer is done by a liquid metal. The metal which can accomplish this as sodium and lithium, with sodium being the most abundant and most commonly used. The time required for a breeder reactor to produce enough material to fuel a second reactor is called its doubling time and the present design plans target about 10 years a doubling time. A reactor could use the heat of reaction to produce energy for ten years and at the end of that time have enough fuel to fuel another reactor for ten years.

The super-phenix was the first large scale breeder reactor. It was put into service in France in 1984. The reactor core consists of stainless steel tubes containing a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxides about 15-20% fissionable plutonium-239. Surrounding the core a region called breeder blanket consisting of tubes filled only with uranium oxide. The entire assembly is about 3 X 5 meter and is supported in a reactor vessel in molten sodium. The energy from the nuclear fission heats the sodium to about 500oC and it transfers that energy to a second sodium loop which in turn heats water to produce steam for electricity production. Such a reactor can produce about 20% more fuel than it consumes by the breeding reaction. Enough excess fuels is produced over about 20 years to fuel another such reactor. Optimum breeding allows about 75% of the energy of the natural uranium to be used compared to 1% in the standard light water reactor.

Reactor Designs As of 2006, all large scale FBR power station have been liquid metal fast breeder reactors (LMEBR) cooled by liquid sodium. These have been one of two designs: ‡Loop type, in which primary coolant is circulated through primary heat exchangers external to the reactor tank (but within the biological shield owing to the presence of radioactive sodium-24 in the primary coolent) ‡Pool type, in which primary heat exchangers and circulators are immersed in the reactor tank. FBRs usually use a mixed oxide fuel core of up to 20% plutonium dioxide (PUO2) and at least 80% uranium dioxide (UO2). Another fuel option is metal alloys, typically a blend of uranium, plutonium and zirconium.

Nuclear Fusion If fusion reactions are to be practical method of generating energy on earth, other means than gravitational attraction must be found to confine the reacting atoms. The confinement principle on which most work is being done depends on the fact that atoms heated to the extremely high temperatures required for fusion are fully dissociated into positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons. Such a reaction mixture of positive and negative ions is called a thermo nuclear plasma. By placing a plasma in a strong magnetic field , its positively and negatively charged particles are constrained to travel in helical path around the magnetic lines of force. By proper shaping of the magnetic field, the charged particles can be confined for substantial periods of time, long enough to permit some fusion reactions to take place. The fusion reaction easiest to bring is between a deuterium ion (bydrogen of mass 2) and a tritium ion (hydrogen of mass 3) to produce a helium of mass 4 and a neutron.

+ 3T

4He + 1n


Deuterium Tritium


This reaction is favoured because it occurs at an appreciable rate at a lower temperature (20,000,000 R) than other possible fusion reactions. For use n fusion reaction tritium must be made by reaction of lithium isotope of mass 6 with a neutron.
6L I



4H e

+- 3T


The energy release in these two reaction may be calculated from decrease in mass between reactants and the products Function Reaction Reactant, amu Products, amu Difference amu 2D 4H 2.014102 4.002603 e 3T 1n 3.016050 1.008665 Total 5.030152 5.011268 0.018884 With the conversion factor 931.480 MeV/amu this fusion reaction release 17.6 MeV per pair of atoms fused.

Fusion here on earth The first thermonuclear fusion reaction to take place on earth occurred at Eniwetok Atoll on October 31, 1952, when united states exploded a fusion device, generating an energy release equivalent to 10 million tons of TNT. The high temperature needed to initiate the reaction triggered by a fission bomb. A sustained and controllable source of fusion power, a fusion reactor, is considerably harder to achieve. The goal is, however, is being pursued vigorously in many countries around the world because many look to the fusion reactor as the power source of future, at least as for as generation of electricity is concerned. The three requirements for a successful thermonuclear reactor are: ‡A high particles density the density of interacting particles must be great enough to ensure that collision rate is high enough. ‡A high plasma temperature. The plasma must be hot otherwise the colliding particles will not be energetic to penetrate the electrical barrier that tends to keep them apart. ‡A long confinement time. A major problem is containing the heat plasma long enough to ensure that its density and temperature remain sufficiently high for enough of fuel to be fused. It is clear that no solid container can with stand the high temperature that are necessary. Thermal Nuclear Power The binding energy curve shown that energy can be released if two light nuclear combine to form a single larger nucleus. The process is called nuclear fusion. The process is hindered by the electrical repulsion that acts to prevent the two particles from getting closer enough to each other to be within range and fusing To generate useful amount of power, nuclear fusion must occur in bulk matter. That is, may atoms need to fuse in order to create a significant amount of energy. The best hope of bringing this about is to raise the temperature of the material so that particles have energy-due their motion alone to penetrate the electrical repulsion barrier. This process is known as thermonuclear fusion. Calculation show that these temperatures need to be close to the sun s temperature of 1.5 X 107K.

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