A steady state thermal hydraulic analysis method for prismatic gas reactors
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A new methodology for the accurate and efficient determination of steady state thermal hydraulic parameters for prismatic high temperature gas reactors is developed. Two conceptual reactor designs under investigation by the nuclear industry include the General Atomics GT-MHR and the Department of Energy MHTGR-350. Both reactors use the same hexagonal prismatic block, TRISO fuel compact, and circular coolant channel array design. Steady state temperature, pressure, and mass flow distributions are determined for the base reference designs and also for a range of values of the important parameters. Core temperature distributions are obtained with reduced computational cost over more highly detailed computational fluid dynamics codes by using efficient, correlations and first-principles-based approaches for the relevant thermal fluid and thermal transport phenomena. Full core 3-D heat conduction calculations are performed at the individual fuel pin and lattice assembly block levels. The fuel compact is treated as a homogeneous medium with heat generation. A simplified 1-D fluid model is developed to predict convective heat removal rates from solid core nodes. Downstream fluid properties are determined by performing a channel energy balance down the axial node length. Channel exit pressures are then compared and inlet mass flows are adjusted until a uniform outlet pressure is reached. Bypass gaps between assembly blocks as well as coolant channels are modeled. Finite volume discretization of energy, and momentum conservation equations are then formed and explicitly integrated in time. Iterations are performed until all local core temperatures stabilize and global convective heat removal matches heat generation. Several important observations were made based on the steady state analyses for the MHTGR and GT-MHR. Slight temperature variation in the radial direction was observed for uniform radial powers. Bottom-peaked axial power distributions had slightly higher peak temperatures but lower core average temperatures compared to top and center-peaked power distributions. The same trend appeared for large bypass gap sizes cases compared to smaller gap widths. For all cases, peak temperatures were below expected normal operational limits for TRISO fuels. Bypass gap flow for a 3 mm gap width was predicted to be between 10 and 11% for both reactor designs. Single assembly hydrodynamic and temperature results compared favorably with those available in the literature for similar prismatic HTGR thermal hydraulic, computational fluid dynamics analyses. The method developed here enables detailed local and core wide thermal analysis with minimal computational effort, enabling advanced coupled analyses of high temperature reactors with thermal feedback. The steady state numerical scheme also offers a potential for select transient scenario modeling and a wide variety of design optimization studies.