Power Measurement Methodologies for Pool Nuclear Research Reactors
Keywords:Energy, power, nuclear reactor, safety, instrumentation
Redundancy and diversity are two important criteria for power measurement in nuclear reactors. Other criteria such as accuracy, reliability and response speed are also of major concern. Power monitoring of nuclear reactors is normally done by means of neutronic instruments, i.e. by the measurement of neutron flux. The greater the number of channels for power measuring the greater is the reliability and safety of reactor operations. The aim of this research is to develop new methodologies for on-line monitoring of nuclear reactor power using other reliable processes. One method uses the temperature difference between an instrumented fuel element and the pool water below the reactor core. Another method consists of the steady-state energy balance of the primary and secondary reactor cooling loops. A further method is the calorimetric procedure whereby a constant reactor power is monitored as a function of the temperature-rise rate and the system heat capacity. Another methodology, which does not employ thermal methods, is based on measurement of Cherenkov radiation produced within and around the core. The first three procedures, fuel temperature, energy balance and calorimetric, were implemented in the IPR-R1 Triga nuclear research reactor at Belo Horizonte (Brazil) and are the focus of the work described here. Knowledge of the reactor thermal power is very important for precise neutron flux and fuel element burnup calculations. The burnup is linearly dependent on the reactor thermal power and its accuracy is important in the determination of the mass of burned 235U, fission products, fuel element activity, decay heat power generation and radiotoxicity. The thermal balance method developed in this project is now the standard methodology used for IPR-R1 Triga reactor power calibration and the fuel temperature measuring is the most reliable way of on-line monitoring of the reactor power. This research project primarily aims at increasing the reliability and safety of nuclear reactors using alternative methods for power monitoring.