Concepts of nuclear reactors cooled with water at supercritical pressures were studied as early as the 1950s and 1960s in the USA and Russia. After a 30-year break, the idea of developing nuclear reactors cooled with supercritical water (SCW) became attractive again as the ultimate development path for water-cooling. The main objectives of using SCW in nuclear reactors are 1) to increase the thermal efficiency of modern nuclear power plants (NPPs) from 33–35% to about 40–45%, and 2) to decrease capital and operational costs and hence decrease electrical energy costs (∼$1000 US/kW). SCW NPPs will have much higher operating parameters compared to modern NPPs (pressure about 25 MPa and outlet temperature up to 625 °C), and a simplified flow circuit, in which steam generators, steam dryers, steam separators, etc., can be eliminated. Also, higher SCW temperatures allow direct thermo-chemical production of hydrogen at low cost, due to increased reaction rates. Pressure-channel SCW nuclear reactor concepts are being developed in Canada and Russia. Design features related to both channels and fuel bundles are discussed in this paper. Also, Russian experience with operating supercritical steam heaters at NPP is presented. The main conclusion is that development of SCW pressure-channel nuclear reactors is feasible and significant benefits can be expected over other thermal energy systems.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.