SuperCritical Water-Cooled nuclear Reactors (SCWRs) are one of six choices for Generation IV (Gen IV) reactor concepts. These reactors use light water as a coolant and operate at a pressure of 25 MPa, inlet temperatures 280–350°C and an outlet temperature up to 625°C. Operating at these elevated temperatures and pressures are beneficial due to: 1) increased gross thermal efficiency of SCW Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) (from 30%–35% of the current NPPs to 45%–50%) and 2) decreased capital and operational costs. Use of SCW as a reactor coolant will permit a direct-cycle steam circuit. SCWRs eliminate the need for steam generators, steam separators, and steam dryers. Another advantage of SCWRs is a possibility for hydrogen co-generation through thermochemical cycles. At these extreme operating conditions we must be ensured that all fuel-channel materials, i.e., sheath (clad) and fuel, will operate below accepted temperature limits. The industry accepted limit for the fuel centerline temperature is 1850°C, and the design limit for sheath temperature is 850°C. Material investigations have begun with existing NPP fuel-channel designs. Previous studies with UO2 fuel at SCW conditions have indicated that the fuel centerline temperature may exceed the temperature limit. Zirconium alloys cannot operate at temperature beyond 350–500°C due to high corrosion rates. Therefore, Inconel-600 was chosen as a sheath material since is maintains a high yield strength and corrosion resistance at high temperatures. Uranium dioxide fuel is widely used and world resources are becoming limited. Thoria or thorium dioxide (ThO2) is considered as an alternative nuclear fuel and offers many benefits. Thorium dioxide is compliant to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, abundant in global reserves and has higher thermal conductivity than that of UO2. An objective of this paper is to determine the suitability of ThO2 fuel in an Inconel-600-sheath fuel bundle within an SCWR fuel channel. Bulk-fluid, outer-sheath and fuel centerline temperature profiles along with Heat Transfer Coefficient (HTC) profiles were computed along the heated length of a bundle string at the maximum heat flux.

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