To address the need to develop new nuclear reactors with higher thermal efficiency, a group of countries, including Canada, have initiated an international collaboration to develop the next generation of nuclear reactors called Generation IV. The Generation IV International Forum (GIF) Program has narrowed design options of the nuclear reactors to six concepts one of which is the SuperCritical Water-cooled Reactor (SCWR). Among the Generation IV nuclear-reactor concepts, only SCWRs use water as the coolant. The SCWR concept is considered to be an evolution of Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) and Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), which comprise 81% of the current fleet of operating nuclear reactors and are categorized under Generation II nuclear reactors. The latter water-cooled reactors have thermal efficiencies in the range of 30–35% while the evolutionary SCWR will have a thermal efficiency of about 40–45%.

In terms of a pressure boundary SCWRs are classified into two categories, namely, Pressure Vessel (PV) SCWRs and Pressure Channel (PCh) SCWRs. A generic pressure channel SCWR, which is the focus of this paper, operates at a pressure of 25 MPa with inlet and outlet coolant temperatures of 350 and 625°C, respectively. The high outlet temperature and pressure of the coolant make it possible to improve the thermal efficiency. On the other hand, high operating temperature and pressure of the coolant introduce a challenge for material selection and core design. In this view, there are two major issues that need to be addressed for further development of SCWR. First, the reactor core should be designed, which depends on a fuel channel design (for PCh SCWR). Second, a nuclear fuel and fuel cycle should be selected. Third, materials for core components and other key components should be selected based on material testing and experimental results.

Several fuel-channel designs have been proposed for SCWRs. These fuel-channel designs can be classified into two categories: direct-flow and re-entrant channel concepts. The objective of this paper is to study thermal-hydraulic and Neutronic aspects of a re-entrant fuel channel design. With this objective, a thermal-hydraulic code has been developed in MATLAB which calculates the fuel centerline temperature, sheath temperature, coolant temperature and heat transfer coefficient profiles.

A lattice code and a diffusion code were used in order to determine the power distribution inside the core. Then, the heat flux in a channel with the maximum thermal power was used as an input into the thermal-hydraulic code. This paper presents the fuel centerline temperature of a newly designed fuel bundle with UO2 as a reference fuel. The results show that the maximum fuel centerline temperature and the sheath temperature exceed the temperature limits of 1850°C and 850°C for fuel and sheath, respectively.

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