The U.S. Department of Energy is currently focused on the development of next-generation nuclear power reactors, with an eye towards improved efficiency and reduced capital cost. To this end, reactors using a closed-Brayton power conversion cycle have been proposed as an attractive alternative to steam turbines. The supercritical-CO2 recompression cycle has been identified as a leading candidate for this application since it can achieve high efficiency at relatively low operating temperatures with extremely compact turbomachinery. Sandia National Laboratories has been a leader in hardware and component development for the supercritical-CO2 cycle. With contractor Barber-Nichols Inc., Sandia has constructed a megawatt-class S-CO2 cycle test-loop to investigate the key areas of technological uncertainty for this power cycle and to confirm model estimates of advantageous thermodynamic performance. Until recently, much of the work has centered on the simple S-CO2 cycle—a recuperated Brayton loop with a single turbine and compressor. However, work has recently progressed to a recompression cycle with split-shaft turbo-alternator-compressors, unlocking the potential for much greater efficiency power conversion, but introducing greater complexity in control operations. The following sections use testing experience to frame control actions made by test loop operators in bringing the recompression cycle from cold startup conditions through transition to power generation on both turbines, to the desired test conditions, and finally to a safe shutdown. During this process, considerations regarding the turbocompressor thrust state, CO2 thermodynamic state at the compressor inlet, compressor surge and stall, turbine u/c ratio, and numerous other factors must be taken into account. The development of these procedures on the Sandia test facility has greatly reduced the risk to industry in commercial development of the S-CO2 power cycle.

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