Skip to main content

Assessment of Core Physics Characteristics of Extended Enrichment and Higher Burnup LWR Fuels using the Polaris/PARCS Two-Ste...

by Jianwei Hu, Ugur Mertyurek, William A Wieselquist
Publication Type
ORNL Report
Publication Date

Nuclear fuel with extended enrichment (235U enrichment within 5-8 wt%) is one of the evolutionary changes that have been pursued in recent years by commercial light water reactor operators and fuel vendors to improve the fuel cycle economy and operation performance of a nuclear plant. This work assesses the performance of the Polaris/PARCS two-step approach in core physics modeling of the pressurized water reactor cores with extended enrichment fuel, referred to as “LEU+” in this report. A representative LEU+ core with a 24-month fuel cycle developed by Southern Nuclear Company (SNC) was modeled using this two-step approach. A representative LEU core with an 18-month fuel cycle was also modeled to provide a reference for the LEU+ core. As expected, significantly more burnable poison absorbers were used in the LEU+ core to accomodate its higher fuel enrichment. Nine different fuel assembly types were modeled using Polaris for each core to generate the assembly cross sections, which were then processed by GenPMAX to prepare the cross-section data for PARCS. The average specific powers of each fuel batch in each core were derived from VERA results and higher specific powers in fresh assemblies were found in the LEU core due to its less total uranium loading included in the VERA LEU model, given that the total core power was assumed to be the same for both cores. PARCS models were developed to simulate the steady-state operations of both cores. PARCS results on the LEU+ core were first compared with the VERA results for verification purpose; good agreements were seen in soluble boron and burnup distribution results, indicating that the Polaris/PARCS modeling and simulation were correctly implemented. Core physics parameters calculated by PARCS, at zero power physics tests, beginning of cycle (BOC), and end of cycle conditions (EOC), were compared between the LEU+ core and the LEU core, including soluble boron concentration, burnup distributions, assembly and pin power peaking factors, fuel temperature reactivity coefficients, moderator temperature and density reactivity coefficients, control rod worth, and shut down margin.

The main differences in PARCS results between the LEU+ and the LEU cores are summarized below:
1) The critical boron concentrations were found to be much higher in the LEU+ core than in the LEU core (1582 vs. 1335 ppm for peak values).
2) Higher assembly radial power peaking factors (1.4 vs. 1.3 for peak values), 2D pin peaking factors (1.53 vs. 1.42 for peak values), and 3D pin peaking factors (1.89 vs. 1.81 for peak values) were found in the LEU+ core than in the LEU core.
3) Significantly higher reactivity coefficients of moderator temperature (and density) were found in LEU+ than in LEU.
4) Significantly lower control rod worth at EOC were found in LEU+ than LEU for all but one control banks.
5) Significantly lower shut down margins were found in the LEU+ core than in the LEU core.

The Polaris/GenPMAX/PARCS code suite was found to be capable of modeling the LEU+ PWR core for steady-state operations and no unexpected results in core physics parameters were observed, in spite of that a) several bugs in PARCS were identified and workarounds were used; b) several features were found lacking in the current version of PARCS that would be useful for core modeling. A list of requests for bug fixes and feature upgrades for PARCS originated from this work were transmitted to the code developers. The assessments on the performance of the Polaris/PARCS two-step approach in core modeling for boiling water reactor with LEU+ fuel is ongoing.