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Automated reactor physics analysis framework of High Flux Isotope Reactor low-enriched uranium silicide dispersion fuel designs

by Jin Whan Bae, Benjamin R Betzler, David Chandler, Donny Hartanto
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Nuclear Engineering and Design
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The High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) is a versatile research reactor that provides one of the highest steady-state neutron fluxes of any reactor in the world. The HFIR reactor physics team investigated the conversion of the current 93 wt% highly enriched uranium U3O8 -Al dispersion fuel to a 19.75% low-enriched uranium (LEU) U3Si2-Al dispersion fuel. The team continuously develops a Python module to streamline the analysis steps required for an LEU core design to ensure reproducible and agile design iteration. The Python module automates the data processing between analysis steps and automates the input perturbation for branch calculations and design changes. The automated framework has proven to significantly increase the efficiency and reproducibility of the reactor physics team to design High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) LEU cores and thoroughly analyze performance metrics, safety metrics, and thermal safety margins. Consequently, the team can now respond rapidly to fuel fabrication engineer and thermal-hydraulic-structural analyst requests.

Numerous combinations of LEU fuel designs are explored, of which two LEU fuel designs are presented in this paper: a low density silicide design, and a high-density silicide design. Results show that both designs meet or exceed safety and performance metrics with exception for minor differences caused by the hardened spectrum from LEU.