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Conceptual Design of the Transformational Challenge Reactor

Publication Type
Journal Name
Nuclear Science and Engineering
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1399 to 1424

The Transformational Challenge Reactor is a 3-MW(thermal) helium-cooled experimental nuclear reactor designed using an additive manufacturing–informed agile design process. This design process leverages rapid prototyping and advanced materials from emerging additive manufacturing technologies, key characteristics that enable rapid design maturation. The resulting core design incorporates a blend of advanced reactor technologies into an intermediate-spectrum microreactor, including conventionally manufactured tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel particles in an advanced manufactured SiC fuel element and a solid yttrium hydride moderator encapsulated in steel. Matured during the design effort, these technologies are incorporated with additively manufactured steel support and fluidic structures to form a 75-cm-outer-diameter cylindrical active core region. Below and above the active core region are axial SiC reflectors, which are housed inside the reactor pressure vessel. The reactor is controlled with an annular shroud actuated external to the pressure vessel in the gap between the pressure vessel and a steel radial reflector. A safety rod is at the center of the core to shut down the reactor when necessary. Helium pressurized at 5 MPa is forced into the pressure vessel below the core and around the core to the top plenum before it is forced down through the axial reflectors and the active core region. The primary pressurized helium loop is operated up to 500°C and includes the pressure vessel, the circulator, and the hot side of a helium-to-air heat exchanger. The secondary loop rejects all heat from the primary loop to ambient air through a heat exchanger. A vented temporary confinement building contains the entire primary loop, with penetrations for a stack, cooling, and the secondary ambient air loop. This is the first advanced nuclear microreactor designed using additive manufacturing technologies, demonstrating their applicability in an accelerated advanced design process.