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Modeling and Simulation of Fuel Burnup in Pebble Bed Reactors

Publication Type
Conference Paper
Book Title
Proceedings of INMM & ESARDA Joint Annual Meeting - 2023
Publication Date
Conference Name
INMM/ESARDA Joint Annual Meeting 2023
Conference Location
Vienna, Austria
Conference Sponsor
Conference Date

Modeling and simulation of fuel burnup plays important roles in reactor design, operation, safety, and security as well as nuclear material control and accounting (MC&A) [1]. This task is uniquely challenging for pebble bed reactors (PBR) because the pebbles are continuously added and recycled into the reactor core, and their paths through the core are random. To address this problem, we present two simulation models in this paper. Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) developed a simple lattice model of a PBR in Serpent software to generate used pebble isotopic concentrations. The benefit of using Serpent software in this specific application is that it helps streamline the data generation process without having to use too many independent software codes in combination to achieve a simple task. For example, transport, burnup and zero power decay can be implemented in a single pass. Three-dimensional core models were developed using Serpent to simulate the burnup process of 5 subject pebbles starting from fresh till they reach nearly target burnup, with each pebble placed in one of the five artificially designated radial channels to capture the changing neutron spectra along the core radius. Equilibrium isotopic concentrations were assumed in all other pebbles in the core. To provide a verification for the Serpent isotope transmutation and decay results, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) performed simple SCALE/ORIGEN calculations using the average neutron spectra calculated by Serpent for each of the 5 pebbles. The 252-group neutron spectra from Serpent were then used by ORIGEN to produce the one-group library for depletion and decay calculations. The isotopic concentrations of a few nuclides of interest and neutron and gamma source terms produced from the ORIGEN calculations were compared with the ones from the Serpent calculations. The model simulated in this work was based on the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR)-400 design because many data needed for the simulation such as core power profiles, fuel and reflector temperatures, and equilibrium core composition are publicly available. In this paper, we will compare the results between these two approaches and benchmark the results against a set of well-established simulation results for PBMR-400.