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Simulating self-powered neutron detector responses to infer burnup-induced power distribution perturbations in next-generatio...

by Anthony H Birri, Daniel C Sweeney, Nora D Ezell
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Progress in Nuclear Energy
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Understanding how 3D power distribution will be monitored throughout reactor core volumetric space in next-generation nuclear power reactors is crucial to the design, deployment, and licensing of these reactors. Although numerous techniques exist for 3D power distribution monitoring based on the response of both in situ and ex situ sensors currently implemented or proposed for use in the US reactor fleet, crucial details about these techniques are often unclear. The publicly available documentation does not include information such as how well these techniques are characterized and optimized in their implementations and the levels of uncertainty in the inferred 3D power distribution. The work described herein investigated a recently developed 3D power distribution inferencing method as applied to two next-generation reactor simulations: (1) the NuScale small modular reactor design and (2) the Westinghouse AP1000 design, both of which contain in-core strings of vanadium self-powered neutron detectors (SPNDs). This investigation considered a range of SPND string sensor densities, as well as a range of 3D power distribution axial segment sizes. SPND response simulation is informed by neutron flux calculations in representative homogenized cores. For the different sensor densities and power distribution axial segment sizes in these simulations, the average solution error, solver iterations, and run time were tracked to parameterize the sensor-core configuration.