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Toward Local Core Outlet Temperature Monitoring in Gas-Cooled Nuclear Reactors Using Distributed Fiber-Optic Temperature Sensors

by Holden C Hyer, Dominic R Giuliano, Christian M Petrie
Publication Type
Journal Name
Applied Thermal Engineering
Publication Date
Page Number
Part B

Gas-cooled nuclear reactors operate at temperatures up to 950 ℃ with significant spatial variations in power generation and coolant flow through hundreds of parallel flow channels, resulting in complex mixing at the core outlet. The high temperatures and complex mixing can damage downstream components, challenge reactor calorimetry for power determination, and result in significant conservatism in calculated peak fuel temperatures, which ultimately limits the total power output. Directly measuring each gas stream individually is unrealistic using single point thermocouples, requiring more robust sensing techniques. Fiber-optic sensors are resilient to high temperatures (up to 1,000 ℃) and radiation damage. Moreover, distributed measurements can be made along the length of one fiber, making them potential candidates for monitoring local core outlet temperatures to improve core calorimetry and identify hot channels. To the authors’ knowledge, this manuscript is the first to report spatially distributed fiber optic temperature measurements to quantify mixing at the outlet of a relevant orifice plate under prototypic temperature and flow regimes to assess the feasibility of using fiber-optic sensors for distributed measurements of coolant temperature in gas-cooled reactors. A single optical fiber captured dynamic changes in local temperatures, whereas the mixed outlet temperature exhibited a muted response and could not identify which channels were responsible for the change in the mixed outlet temperature. The discussion focuses on potential challenges for deploying distributed optical fibers in gas-cooled reactors, including the effects of vibrations, radiation-induced signal attenuation and drift, and routing of the fiber while minimizing flow obstructions.