On-line monitoring of control rod integrity in BWRs using a mass spectrometer
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2013
Surveillance of fuel and control rod integrity in the core of a boiling water reactor is essential for maintaining a safe and reliable operation. Control rods of a boiling water reactor are mainly filled with boron carbide as a neutron absorber. Due to the irradiation of boron with neutrons, a continuous production of lithium and helium will occur inside a control rod. Most of the created helium will be retained in the boron carbide lattice; however a small part will escape into the void volume of the control blade. Therefore the integrity of control rods during operation can efficiently be followed by on-line measurements of helium concentration in the reactor off-gas system using a mass spectrometer. Since helium is a fill gas in fuel rods, the same method is a useful early warning system for primary fuel failures. In this paper, we introduce an on-line helium detector system which is installed at the nuclear power plant in Leibstadt. Furthermore the measuring experiences of control rod failure detection at the plant are presented. Different causes of increased helium levels in the off-gas system have been distinguished. There are spontaneous helium releases as well as helium releases caused by changed conditions in the reactor (power reduction, control rod movement, etc.). Helium peaks can also be characterized according to the released amount of helium, the peak shape and the duration of the release, which leads to different interpretations of the release mechanisms. In addition, the measured amount of released helium from a 50 days period (280 l) is also compared to the calculated amount of produced helium from the washed out boron during the same time period (190 l). © 2012 Elsevier B.V.