Developments and application of neutron noise diagnostics of sodium cooled fast reactors
The Sodium cooled Fast Reactor (SFR) is one of the six reactor types selected by the Generation-IV international forum (GIF), and the building of an industrial prototype is planned in France. The safety standard of the future SFR has to be equivalent to the EPR's. The general improvement of the safety of the new reactor goes through the examination of all the potentially harmful scenarios and both the study and monitoring of early signs.
The mechanical deformations of the core can have harmful consequences in sodium fast reactors, such as unexpected power variations due to the reactivity increase in case of core compaction, or the excessive deterioration of the mechanical structures. The monitoring of such phenomena and of their potential early signs is then needed. The monitoring of such phenomena can be done with neutron detectors placed inside and outside the tank.
This PhD thesis deals with the study of the neutron noise generated by the periodic deformation of the SFR core, restricted to the so-called core compaction or core flowering phenomenon, a deformation consisting in the variation of the inter-assembly sodium width by a radial bending the assemblies (the assemblies in SFR are held by the base). The PhD thesis has been performed within collaboration between CEA (France) and Chalmers Institute of Technology (Sweden). The work realized during the thesis led to the publication of 3 articles as first author and another as second author.
This work has embraced the following topics:
A state of the art of the monitoring of the core deformation phenomenon by interpretation of the noise measurements in SFR has been done. The PHENIX reactor multi physics measurements database has been scrutinized to provide an interpretation of the neutron noise bringing out mechanical vibration phenomena. An important conclusion was that the lack of theoretical knowledge about the neutron noise induced by the vibration phenomenon and the ill positioning of the neutron detectors are the key points limiting the capacities of interpretation of noise measurements.\newline
The collaboration with the Chalmers team has allowed the improvement of a calculation code solving the neutron noise equations (CORESIM). The work has started with the use of an earlier version of CORESIM code for thermal reactors and the study of the noise induced by the statistical fluctuations of the coolant temperature. That work led to a publication in Annal of Nuclear Energy. I took part in the adaptation of the CORESIM code to the specificities of fast reactors and its application to a working version of a SFR.
The modeling of the core flowering phenomenon and the direct application of the code on the CP-ESFR core case were carried out. The reactivity impact specific to the CP-ESFR core was calculated for two models of core deformations. The neutron noise induced by the modeled deformation has been then calculated. The energy, space and frequency dependence of the neutron noise has been analyzed and will contribute to the instrumentation positioning question. It comes out that such phenomena could be monitored by placing several detectors outside of the core along the same axial channel at several heights. It would also be doable to identify the noise signature by the axial noise profile. One can note that the relative noise is significantly higher at the top fuel height than in the lower fuel height. This work could be continued by designing a neutron instrumentation dedicated to the core monitoring using the proposed neutron noise technique.
Fast neutron reactors
Core volume fluctuations