Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Currently, all operating nuclear power facilities in the U.S. follow the same general design and process: light-water reactors boil water into steam using bundles of nuclear fuel rods as a heat source, pumping that steam through a turbine which powers a generator to produce clean year-round electricity. Water is an effective coolant, but other facilities around the world have demonstrated the ability to use non-water-based coolants in nuclear reactor designs, which consequently have their own trade-offs. Some positive consequences of using different reactor designs include enhanced safety, better economics, and cheaper clean consumer energy. The work described in this paper begins with a computer model of a nuclear reactor design that uses non-water-based coolants, both pure fluids and mixtures, and measures the performance based on a few metrics. While the model did not show that the selected mixtures worked well as coolants, some of the pure fluids did lead to reactor performance at least as good as the water-based counterpart. This motivated a physical experiment that was built to better document and understand the ability for these pure fluids to transfer heat under specific conditions. These conditions include different fluid phases such as liquid or gas, and even supercritical liquids or gases which exist at higher pressures and temperatures. The boundary between supercritical phases are less clear and the distinction between them are less definite if measured by their physical properties. The experimental setup was validated to accurately capture and measure the desired heat transfer behaviors for selected fluids. The design is also future-proofed by utilizing modularity of components and by fabricating new components for testing corrosive/reactive fluids.
Pepper, Benjamin M., "Thermodynamic Analysis of a Novel Cycle for Nuclear SMR and Heat Transfer Performance Validation of the Related Supercritical Working Fluids" (2022). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 8382.
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