Fully ceramic microencapsulated (FCM) fuel may enhance the already strong inherent reactor safety characteristics of a conventional High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR). FCM fuel uses an SiC matrix that exhibits higher stability under irradiation with limited swelling relative to a conventional graphite matrix. Additionally, the SiC matrix is expected to exhibit improved mechanical performance relative to graphite. The feasibility of FCM-fueled HTGRs has been explored in a previous study (Lu et al., 2018), and three FCM fuel concepts were identified to be able to maintain the cycle length of the reference conventional General Atomics 350 MWt prismatic modular HTGR. In this work, the previous investigation of the reactor core safety characteristics of HTGRs fueled by these three FCM fuels was significantly extended to detailed thermal hydraulics and neutronics analysis of normal operation and design basis accident scenarios. We found that these FCM-fueled cores would have a maximum fuel temperature ∼20–40 K higher than that of the reference HTGR core at the beginning of cycle (BOC) and ∼30–60 K higher at the end of cycle (EOC) during normal operating conditions. Pressurized (P-) and depressurized (D-) loss of forced cooling (LOFC) accidents as well as the control rod withdrawal accident were explored. The FCM-fueled cores would at most have a maximum fuel temperature ∼30–50 K higher than that of the reference core in a P-LOFC accident, ∼10–30 K in a D-LOFC accident and ∼30–50 K in a rod withdrawal accident. The conclusion of the study is that FCM fuel has a small impact on the reactor performance and safety characteristics during normal operation and design basis accident conditions within the existing and generic 350 MWt prismatic modular HTGR design we considered. Additionally, a fuel cycle cost comparison was also performed in the current study. We found that the FCM fuels may be up to 40%–74% more expensive than the conventional fuel. Further analysis of the economics of FCM fuel are needed, because the uncertainties in the assumptions for this study are high.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nuclear and High Energy Physics
- Nuclear Energy and Engineering
- Materials Science(all)
- Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Mechanical Engineering