International Journal of Energy Research, Vol.43, No.9, 4170-4183, 2019
Thermal-hydraulic design features of a micronuclear reactor power source applied for multipurpose
Microheat pipe cooled reactor power source (HRP) designed for space or underwater vehicles meets the future demands, such as safer structure, longer operating time, and fewer mechanical moving parts. In this paper, potassium heat pipe cooled reactor power source system which generates 50 kWe electricity is proposed. The reactor core using uranium nitride fuel is cooled by 37 potassium high-temperature heat pipes. The shields are designed as tungsten and water, and reactor reactivity is controlled by control drums. The thermoelectric generator (TEG) consists of thermoelectric conversion units and seawater cooler. The thermoelectric conversion units convert thermal energy to electric energy through the high-performance thermoelectric material. A code applied for designing and analyzing the reactor power system is developed. It consists of multichannel reactor core model, heat pipe model using thermal resistance network, thermoelectric conversion, and thermal conductivity model. Then, the sensitivity analysis is performed on two key parameters including the length of the heat pipe condensation section and the cold junction temperature of the TE cell. Meanwhile, the steady-state calculations are conducted. Results show that the maximum fuel temperature is 938 K located in the center of reactor core and the outlet temperature of coolant reaches 316 K. Both of them are within the limitation. It is concluded that the preliminary design of HPR design is reasonable and reliable. The designed residual heat removal system has sufficient safety margin to release the decay heat of the reactor. This research provides valuable analysis for the application of micronuclear power source.