STARS Highlights

27 September 2018

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Consistent criticality and radiation studies of Swiss spent nuclear fuel: The CS2M approach

Nuclear Power Plant Safety Matter and Material Particle Physics

Spent fuel management is becoming one of the major concerns in many countries with a nuclear program. The radiation aspect as well as the safe and economical part of the long-term storage of the spent nuclear fuel has to be evaluated with a high degree of confidence. To assist such project from the neutronic simulation side, a new method is proposed to systematically calculate at the same time canister loading curves and radiation sources, based on the inventory information from an in-core fuel management system. The CS2M approach consists in coupling the CMSYS core simulation platform, developed over the year within the LRT/STARS to provide reference validated core simulation methodologies based on CASMO and SIMULATE, with the downstream state-of-the-art codes SNF and MCNP for decay- and criticality analyses respectively. In the present study, the considered cases cover enrichments from 1.9 to 5.0% for the UO2 assemblies and 4.8% for the MOX, with assembly burnup values from 7 to 74 MWd/kgU. Because it is based on the individual fuel assembly history, it opens the possibility to optimize canister loadings from the point-of-view of criticality, decay heat and emission sources. It also allows to perform a full uncertainty propagation at once: from the first irradiation to the entry in the storage facility.

16 May 2018

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Global Sensitivity Analysis and Registration Strategy for Temperature Profiles of Reflood Experiment Simulations

Nuclear Power Plant Safety

Global sensitivity analysis (GSA) is routinely applied in engineering to determine the sensitivity of a simulation output to the input parameters. Typically, GSA methods require the code output to be a scalar. In the context of thermal-hydraulic system code, however, simulation outputs are often not scalar but time-dependent (e.g. temperature profile). How to perform GSA on these outputs? A common solution is to represent the profile with a few selected scalar values and perform GSA on these scalar values. This is illustrated in the figure where stochastic samples of a temperature profile resulting from a quenching transient are obtained with the TRACE code in grey and where the maximum temperature and quenching time are chosen as scalars of interest. Their probability distributions, respectively shown in red and blue, can be used to perform GSA. However, these scalars might not be representative of the mixed variations in time and amplitude observed in the output of a typical transient. In this work we address the issue by studying two registration procedures – Landmark and Square Root Slope Function (SRSF) – which separate the amplitude and phase/time variations of the temperature profiles. We then perform dimension reduction by principal component analysis (PCA). PCA allows us to represent the variability of the phase-aligned time series in a few fixed eigenvectors representative of the transient physics and in their associated scalar eigenvalues, which are suitable for GSA. We compare the two registration procedures and the classical “scalar-of-interest” approaches using the Sobol’ indices sensitivity measure. This work received the best paper award at the Best Estimate Plus Uncertainty (BEPU) conference held in May 2018 in Lucca, Italy.

13 November 2017

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Signal Noise Analysis in Nuclear Reactors: when the disturbing role of noise becomes valuable

Energy and Environment Nuclear Power Plant Safety

Noise appears in many areas of science, and commonly has an unwanted and disturbing nature by deteriorating signals’ quality. Therefore, various techniques have been developed over the years for separating noise from pure signals. However, noise has a key role in signal analysis of nuclear reactors as its’ appropriate assessment can be used not only for exploring the normal and dynamic behaviour of nuclear cores, but also for identifying and detecting possible anomalies of reactor systems. State of the art methods have been recently implemented within the well-established signal analysis methodology of the STARS program, at the Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Thermal-Hydraulics (LRT), for investigating nuclear reactor noise and getting a better insight on analysing reactors’ operation.

22 May 2017

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Spent Fuel Neutron Emission Work Receives Awards at ANS Conference

Energy and Environment Nuclear Power Plant Safety

Spent fuel characterization is necessary to improve nuclear fuel design, optimize core refueling patterns and manage the handling, transport and storage of spent fuel assemblies. The experimental characterization of spent fuels includes measuring their gamma and neutron emissions typically with high-purity Germanium and He-3 detectors. In the past few years, however, efforts to develop efficient and low-cost, fast and thermal, neutron detectors have guided the research to the development of new scintillation detectors. These scintillators offer good efficiency, fast-timing properties, and good pulse shape discrimination capabilities for dual gamma and neutron detection. Within the Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Thermal-Hydraulics (LRT), a preliminary analysis was performed through Monte Carlo simulations to design a measurement unit at the HOTLAB based on new scintillators for the detection of fast neutrons emitted by spent fuel. This semester work of Marianna Papadionysiou was presented at the ANS Student conference in April and received two awards for "Best Detection and Measurement" and "Best Overall Research".

14 February 2017

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PERFORM-60: Modelling the Ageing of Reactor Vessel Steels

Materials Research Energy and Environment Nuclear Power Plant Safety

The main threat to the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) operational safety is certainly the radiation damage that hardens and embrittles the steel it is made of. Four decades of research worldwide have allowed understanding and monitoring the phenomena that come into play. At the computational level, a simulation platform, PERFORM-60, has the ambitious aim of predicting the steel evolution for most RPV and operational conditions. It was initially elaborated in the frame of the EU project of the same acronym and is currently further developed to be the end-product of the on-going H2020 EU project SOTERIA. As a contribution of the Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Systems Behaviour (LRS) to SOTERIA, the platform has been rigorously assessed for the first time since its release on a real case study of a Swiss RPV. This critical assessment has been acknowledged by the community and serves as basis for improvements and future developments of the platform within SOTERIA.

20 December 2016

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The Dynamics of Nuclear Reactors

Energy and Environment Nuclear Power Plant Safety

Nuclear reactor dynamics deals with the transient behaviour of nuclear reactors which mostly refers to time changes of the imbalance between heat production and removal. Since the prediction of the dynamic behaviour is crucial for the safety of a reactor, computational models and methodologies have been developed in the framework of the STARS project, at the Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Thermal-Hydraulics (LRT), with the main goal to simulate the complex behaviours of reactors under various conditions with a high level of fidelity.

8. October 2015

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More robust thanks to imperfections

Energy and Environment Nuclear Power Plant Safety

Microscopic deviations from the ideal structure render uranium dioxide, the fuel commonly used in nuclear power plants, more resistant to radiation damage.

19. September 2013


Computer simulations: a cornerstone of nuclear power station safety

Energy and Environment Nuclear Power Plant Safety

Without computer simulations, the operation of nuclear power stations would be very difficult. Whether it is a question of installing new components or conducting safety tests, virtually everything has to be calculated and analysed on the computer first. At the Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Systems Behaviour of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, computational models and methodologies are developed with precisely this in mind. Through this, PSI researchers also act as an independent partner to the national regulatory authority ENSI and contribute thereby to support safe operation of the Swiss nuclear power plants.