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NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS AS BASE LOAD PLANTS

• Nuclear plants are used only as base load plants


because any change in the load demand requires
a corresponding change in the output energy.
• In nuclear plants, the input energy is produced by
burning the nuclear fuel. So, there is always a
large time lapse between the change in energy
output and input which is not desirable.
• Hence, such power stations are used only as base
load stations and they supply constant power.
NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
MAIN COMPONENTS OF A NUCLEAR REACTOR
The nuclear reactor consists of the following
principal parts.
(i) Reactor core
(ii) Moderator
(iii) Control rods
(iv) Reflector
(v) Cooling system
(vi) Reactor Vessel
(vii) Biological shielding.
BOILING WATER REACTOR (BWR)
• In this type of reactor, enriched Uranium is
used as a fuel and water is used as a
moderator, coolant and reflector.
• The only difference between PWR and BWR is,
in BWR, the steam is generated in the reactor
itself instead of a separate steam generator.
Advantages:
1. Some intermediate heat exchange equipment is eliminated.
2. The reactor vessel is much lighter than PWR since the
pressure inside the reactor is less.
3. There is no heat exchanger, pressurizer and circulating pump.
It reduces the cost of the plant.
4. Thermal efficiency of BWR plant is more (30%) than a PWR
plant (20%).
5. The metal temperature remains low for the given output
conditions.
6. Pressure is less for the given steam output conditions than a
pressurized reactor.
7. BWR is a self-controlled reactor as the reactivity is
automatically reduced if the vapour is not the dense one to
moderate the neutrons effectively.
8. A BWR is more stable than PWR and much stable than any
other reactors.
9. Power excursion is quickly damped by the formation of
steam.
10. Overall thermal efficiency is high.
11. Water is cheap.
12. Core is compact if the void coefficient is low.
13. It has negative temperature coefficient.
14. Ordinary leakage can be tolerated.
15. Fission products are contained not circulated.
16. Radioactivity of coolant is short-lived if it is kept
pure.
17. Conversion ratio may be high.
18. Heat may be taken from circulating water by
increasing the power output.
Disadvantages:
1. The steam entering the turbine is slightly radioactive. Hence,
the shielding of turbine and piping are needed.
2. Wastage of the steam reduces the thermal efficiency at part
load condition.
3. It produces lower power density (33.6kW/litre) and large in
size.
4. Power demand fluctuations cannot be met.
5. Change in load on turbine is reflected back tà the reactor as the
pressure changes.
6. Separately fired superheater cannot conveniently be employed.
7. System must be designed to overcome the tendency to react
negatively with load increase.
8. Fuel must be at least slightly enriched.
9. Fuel handling necessitates complex equipment.
10. Reactor must be shut down to unload and reload core.
11. Water flashes to steam during rupture of primary system.
12. The condenser leak may cause a serious trouble.
PRESSURISED WATER REACTOR (PWR)
• A pressurized water reactor is a light water
cooled and moderated reactor having an
unusual core design using both natural and
highly enriched fuel.
• The main components of the reactor are as
follows.
(i) Reactor
(ii) Pressurizer
(iii) Heat exchanger
(iv) Coolant pump.
• The pressure in the primary circuit should be high so
that the boiling of water takes place at high pressure.
• It enables the water to carry more heat from the
reactor.
• The pressurising tank keeps the water at about 1
4MN/m2 so that it will not boil.
• An electric heating coil in the pressuriser boils the
water to form steam which is collected in the dome.
• More steam is forced into the dome by boiling, its
pressure rises. So, it pressurizes entire circuit.
• To reduce the pressure, water spray is used to
condense the steam.
• A pressurised water reactor can produce only saturated
steam. If there is a need of superheated steam, a
separate furnace should be provided.
Advantages:
1. Water which is readily available with low cost in
plenty is used as a coolant, moderator and
reflector.
2. The reactor is compact and high power density
(65kN/litre).
3. Number of control required is less.
4. Easily available natural uranium is used as a fuel.
5. Steam is not contaminated by radiation. Hence,
the maintenance of turbine, feed heaters and
condenser are normal.
6. This reactor allows in reducing the fuel cost
extracting more energy per unit weight of fuel.
Disadvantages:
1. High pressure requires a stronger reactor vessel and
hence, its capital cost is high.
2. Thermal efficiency of the plant is low since low pressure is
maintained in the secondary circuit.
3. Fuel element fabrication is expensive.
4. Reprocessing of fuel is difficult since it is affected by
radiation.
5. It is necessary to shut down the reactor for fuel charging
which requires a couple of month time.
6. Uneven heating is caused when gamma radiation passes
through the pressure vessel. Hence, thermal stresses make
the design difficult.
7. Low volume ratio of moderator to fuel makes a fuel
element design and insertion of control rods difficult.
8. The corrosion problems are more severe as the pressure is
high.
Heavy Water Cooled and Moderated CANDU
(CANadian Deuterium Uranium)Type Reactor
• These reactors are more economical to those
nations which do not produce enriched uranium
as the enrichment of uranium is very costly.
• In this type of reactor, the natural uranium (0.7%
U235) is used as fuel and heavy water as
moderator.
• This type of reactor was first designed and
developed in Canada. The first heavy water
reactor in Canada using heavy water as coolant
and moderator of 200 MW capacity with 29.1%
thermal efficiency.
• The coolant heavy water is passed through the
fuel pressure tubes and heat-exchanger.
• The heavy water is circulated in the primary
circuit in the same way as with a PWR and the
steam is raised in the secondary circuit
transferring the heat in the heat exchanger to the
ordinary water.
• The control of the reactor is achieved by varying
the moderator level in the reactor and therefore,
control rods are not required.
• For rapid shutdown purposes, the moderator can
be dumped through a very large area into a tank
provided below the reactor.
Advantages:
• The major advantage of this reactor is that the fuel need
not be enriched.
• The reactor vessel may be built to withstand low
pressure compared with PWR and BWR. Only the fuel
tubes are designed to withstand high pressure,
therefore, the cost of the vessel is less.
• No control rods are required, therefore, control is much
easier than other types.
• The moderator can be, kept at low temperature which
increases its effectiveness in slowing-down neutrons.
• Heavy water being a very good moderator, this type of
reactor has higher multiplication factor and low fuel
consumption.
• A shorter period is required for the site construction
compared with PWR and BWR.
Disadvantages:
• The cost of heavy water is extremely high (Rs.
500/kg).
• The leakage is a major problem as there are two
mechanically sealed closures per fuel channel.
Canadian designs generally are based on
recovering high proportion of heavy water
leakage as absolute leak-tightness cannot be
assured.
• Very high standard of design, manufacture
inspection and maintenance are required.
• The power density is considerably low (9.7
kW/litre) compared with PWR and BWR
therefore, the reactor are extremely large.
Gas Cooled Reactor:
• In this type of reactor, the coolant used can be
air, hydrogen, helium or carbon dioxide.
• Generally inert gases are used such as He and
CO2 .
• The moderator used is graphite.
• More safe especially in case of accidents and
the failure of circulating pumps.
There are two principal types of gas cooled reactors
developed for centre station service and these are:
(i) The gas cooled, graphite moderator reactor (GCGM)
(ii) The high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGC).
• Both types are graphite moderated.
• The former (GCGM) uses natural uranium fuel while
the latter (HTGC) employs highly enriched uranium
carbide mixed with thorium carbide and clad with
graphite.
• The coolant pressure and temperature in GCGM are
about 7 bar 336°C respectively, for HTGC, there figures
are 15 to 30 bar and 700°C to 800°C.
Advantages of Gas-cooled reactor:
• The processing of the fuel is simpler.
• No corrosion problem.
• As a result of low parasitic absorption it gives better
neutron economy.
• Graphite remains stable under irradiation at high
temperatures.
• The use of carbon dioxide as coolant completely
eliminates the possibility of explosion in the reactor
which is always present in water-cooled plants.
• The uranium carbide and graphite are able to resist
high temperatures, and, therefore, the problem of
limiting the fuel element temperature is not as serious
as in other reactors.
Disadvantages:
• Fuel loading is more elaborate and costly.
• Power density is very low (due to low heat transfer
coefficient), therefore large vessel is required.
• Since the critical mass is high therefore large amount of
fuel loading is initially required.
• If helium is used in stead of carbon dioxide, the leakage
of gas is a major problem.
• More power is required for coolant circulation (as
compared with water-cooled reactors).
• The control is more complicated due to low negative
coefficient as helium does not absorb neutrons.
Liquid Metal Cooled Reactors
• Sodium-graphite reactor (SGR) is one of the
typical liquid metal reactors.
• In this reactor sodium works as a coolant and
graphite works as moderator.
• Sodium boils at 880°C under atmospheric
pressure and freezes at 95°C. Hence sodium is
first melted by electric heating system and be
pressurised to about 7 bar. The liquid sodium
is then circulated by the circulation pump.
• The reactor will have two coolant circuits or loops:
(i) The primary circuit has liquid sodium which
circulates through the fuel core and gets heated by
the fissioning of the fuel. This liquid sodium gets
cooled in the intermediate heat exchanger and goes
back to the reactor vessel.
(ii) The secondary circuit has an alloy of sodium
and potassium in liquid form. This coolant takes
heat from the intermediate heat exchanger and gets
heat from liquid sodium of primary circuit.
• The liquid sodium-potassium then passes through a
boiler which is once through type having tubes only.
• The steam generated from this boiler will be
superheated.
• Feed water from the condenser enters the boiler,
the heated sodium-potassium passing through
the tubes gives it heat to the water thus
converting it into steam.
• The sodium-potassium liquid in the second circuit
is then pumped back to the intermediate heat
exchanger thus making it a closed circuit.
• The reactor vessel, primary loop and the
intermediate heat exchanger is to be shielded for
radio-activity.
• The liquid metal be handled under the cover of
an inert gas, such as helium, to prevent contact
with air while charging or draining the primary or
secondary circuit/loop.
Advantages of SGR:
• The sodium as a coolant need not be pressurised.
• High thermal efficiency at low cost.
• The low cost graphite moderator can be used as it
can retain its mechanical strength and purity at
high temperatures.
• Excellent heat removal.
• High conversion ratio.
• Superheating of steam is possible.
• The size of the reactor is comparatively small.
• The neutron absorption cross-section of sodium
is low and, therefore, it is best suited to thermal
reactor with slightly enriched fuel.
Disadvantages:
• Sodium reacts violently with water and actively
with air.
• Thermal stresses are a problem.
• Intermediate system is necessary to separate
active sodium from water.
• Heat exchanger must be leak proof.
• It is necessary to shield the primary and
secondary cooling systems with concrete blocks
as sodium becomes highly radioactive.
• The leak of sodium is very dangerous as
compared with other coolants.
Breeder Reactor
• In its simplest form a fast breeder reactor is a
small vessel in which necessary amount of
enriched plutonium is kept without using
moderator.
• A fissible material, which absorbs neutrons,
surrounds the vessel.
• The reactor core is cooled by liquid metal.
• Necessary neutron shielding is provided by
the use of light water, oil or graphite.
• Additional shielding is also provided for
gamma rays.
Advantages of a breeder reactor:
• The moderator is not required.
• High breeding is possible.
• Small core is sufficient (since it gives high
power density than any other reactor).
• The parasite absorption of fuel is achievable.
• High burn-up of fuel is achievable.
• Absorption of neutrons is low.
Disadvantages:
• Requires highly enriched (15 percent) fuel.
• It is necessary to provide safety against melt-
down.
• Neutron flux is high at the centre of the core.
• The specific power of the reactor is low.
• There is a major problem of handling sodium
as it becomes hot and radioactive.
ADVANTAGES OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
• A nuclear power plant needs less space as compared to
other conventional power plant of equal size.
• Nuclear power plants are well suited to meet large
power demands. They give better performance at high
load factors (80 to 90%).
• Since the fuel consumption is very small as compared
to conventional type of power plants, therefore, there
is saving in cost of the fuel transportation.
• The nuclear power plants, besides producing large
amount of power, produce valuable fissible material
which is produced when the fuel is renewed.
• The operation of a nuclear power plant is
more reliable.
• Nuclear power plants are not affected by
adverse weather conditions.
• Bigger capacity of a nuclear power plant is an
additional advantage.
• The expenditure on metal structures piping,
storage mechanisms is much lower for a
nuclear power plant than a coal burning
power plant.
Disadvantages/Limitations
• The capital cost of a nuclear power station is always
high.
• The danger of radioactivity always persists in the
nuclear stations (in spite of utmost precautions and
care).
• These plants cannot be operated at varying load
efficiently.
• The maintenance cost is always high (due to lack of
standardization and high salaries of the trained
personnel in this field of specialization).
• The disposal of fission products is a big problem.
• Working conditions in nuclear power station are always
detrimental to the health of the workers.
NUCLEAR-PLANT SITE SELECTION
1. Proximity to load centre
2. Population distribution
3. Land use
4. Meteorology
5. Geology
6. Seismology
7. Hydrology.
APPLICATION OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
A nuclear power station is ideally suited
under the following situations:
(i) In an area with potential for industrial
development, but limited conventional power
resources, nuclear power generation appears as
an only alternative.
(ii) If the existing power grid is to be firmed up or
additional power demand is to be met while all
available hydro power resource have been
exploited, and coal is scarce or expensive to
transport, a nuclear power station may be used
with advantage.
SAFETY MEASURES FOR NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
• In case of nuclear power plants the three main
sources of radioactive contamination of the air
are
(i) Fission of nuclei of nuclear fuels
(ii) The effect of neutron fluxes on the heat
carries in the primary cooling system and on the
ambient air
(iii) Damage of shells of fuel elements.
• The above, mentioned contamination of air can
cause health hazard to workers and community
and negative effect on surrounding forests.
1. A nuclear power plant should be constructed away from
human habitation. An exclusion zone of 106 km radius
around the plant should be provided where no public
habitation is permitted.
2. The materials to be used for the construction of a nuclear
power plant should be of required standards.
3. Waste water from nuclear power plant should be purified.
4. The nuclear power plant must be provided with such a
safety system which should safely shut down the plant as
and when necessity arises.
5. There must be periodic checks to ensure that radioactivity
does not exceed the permissible value in the environment.
6. While disposing off the wastes from the nuclear plants it
should be ensured that there is no pollution of water of
river or sea where these wastes are disposed.