Pressurized water reactor

Pressurized water reactor

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Pressurized water reactors (PWRs) constitute a large majority of all western nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant
A nuclear power plant is a thermal power station in which the heat source is one or more nuclear reactors. As in a conventional thermal power station the heat is used to generate steam which drives a steam turbine connected to a generator which produces electricity.Nuclear power plants are usually...

s and are one of three types of light water reactor
Light water reactor
The light water reactor is a type of thermal reactor that uses normal water as its coolant and neutron moderator. Thermal reactors are the most common type of nuclear reactor, and light water reactors are the most common type of thermal reactor...

 (LWR), the other types being boiling water reactor
Boiling water reactor
The boiling water reactor is a type of light water nuclear reactor used for the generation of electrical power. It is the second most common type of electricity-generating nuclear reactor after the pressurized water reactor , also a type of light water nuclear reactor...

s (BWRs) and supercritical water reactor
Supercritical water reactor
The supercritical water reactor is a Generation IV reactor concept that uses supercritical water as the working fluid...

s (SWRs). In a PWR, the primary coolant
Nuclear reactor coolant
A nuclear reactor coolant is a coolant in a nuclear reactor used to remove heat from the nuclear reactor core and transfer it to electrical generators and the environment....

 (water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

) is pumped under high pressure to the reactor core where it is heated by the energy generated by the fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

 of atoms. The heated water then flows to a steam generator
Steam generator
A steam generator is a device used to boil water to create steam. It may refer to:*Boiler , a closed vessel in which water is heated under pressure...

 where it transfers its thermal energy to a secondary system where steam is generated and flows to turbines which, in turn, spins an electric generator. In contrast to a boiling water reactor, pressure in the primary coolant loop prevents the water from boiling within the reactor. All LWRs use ordinary light water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 as both coolant and neutron moderator
Neutron moderator
In nuclear engineering, a neutron moderator is a medium that reduces the speed of fast neutrons, thereby turning them into thermal neutrons capable of sustaining a nuclear chain reaction involving uranium-235....

.

PWRs were originally designed to serve as nuclear propulsion
Nuclear propulsion
Nuclear propulsion includes a wide variety of propulsion methods that fulfil the promise of the Atomic Age by using some form of nuclear reaction as their primary power source.- Surface ships and submarines :...

 for nuclear submarine
Nuclear submarine
A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor . The performance advantages of nuclear submarines over "conventional" submarines are considerable: nuclear propulsion, being completely independent of air, frees the submarine from the need to surface frequently, as is necessary for...

s and were used in the original design of the second commercial power plant at Shippingport Atomic Power Station.

PWRs currently operating in the United States are considered Generation II reactor
Generation II reactor
A generation II reactor is a design classification for a nuclear reactor, and refers to the class of commercial reactors built up to the end of the 1990s...

s. Russia's VVER
VVER
The VVER, or WWER, is a series of pressurised water reactors originally developed by the Soviet Union, and now Russia, by OKB Gidropress. Power output ranges from 440 MWe to 1200 MWe with the latest Russian development of the design...

 reactors are similar to U.S. PWRs. France operates many PWRs
Nuclear power in France
Nuclear power is the primary source of electric power in France. In 2004, 425.8 TWh out of the country's total production of 540.6 TWh of electricity was from nuclear power , the highest percentage in the world....

 to generate the bulk of their electricity.

History



The US Army Nuclear Power Program
Army Nuclear Power Program
The Army Nuclear Power Program was a program of the United States Army to develop small pressurized water and boiling water nuclear power reactors to generate electrical and space-heating energy primarily at remote, relatively inaccessible sites. The ANPP had several notable accomplishments, but...

 operated pressurized water reactors from 1954 to 1974.

Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station
Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station
Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station is a civilian nuclear power plant located on Three Mile Island in the Susquehanna River, south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It has two separate units, known as TMI-1 and TMI-2...

 initially operated two pressurized water reactor plants, TMI-1 and TMI-2. The partial meltdown of TMI-2 in 1979
Three Mile Island accident
The Three Mile Island accident was a core meltdown in Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg, United States in 1979....

 essentially ended the growth in new construction nuclear power plants in the United States.

Design


Nuclear fuel
Nuclear fuel
Nuclear fuel is a material that can be 'consumed' by fission or fusion to derive nuclear energy. Nuclear fuels are the most dense sources of energy available...

 in the reactor vessel is engaged in a fission chain reaction
Nuclear chain reaction
A nuclear chain reaction occurs when one nuclear reaction causes an average of one or more nuclear reactions, thus leading to a self-propagating number of these reactions. The specific nuclear reaction may be the fission of heavy isotopes or the fusion of light isotopes...

, which produces heat, heating the water in the primary coolant loop by thermal conduction through the fuel cladding. The hot primary coolant is pumped into a heat exchanger
Heat exchanger
A heat exchanger is a piece of equipment built for efficient heat transfer from one medium to another. The media may be separated by a solid wall, so that they never mix, or they may be in direct contact...

 called the steam generator
Steam generator (nuclear power)
Steam generators are heat exchangers used to convert water into steam from heat produced in a nuclear reactor core. They are used in pressurized water reactors between the primary and secondary coolant loops....

, where it flows through hundreds or thousands of tubes (usually 3/4 inch in diameter). Heat is transferred through the walls of these tubes to the lower pressure secondary coolant located on the sheet side of the exchanger where it evaporates to pressurized steam. The transfer of heat is accomplished without mixing the two fluids, which is desirable since the primary coolant might become radioactive. Some common steam generator arrangements are u-tubes or single pass heat exchangers.

In a nuclear power station, the pressurized steam is fed through a steam turbine which drives an electrical generator
Electrical generator
In electricity generation, an electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. A generator forces electric charge to flow through an external electrical circuit. It is analogous to a water pump, which causes water to flow...

 connected to the electric grid for distribution. After passing through the turbine the secondary coolant (water-steam mixture) is cooled down and condensed in a condenser
Condenser (heat transfer)
In systems involving heat transfer, a condenser is a device or unit used to condense a substance from its gaseous to its liquid state, typically by cooling it. In so doing, the latent heat is given up by the substance, and will transfer to the condenser coolant...

. The condenser converts the steam to a liquid so that it can be pumped back into the steam generator, and maintains a vacuum at the turbine outlet so that the pressure drop across the turbine, and hence the energy extracted from the steam, is maximized. Before being fed into the steam generator, the condensed steam (referred to as feedwater) is sometimes preheated in order to minimize thermal shock.

The steam generated has other uses besides power generation. In nuclear ships and submarines, the steam is fed through a steam turbine connected to a set of speed reduction gears to a shaft used for propulsion
Nuclear marine propulsion
Nuclear marine propulsion is propulsion of a ship by a nuclear reactor. Naval nuclear propulsion is propulsion that specifically refers to naval warships...

. Direct mechanical action by expansion of the steam can be used for a steam-powered aircraft catapult
Aircraft catapult
An aircraft catapult is a device used to launch aircraft from ships—in particular aircraft carriers—as a form of assisted take off. It consists of a track built into the flight deck, below which is a large piston or shuttle that is attached through the track to the nose gear of the aircraft, or in...

 or similar applications. District heating
District heating
District heating is a system for distributing heat generated in a centralized location for residential and commercial heating requirements such as space heating and water heating...

 by the steam is used in some countries and direct heating is applied to internal plant applications.

Two things are characteristic for the pressurized water reactor (PWR) when compared with other reactor types: coolant loop separation from the steam system and pressure inside the primary coolant loop. In a PWR, there are two separate coolant loops (primary and secondary), which are both filled with demineralized/deionized water. A boiling water reactor, by contrast, has only one coolant loop, while more exotic designs such as breeder reactor
Breeder reactor
A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor capable of generating more fissile material than it consumes because its neutron economy is high enough to breed fissile from fertile material like uranium-238 or thorium-232. Breeders were at first considered superior because of their superior fuel economy...

s use substances other than water for coolant and moderator (e.g. sodium in its liquid state as coolant or graphite as a moderator). The pressure in the primary coolant loop is typically 15–16 MPa (150–160 bar), which is notably higher than in other nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

s, and nearly twice that of a boiling water reactor (BWR). As an effect of this, only localized boiling occurs and steam will recondense promptly in the bulk fluid. By contrast, in a boiling water reactor the primary coolant is designed to boil.

Coolant


Light water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 is used as the primary coolant in a PWR. It enters the bottom of the reactor core at about 275 °C (530 °F) and is heated as it flows upwards through the reactor core to a temperature of about 315 °C (600 °F). The water remains liquid despite the high temperature due to the high pressure in the primary coolant loop, usually around 155 bar
Bar (unit)
The bar is a unit of pressure equal to 100 kilopascals, and roughly equal to the atmospheric pressure on Earth at sea level. Other units derived from the bar are the megabar , kilobar , decibar , centibar , and millibar...

 (15.5 MPa 153 atm
Atmosphere (unit)
The standard atmosphere is an international reference pressure defined as 101325 Pa and formerly used as unit of pressure. For practical purposes it has been replaced by the bar which is 105 Pa...

, 2,250 psig).
In water, the critical point
Critical point (thermodynamics)
In physical chemistry, thermodynamics, chemistry and condensed matter physics, a critical point, also called a critical state, specifies the conditions at which a phase boundary ceases to exist...

 occurs at around 647 K
Kelvin
The kelvin is a unit of measurement for temperature. It is one of the seven base units in the International System of Units and is assigned the unit symbol K. The Kelvin scale is an absolute, thermodynamic temperature scale using as its null point absolute zero, the temperature at which all...

 (374 °C or 705 °F) and 22.064 MPa
Pascal (unit)
The pascal is the SI derived unit of pressure, internal pressure, stress, Young's modulus and tensile strength, named after the French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and philosopher Blaise Pascal. It is a measure of force per unit area, defined as one newton per square metre...

 (3200 PSIA or 218 atm
Atmosphere (unit)
The standard atmosphere is an international reference pressure defined as 101325 Pa and formerly used as unit of pressure. For practical purposes it has been replaced by the bar which is 105 Pa...

).

Pressure in the primary circuit is maintained by a pressurizer
Pressurizer
The basic design of the pressurized water reactor includes a requirement that the water in the reactor coolant system not boil. Another way to put this is that the coolant must remain in the liquid state at all times, especially in the reactor vessel...

, a separate vessel that is connected to the primary circuit and partially filled with water which is heated to the saturation temperature (boiling point) for the desired pressure by submerged electrical heaters. To achieve a pressure of 155 bar, the pressurizer temperature is maintained at 345 °C, which gives a subcooling margin (the difference between the pressurizer temperature and the highest temperature in the reactor core) of 30 °C. Thermal transients in the reactor coolant system result in large swings in pressurizer liquid volume, total pressurizer volume is designed around absorbing these transients without uncovering the heaters or emptying the pressurizer. Pressure transients in the primary coolant system manifest as temperature transients in the pressurizer and are controlled through the use of automatic heaters and water spray, which raise and lower pressurizer temperature, respectively.
The coolant is pumped around the primary circuit by powerful pumps, which can consume up to 6 MW each. After picking up heat as it passes through the reactor core, the primary coolant transfers heat in a steam generator to water in a lower pressure secondary circuit, evaporating the secondary coolant to saturated steam — in most designs 6.2 MPa (60 atm, 900 psia
PSIA
PSIA or psia may refer to:* Physical Security Interoperability Alliance, industrial standardization initiative promoting interoperability of IP-enabled security devices* Pounds per square inch absolute...

), 275 °C (530 °F) — for use in the steam turbine. The cooled primary coolant is then returned to the reactor vessel to be heated again.

Moderator



Pressurized water reactors, like all thermal reactor
Thermal reactor
A thermal reactor is a nuclear reactor that uses slow or thermal neutrons. Most power reactors are of this type. These type of reactors use a neutron moderator to slow neutrons until they approach the average kinetic energy of the surrounding particles, that is, to reduce the speed of the neutrons...

 designs, require the fast fission neutrons to be slowed down (a process called moderation or thermalization) in order to interact with the nuclear fuel and sustain the chain reaction. In PWRs the coolant water is used as a moderator
Neutron moderator
In nuclear engineering, a neutron moderator is a medium that reduces the speed of fast neutrons, thereby turning them into thermal neutrons capable of sustaining a nuclear chain reaction involving uranium-235....

 by letting the neutrons undergo multiple collisions with light hydrogen atoms in the water, losing speed in the process. This "moderating" of neutrons will happen more often when the water is denser (more collisions will occur). The use of water as a moderator is an important safety feature of PWRs, as an increase in temperature may cause the water to expand, giving greater 'gaps' between the water molecules and reducing the probability of thermalisation - thereby reducing the extent to which neutrons are slowed down and hence reducing the reactivity in the reactor. Therefore, if reactivity increases beyond normal, the reduced moderation of neutrons will cause the chain reaction to slow down, producing less heat. This property, known as the negative temperature coefficient
Temperature coefficient
The temperature coefficient is the relative change of a physical property when the temperature is changed by 1 K.In the following formula, let R be the physical property to be measured and T be the temperature at which the property is measured. T0 is the reference temperature, and ΔT is the...

 of reactivity, makes PWR reactors very stable. This process is referred to as 'Self-Regulating', i.e. the hotter the coolant becomes, the less reactive the plant becomes, shutting itself down slightly to compensate and vice versa. Thus the plant controls itself around a given temperature set by the position of the control rods.

In contrast, the RBMK
RBMK
RBMK is an initialism for the Russian reaktor bolshoy moshchnosti kanalniy which means "High Power Channel-type Reactor", and describes a class of graphite-moderated nuclear power reactor which was built in the Soviet Union. The RBMK reactor was the type involved in the Chernobyl disaster...

 reactor design used at Chernobyl, which uses graphite instead of water as the moderator and uses boiling water as the coolant, has a large positive thermal coefficient of reactivity, that increases heat generation when coolant water temperatures increase. This makes the RBMK design less stable than pressurized water reactors. In addition to its property of slowing down neutrons when serving as a moderator, water also has a property of absorbing neutrons, albeit to a lesser degree. When the coolant water temperature increases, the boiling increases, which creates voids. Thus there is less water to absorb thermal neutrons that have already been slowed down by the graphite moderator, causing an increase in reactivity. This property is called the void coefficient
Void coefficient
In nuclear engineering, the void coefficient is a number that can be used to estimate how much the reactivity of a nuclear reactor changes as voids form in the reactor moderator or coolant...

 of reactivity, and in an RBMK reactor like Chernobyl, the void coefficient is positive, and fairly large, causing rapid transients.
This design characteristic of the RBMK reactor is generally seen as one of several causes of the Chernobyl disaster
Chernobyl disaster
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine , which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities in Moscow...

.

Heavy water
Heavy water
Heavy water is water highly enriched in the hydrogen isotope deuterium; e.g., heavy water used in CANDU reactors is 99.75% enriched by hydrogen atom-fraction...

 has very low neutron absorption, so heavy water reactor
Heavy water reactor
A pressurised heavy water reactor is a nuclear power reactor, commonly using unenriched natural uranium as its fuel, that uses heavy water as its coolant and moderator. The heavy water coolant is kept under pressure in order to raise its boiling point, allowing it to be heated to higher...

s such as CANDU reactor
CANDU reactor
The CANDU reactor is a Canadian-invented, pressurized heavy water reactor. The acronym refers to its deuterium-oxide moderator and its use of uranium fuel...

s also have a positive void coefficient, though it is not as large as that of an RBMK like Chernobyl; these reactors are designed with a number of safety systems not found in the original RBMK design, which are designed to handle or react to this as needed.

PWRs are designed to be maintained in an undermoderated state, meaning that there is room for increased water volume or density to further increase moderation, because if moderation were near saturation, then a reduction in density of the moderator/coolant could reduce neutron absorption significantly while reducing moderation only slightly, making the void coefficient positive. Also, light water is actually a somewhat stronger moderator of neutrons than heavy water, though heavy water's neutron absorption is much lower. Because of these two facts, light water reactors have a relatively small moderator volume and therefore have compact cores. One next generation design, the supercritical water reactor
Supercritical water reactor
The supercritical water reactor is a Generation IV reactor concept that uses supercritical water as the working fluid...

, is even less moderated. A less moderated neutron energy spectrum does worsen the capture/fission ratio for 235U and especially 239Pu, meaning that more fissile nuclei fail to fission on neutron absorption and instead capture the neutron to become a heavier nonfissile isotope, wasting one or more neutrons and increasing accumulation of heavy transuranic actinides, some of which have long half-lives.

Fuel



After enrichment the uranium dioxide (UO2) powder is fired in a high-temperature, sintering
Sintering
Sintering is a method used to create objects from powders. It is based on atomic diffusion. Diffusion occurs in any material above absolute zero, but it occurs much faster at higher temperatures. In most sintering processes, the powdered material is held in a mold and then heated to a temperature...

 furnace to create hard, ceramic pellets of enriched uranium dioxide. The cylindrical pellets are then clad in a corrosion-resistant zirconium metal alloy Zircaloy
Zircaloy
Zirconium alloys are solid solutions of zirconium or other metals, a common subgroup having the trade mark Zircaloy. Zirconium has very low absorption cross-section of thermal neutrons, high hardness, ductility and corrosion resistance...

 which are backfilled with helium to aid heat conduction and detect leakages. Zircaloy
Zircaloy
Zirconium alloys are solid solutions of zirconium or other metals, a common subgroup having the trade mark Zircaloy. Zirconium has very low absorption cross-section of thermal neutrons, high hardness, ductility and corrosion resistance...

 is chosen because of its mechanical properties and its low absorption cross section. The finished fuel rods are grouped in fuel assemblies, called fuel bundles, that are then used to build the core of the reactor. A typical PWR has fuel assemblies of 200 to 300 rods each, and a large reactor would have about 150–250 such assemblies with 80–100 tonnes of uranium in all. Generally, the fuel bundles consist of fuel rods bundled 14 × 14 to 17 × 17. A PWR produces on the order of 900 to 1,500 MWe. PWR fuel bundles are about 4 meters in length.

Refuelings for most commercial PWRs is on an 18–24 month cycle. Approximately one third of the core is replaced each refueling, though some more modern refueling schemes may reduce refuel time to a few days and allow refueling to occur on a shorter periodicity.

Control


In PWRs reactor power can be viewed as following steam (turbine) demand due to the reactivity feedback of the temperature change caused by increased or decreased steam flow. (See: Negative temperature coefficient.) Boron and control rods are used to maintain primary system temperature at the desired point. In order to decrease power, the operator throttles shut turbine inlet valves. This would result in less steam being drawn from the steam generators. This results in the primary loop increasing in temperature. The higher temperature causes the reactor to fission less and decrease in power. This decrease of power will eventually result in primary system temperature returning to its previous steady state value. The operator can control the steady state operating temperature by addition of boric acid and/or movement of control rods.

Reactivity adjustment to maintain 100% power as the fuel is burned up in most commercial PWRs is normally achieved by varying the concentration of boric acid
Boric acid
Boric acid, also called hydrogen borate or boracic acid or orthoboric acid or acidum boricum, is a weak acid of boron often used as an antiseptic, insecticide, flame retardant, as a neutron absorber, and as a precursor of other chemical compounds. It exists in the form of colorless crystals or a...

 dissolved in the primary reactor coolant. Boron readily absorbs neutrons and increasing or decreasing its concentration in the reactor coolant will therefore affect the neutron activity correspondingly. An entire control system involving high pressure pumps (usually called the charging and letdown system) is required to remove water from the high pressure primary loop and re-inject the water back in with differing concentrations of boric acid. The reactor control rods, inserted through the reactor vessel head directly into the fuel bundles, are moved for the following reasons:
  • To start up the reactor.
  • To shut down the primary nuclear reactions in the reactor.
  • To accommodate short term transients such as changes to load on the turbine.

The control rods can also be used:
  • To compensate for nuclear poison
    Nuclear poison
    A neutron poison is a substance with a large neutron absorption cross-section in applications, such as nuclear reactors. In such applications, absorbing neutrons is normally an undesirable effect...

     inventory.
  • To compensate for nuclear fuel
    Nuclear fuel
    Nuclear fuel is a material that can be 'consumed' by fission or fusion to derive nuclear energy. Nuclear fuels are the most dense sources of energy available...

     depletion.

but these effects are more usually accommodated by altering the primary coolant boric acid concentration.

In contrast, BWRs have no boron in the reactor coolant and control the reactor power by adjusting the reactor coolant flow rate

Advantages

  • PWR reactors are very stable due to their tendency to produce less power as temperatures increase; this makes the reactor easier to operate from a stability standpoint.

  • PWR turbine cycle loop is separate from the primary loop, so the water in the secondary loop is not contaminated by radioactive materials.

  • PWRs can passively scram the reactor in the event that offsite power is lost to immediately stop the primary nuclear reaction. The control rods are held by electromagnets and fall by gravity when current is lost; full insertion safely shuts down the primary nuclear reaction.

Disadvantages

  • The coolant water must be highly pressurized to remain liquid at high temperatures. This requires high strength piping and a heavy pressure vessel and hence increases construction costs. The higher pressure can increase the consequences of a loss-of-coolant accident. The reactor pressure vessel is manufactured from ductile steel but, as the plant is operated, neutron flux from the reactor causes this steel to become less ductile. Eventually the ductility
    Ductility
    In materials science, ductility is a solid material's ability to deform under tensile stress; this is often characterized by the material's ability to be stretched into a wire. Malleability, a similar property, is a material's ability to deform under compressive stress; this is often characterized...

     of the steel will reach limits determined by the applicable boiler and pressure vessel standards, and the pressure vessel must be repaired or replaced. This might not be practical or economic, and so determines the life of the plant.

  • Following shutdown of the primary nuclear reaction, the fission products continue to generate decay heat
    Decay heat
    Decay heat is the heat released as a result of radioactive decay. This is when the radiation interacts with materials: the energy of the alpha, beta or gamma radiation is converted into the thermal movement of atoms.-Natural occurrence:...

     at initially roughly 7% of full power level, which requires 1 to 3 years of water pumped cooling. If cooling fails during this post-shutdown period, the reactor can still overheat and meltdown. Upon loss of coolant the decay heat can raise the rods above 2200 degrees Celsius, whereupon the hot Zirconium alloy metal used for casing the nuclear fuel rods spontaneously explodes in contact with the cooling water or steam, which leads to the separation of water into its constituent elements (hydrogen
    Hydrogen
    Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

     and oxygen
    Oxygen
    Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

    ). In this event there is a high danger of hydrogen explosions, threatening structural damage and/or the exposure of highly radioactive stored fuel rods in the vicinity outside the plant in pools (approximately 15 tons of fuel is replenished each year to maintain normal PWR operation).

  • Additional high pressure components such as reactor coolant pumps, pressurizer, steam generators, etc. are also needed. This also increases the capital cost and complexity of a PWR power plant.

  • The high temperature water coolant with boric acid
    Boric acid
    Boric acid, also called hydrogen borate or boracic acid or orthoboric acid or acidum boricum, is a weak acid of boron often used as an antiseptic, insecticide, flame retardant, as a neutron absorber, and as a precursor of other chemical compounds. It exists in the form of colorless crystals or a...

     dissolved in it is corrosive to carbon steel (but not stainless steel
    Stainless steel
    In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 or 11% chromium content by mass....

    ); this can cause radioactive corrosion products to circulate in the primary coolant loop. This not only limits the lifetime of the reactor, but the systems that filter out the corrosion products and adjust the boric acid concentration add significantly to the overall cost of the reactor and to radiation exposure. Occasionally, this has resulted in severe corrosion to control rod drive mechanisms when the boric acid solution leaked through the seal between the mechanism itself and the primary system.

  • Natural uranium is only 0.7% uranium-235, the isotope necessary for thermal reactors. This makes it necessary to enrich the uranium fuel, which increases the costs of fuel production. If heavy water
    Heavy water
    Heavy water is water highly enriched in the hydrogen isotope deuterium; e.g., heavy water used in CANDU reactors is 99.75% enriched by hydrogen atom-fraction...

     is used, it is possible to operate the reactor with natural uranium, but the production of heavy water requires large amounts of energy and is hence expensive.

  • Because water acts as a neutron moderator, it is not possible to build a fast neutron reactor
    Fast neutron reactor
    A fast neutron reactor or simply a fast reactor is a category of nuclear reactor in which the fission chain reaction is sustained by fast neutrons...

     with a PWR design. A reduced moderation water reactor
    Reduced moderation water reactor
    The Reduced-Moderation Water Reactor , also referred to as the Resource-renewable BWR, is a proposed type of light water moderated nuclear power reactor, featuring some characteristics of a fast neutron reactor, thereby combining the established and proven technology of light water reactors with...

     may however achieve a breeding ratio greater than unity, though this reactor design has disadvantages of its own.

Next generation designs

  • European Pressurized Reactor
    European Pressurized Reactor
    The EPR is a third generation pressurized water reactor design. It has been designed and developed mainly by Framatome , Electricité de France in France, and Siemens AG in Germany...

     (EPR)
  • Westinghouse Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000)

External links