Light Water Reactor - Reactor Design

Reactor Design

The light water reactor produces heat by controlled nuclear fission. The nuclear reactor core is the portion of a nuclear reactor where the nuclear reactions take place. It mainly consists of nuclear fuel and control elements. The pencil-thin nuclear fuel rods, each about 12 feet (3.7 m) long, are grouped by the hundreds in bundles called fuel assemblies. Inside each fuel rod, pellets of uranium, or more commonly uranium oxide, are stacked end to end. The control elements, called control rods, are filled with pellets of substances like hafnium or cadmium that readily capture neutrons. When the control rods are lowered into the core, they absorb neutrons, which thus cannot take part in the chain reaction. On the converse, when the control rods are lifted out of the way, more neutrons strike the fissile uranium-235 or plutonium-239 nuclei in nearby fuel rods, and the chain reaction intensifies. All of this is enclosed in a water-filled steel pressure vessel, called the reactor vessel.

In the boiling water reactor, the heat generated by fission turns the water into steam, which directly drives the power-generating turbines. But in the pressurized water reactor, the heat generated by fission is transferred to a secondary loop via a heat exchanger. Steam is produced in the secondary loop, and the secondary loop drives the power-generating turbines. In either case, after flowing through the turbines, the steam turns back into water in the condenser.

Animated Diagram of a boiling water reactor

The water required to cool the condenser is taken from a nearby river or ocean. It is then pumped back into the river or ocean, in warmed condition. The heat could also be dissipated via a cooling tower into the atmosphere. The United States uses LWR reactors for electric power production, in comparison to the heavy water reactors used in Canada.

Read more about this topic:  Light Water Reactor

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