Issue 
EPJ Nuclear Sci. Technol.
Volume 9, 2023



Article Number  16  
Number of page(s)  3  
DOI  https://doi.org/10.1051/epjn/2023004  
Published online  16 March 2023 
https://doi.org/10.1051/epjn/2023004
Regular Article
A simple model to show the effect of counterreactions
CEA/INSTN, CEA/Saclay, 91191 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France
^{*} email: bertrand.mercier@cea.fr
Received:
18
December
2022
Received in final form:
15
January
2023
Accepted:
1
February
2023
Published online: 16 March 2023
We derive a 2×2 system of nonlinear ordinary differential equations to show that the reactor is stable when the temperature coefficient is negative.
© P. Reuss and B. Mercier, Published by EDP Sciences, 2023
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
1. Introduction
In reactivity accidents, the kinetics is fast and the counterreaction consists mainly of the Doppler effect. In the Nordheim–Fuchs model (see [1]) the fuel is supposed to be adiabatic (no heat exchange with the moderator, e.g. water for pressurized water reactors (PWR)), which is valid for times of the order of 1s only.
In the present paper, we consider slower reactivity injections, so that the counter reactions consist both of the Doppler effect and the moderator effect. Let us denote by ρ the reactivity injected in the core of a nuclear reactor, the linear theory predicts that if ρ > 0 (resp. ρ < 0) then the number of neutrons n(t) increases (resp. decreases) exponentially.
More precisely, to somewhat take delayed neutrons into account, let τ denote the neutron’s lifetime corrected by the lifetime of precursors, it is shown in Reuss [2] that when ρ is sufficiently small
So we take
as our first equation.
Now, when ρ > 0 not only the number of neutrons but also the core power and the core temperature increase. In the same way, they decrease when ρ < 0.
Due to the Doppler effect and the moderator effect, the reactivity depends on the temperature. We shall say that the temperature coefficient is negative iff there exists α > 0 such that
This gives our second equation:
Thus the linear equation (1) is replaced by the nonlinear system
Provided that α > 0, we shall prove that n(t) has a finite limit when t → ∞ and that α(t) → 0.
In other words, when the temperature coefficient is negative the reactor is stable.
To increase the reactor power it is sufficient to inject some reactivity in the core e.g. by lifting the control bars, but then the reactivity will decrease to zero naturally without having to lower them.
This result is well known, but it seems that our simple model, which we developed for the pedagogical purpose, had not been studied before like we do here.
2. Preliminary remarks
The curves t → {ρ(t), n (t)} are straight lines in the plane {ρ , n}; in fact
Dividing the first equation of system (3) by ρ and the second one by n we obtain
Obviously, if we start from the quarter plane {ρ > 0, n > 0}, we stay there.
The same for the quarter plane {ρ 〈 0, n 〉 0}.
In the quarter plane {ρ > 0, n > 0}, ρ(t) is decreasing and n(t) is increasing.
In the quarter plane {ρ 〈0, n〉 0}, ρ(t) is increasing and n(t) decreasing.
Let us denote by ρ0 = ρ (0) and n0 = n(0). We let n_{∞} = n_{0} + ρ0/α. We note that the slope of the line joining {ρ0, n0} to {0, n_{∞}} is precisely equal to −1/α. We also note that
In the following section, we shall prove that when ρ_{0} > 0 then ρ(t) → 0 and n(t) → n_{∞}.
When ρ_{0} < 0 the same result also holds provided that n_{∞} > 0. Otherwise n(t) → 0.
3. Solution of system (3)
We shall proceed by the separation of variables.
We use (5) to eliminate ρ.
We get
That is
So, by integrating both sides we get
And, by introducing n_{∞}:
To get the value of B, we apply this relation at t = 0:
Finally, we get
We see that if n_{∞} > 0 then n(t) → n_{∞} so that ρ(t) − 0.
In this case, the reactor power decreases to a nonzero power.
If n_{∞} = 0 the formula giving n(t) is undetermined, but by continuity, we can assume that n(t) → 0 and ρ(t) → 0. The reactor shuts down smoothly.
If n_{∞} < 0 then n(t) → 0 but ρ(t) → ρ_{0} + αn_{0} = αn_{∞} < 0.
The reactor shuts down rapidly.
4. Numerical values (PWR case)
In Section 4, we define n = n(t) not as the number of neutrons but as the fraction P/PN where P is the reactor power of the core, and PN is the nominal power of the core.
We note that if n_{0} = 0 and ρ_{0} > 0, then n_{∞} = ρ_{0}/α. Therefore to get n_{∞} = 1, we need to take ρ_{0} = α. Therefore α is called the power defect, i.e. the reactivity to be injected in the core to shift the core power from 0 to PN.
The power defect takes into account the Doppler effect (when n increases from 0 to 1 the fuel temperature increase is about equal to 430 °C) and the moderator effect (when n increases from 0 to 1 the moderator temperature increase is about equal to 10 °C) but also a flow redistribution effect.
The fuel temperature coefficient is about −3 pcm/°C. The moderator temperature coefficient is about −5 pcm/°C at BOC (beginning of cycle) (−60 pcm/°C at EOC (end of cycle)).
Typical values for the power defect are 1300 pcm (i.e. α = 0.013) at BOC and 1900 pcm (α = 0.019) at EOC (see e.g. [3]).
If we start from n_{0} = 0.1 and ρ_{0} = 100 pcm, at BOC, wereach n_{∞} = 0.177. At EOC we rather reach n_{∞} = 0.153.
If we start from n_{0} = 0.1 and ρ_{0} = −100 pcm we get n_{∞} = 0.023 at BOC (0.047 at EOC).
A typical value for τ is τ = 0.08 s at BOC.
Applying formula (6) with t = 100 s we get (n)t = 0.049 and (applying (5)) ρ(t) = −34 pcm which means that the decrease is rather slow.
5. A more accurate model
To get a more accurate model we should start from the six groups model (see Reuss [2]) i.e., the following 7 × 7 differential system:
where n = n(t) is the number of neutrons and c_{i} = c_{i} (t) the number of precursors, l_{0} the neutron lifetime, λ_{i} the associated decreasing constant °, and β = Σ_{i} β_{i} the delayed neutrons fraction.
For uraniumbased fuel, numerical values of these parameters can be found in reference [1].
To take counterreactions into account we decide that ρ is the 8th variable and we complement this 7 × 7 system with an 8th equation:
We also specify some initial conditions:
We can expect, like above, that ρ(t) → 0 when t → ∞ and also (taking d_{n}/d_{t} = d_{ci}/d_{t} = 0 in (7) and (8)) that
Note that this 8 × 8 nonlinear differential system is implemented in nuclear reactor simulators, and the numerical results show that the reactor is stable provided α > 0.
So, maybe the kinematics is not the same as in our simple model, but, if n_{0} and ρ_{0} are the same, the limit n_{∞} is the same.
Thus, we think that our simple model will be useful for pedagogical purposes.
6. Conclusion
We have derived a simple model which represents qualitatively the reactor behavior and may make the students better understand the effect of counterreactions.
Conflict of interests
Paul Reuss and Bertrand Mercier declare that they have no competing interests to report.
Funding
Paul Reuss and Bertrand Mercier are retired. Bertrand Mercier is a scientific adviser at CEA/INSTN, but he receives no funding from CEA. This research did not receive any specific funding.
Data availability statement
This article has no associated data generated and/or analyzed.
Author contribution statement
Paul Reuss found the analytical solution to system (3), which is the core of the paper. The remaining parts originated from Bertrand Mercier.
References
 P. Reuss, Fission nucléaire, réaction en chaine et criticité (EDP Sciences, 91  Les Ulis France, 2016). [Google Scholar]
 P. Reuss, Neutron Physics (EDP Sciences, 91 Les Ulis France, 2008). [Google Scholar]
 H. Grard, Physique, Fonctionnement et Sûreté des REP (EDP Sciences, 91  Les Ulis France, 2014) [Google Scholar]
Cite this article as: Paul Reuss and Bertrand Mercier. A simple model to show the effect of counterreactions, EPJ Nuclear Sci. Technol. 9, 16 (2023)
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