Journal article

Validation efforts for the neutronics of a plutonium-erbium-zirconium oxide inert matrix light water reactor fuel

Light water reactor (LWR) neutronics codes and cross-section libraries need further qualification when used for the calculation of inert matrix fuel (IMF) cells. Three types of validation efforts have been undertaken for the PuO2-Er2O3-ZrO2 IMF concept under development at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). Firstly, the PSI calculational scheme, based on the BOXER code and its data library, has been applied to the analysis of a range of LWR experiments with PuO2-UO2 fuel, conducted earlier at PSI's PROTEUS facility. The generally good agreement obtained between calculated and measured parameters gives confidence in the ability of the employed calculational scheme to correctly modelize Pu-containing fuel cells. Secondly, reactivity effects of various burnable poisons in a ZrO2 matrix were measured in the CROCUS reactor of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at Lausanne. Modelling these experiments with BOXER resulted in satisfactory prediction of measured reactivity ratios (relative to a soluble-boron standard) for most of the experimental rods employed. This was particularly the case for experiments with erbium, as well as with mixtures of erbium and europium (the latter being used to simulate the effects of overlapping resonances, as would be expected in the case of a Pu-Er IMF). Finally, as there are no experimental results available from power reactors employing IMFs, the validation of burnup calculations (at the cell level) has been based on results obtained in the framework of an international benchmark exercise on the physics of LWRs employing IMFs. Certain discrepancies in calculated parameters have been observed in this context, several of which can be attributed to specific differences in cross-section libraries.


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