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Knowledge-directed characterization of nuclear power plant reactor core parameters

West, Graeme and Mcarthur, Stephen and Towle, Dave (2011) Knowledge-directed characterization of nuclear power plant reactor core parameters. Nuclear Engineering and Design, 241 (9). pp. 4013-4025. ISSN 0029-5493

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Abstract

A major life-limiting factor of the UK's Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors (AGRs) is the condition of the graphite core. Installation of new measurement equipment is difficult and expensive, therefore maximizing the information gained from existing equipment is highly desirable. The main approach to determining the health of an AGR core is through periodic inspections undertaken during planned outages. However, there is the desire to supplement this inspection activity through the analysis of data gathered as part of routine plant operation. One such source of data is measurements taken during refueling and this paper describes knowledge-directed characterization of this refueling data, both spatially across the reactor core and temporally across the operational lifetime of the core. Characterization provides information relating to the current condition of the reactor core and allows suspected ageing trends to be visualized and confirmed. A standard approach for characterizing reactor core data is presented and applied to a variety of different reactor core parameters. The benefit of this approach is that it allows engineers to distill large volumes of refueling data into a readily understandable format in a short period of time. It also allows hypothesized trends relating to the ageing process within the core to be tested and provides supporting evidence for these hypotheses. The trending data is also valuable as it can form the basis of a predictive model of ageing of the reactor core. The ageing process of nuclear graphite is understood from theoretical and experimental viewpoints and this empirical data, gathered from operating reactors, further supports this understanding. This paper represents the initial exploration of using refueling data to construct a predictive model of AGR reactor core ageing.