A gas-cooled-reactor closed-Brayton-cycle demonstration with nuclear heating

Ronald J. Lipinski, Steven A. Wright, Daniel J. Dorsey, Curtis D. Peters, Nicholas Brown, Joshua Williamson, Jennifer Jablonski

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    1 Scopus citations


    A gas-cooled reactor may be coupled directly to turbomachinery to form a closed-Brayton-cycle (CBC) system in which the CBC working fluid serves as the reactor coolant. Such a system has the potential to be a very simple and robust space-reactor power system. Gas-cooled reactors have been built and operated in the past, but very few have been coupled directly to the turbomachinery in this fashion. In this paper we describe the option for testing such a system with a small reactor and turbomachinery at Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia currently operates the Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR) at steady-state powers up to 4 MW and has an adjacent facility with heavy shielding in which another reactor recently operated. Sandia also has a closed-Brayton-Cycle test bed with a converted commercial turbomachinery unit that is rated for up to 30 kWe of power. It is proposed to construct a small experimental gas-cooled reactor core and attach this via ducting to the CBC turbomachinery for cooling and electricity production. Calculations suggest that such a unit could produce about 20 kWe, which would be a good power level for initial surface power units on the Moon or Mars. The intent of this experiment is to demonstrate the stable start-up and operation of such a system. Of particular interest is the effect of a negative temperature power coefficient as the initially cold Brayton gas passes through the core during startup or power changes. Sandia's dynamic model for such a system would be compared with the performance data. This paper describes the neutronics, heat transfer, and cycle dynamics of this proposed system. Safety and radiation issues are presented. The views expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect agreement by the government.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationSpace Technology and Applications International Forum - STAIF 2005, Including Co-located Conferences
    Number of pages12
    StatePublished - 2005
    EventSpace Technology and Applications International Forum: Forward with a New Age of Exploration, STAIF 2005 - Albuquerque, NM, United States
    Duration: Feb 13 2005Feb 17 2005

    Publication series

    NameAIP Conference Proceedings
    ISSN (Print)0094-243X
    ISSN (Electronic)1551-7616


    OtherSpace Technology and Applications International Forum: Forward with a New Age of Exploration, STAIF 2005
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CityAlbuquerque, NM

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • General Physics and Astronomy


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