High-fidelity simulations of the run-in process for a pebble-bed reactor

Ryan Stewart, Paolo Balestra, David Reger, Elia Merzari, Gerhard Strydom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pebble-bed reactors (PBRs) rely on a continual feed of fuel pebbles being cycled through the core. As a result, they require a “run-in” period in order to reach an equilibrium state. The run-in period for a PBR is a complex, time-dependent problem that requires the injection of new fuel, different types of fuel, and power increases. This complexity in the run-in makes it important to capture the physical processes in order to generate an accurate representation. The present work details the creation of a high-fidelity Monte Carlo methodology for analyzing the run-in and subsequent approach to equilibrium for PBRs. The methodology entails a Python module wrapped around Serpent so as to perform neutronics calculations, move pebbles, refuel the core, and discharge pebbles, thereby modeling the explicit behavior of the PBR run-in. Three run-in simulations (a constant temperature profile, a linear temperature profile, and a constant temperature profile using control rods) were examined in order to identify the key physical phenomena present in the run-in process. Utilizing kugelpy, we found the inclusion of a temperature profile to be important for accurately capturing a discharge burnup (around 141 MWd/kg), a consistent k-eff (around 1.005), and an average pebble power (around 2.5 kW/pebble) that all fall within acceptable limits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110193
JournalAnnals of Nuclear Energy
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering

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