Neutronic feasibility of civil marine small modular reactor core using mixed D2O+H2O coolant

Syed Bahauddin Alam, Bader Almutairi, Dinesh Kumar, Shakhawat H. Tanim, Safwan Jaradat, Cameron S. Goodwin, Kirk D. Atkinson, Geoffrey T. Parks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In an effort to decarbonize the marine sector, there are growing interests in replacing the contemporary, traditional propulsion systems with nuclear propulsion systems. The latter system allows freight ships to have longer intervals before refueling; subsequently, lower fuel costs, and minimal carbon emissions. Nonetheless, nuclear propulsion systems have remained largely confined to military vessels. It is highly desirable that a civil marine core not to use highly enriched uranium, but it is then a challenge to achieve long core lifetime while maintaining reactivity control and acceptable power distributions in the core. The objective of this study is to design a civil marine core type of single batch small modular reactor (SMR) with low enriched uranium (LEU) (<20% 235U enrichment), a soluble-boron-free (SBF) and using mixed D2O+H2O coolant for operation period over a 20 years life at 333 MWth. Changing the coolant properties is the way to alter the neutron energy spectrum in order to achieve a self-sustaining core design of higher burnup. Two types of LEU fuels were used in this study: micro-heterogeneous ThO2-UO2 duplex fuel (18% 235U enriched) and all-UO2 fuel (15% 235U enriched). 2D Assembly designs are developed using WIMS and 3D whole-core model is developed using PANTHER code. The duplex option shows greater promise in the final burnable poison design with high thickness ZrB2 integral fuel burnable absorber (IFBA) while maintaining low, stable reactivity with minimal burnup penalty. For the final poison design with ZrB2, the duplex contributes ∼2.5% more initial reactivity suppression, although the all-UO2 design exhibits lower reactivity swing. Three types of candidate control rod materials: hafnium, boron carbide (B4C) and 80% silver + 15% indium + 5% cadmium (Ag-In-Cd) are examined and duplex fuel exhibits higher control rod worth with the candidate materials. B4C shows the greatest control reactivity worth for both the candidate fuels, providing ∼3% higher control rod worth for duplex fuel than all-UO2. Finally, 3D whole-core results from PANTHER show that the use of the mixed coolant contributes to ∼21.5 years core life, which is a ∼40% increase in core life compared to H2O coolant (∼15.5 years) while using the same fuel candidates and fissile enrichment. The mixed coolant provides excellent core lifetimes comparable to those of HEU military naval vessels (∼25 years vs. ∼21.5 years) while utilizing LEU candidate fuels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110449
JournalNuclear Engineering and Design
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Mechanical Engineering


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