Stability analysis of BWR nuclear-coupled thermal-hydraulics using a simple model

Atul A. Karve, Rizwan Uddin, J. J. Dorning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A simple mathematical model is developed to describe the dynamics of the nuclear-coupled thermal-hydraulics in a boiling water reactor (BWR) core. The model, which incorporates the essential features of neutron kinetics and single-phase and two-phase thermal-hydraulics, leads to a simple dynamical system comprised of a set of nonlinear ordinary differential equations (ODEs). The stability boundary is determined and plotted in the inlet-subcooling-number (enthalpy)/external-reactivity operating parameter plane. The eigenvalues of the Jacobian matrix of the dynamical system also are calculated at various steady-states (fixed points); the results are consistent with those of the direct stability analysis and indicate that a Hopf bifurcation occurs as the stability boundary in the operating parameter plane is crossed. Numerical simulations of the time-dependent, nonlinear ODEs are carried out for selected points in the operating parameter plane to obtain the actual damped and growing oscillations in the neutron number density, the channel inlet flow velocity, and the other phase variables. These indicate that the Hopf bifurcation is subcritical, hence, density wave oscillations with growing amplitude could result from a finite perturbation of the system even when it is being operated in the parameter region thought to be safe, i.e. where the steady-state is stable. Finally, the power-flow map, frequently used by reactor operators during start-up and shut-down operation of a BWR, is mapped to the inlet-subcooling-number/neutron-density (operating-parameter/phase-variable) plane, and then related to the stability boundaries for different fixed inlet velocities corresponding to selected points on the flow-control line. Also, the stability boundaries for different fixed inlet subcooling numbers corresponding to those selected points, are plotted in the neutron-density/inlet-velocity phase variable plane and then the points on the flow-control line are related to their respective stability boundaries in this plane. The relationship of the operating points on the flow-control line to their respective stability boundaries in these two planes provides insight into the instability observed in BWRs during low-flow/high-power operating conditions. It also shows that the normal operating point of a BWR is very stable in comparison with other possible operating points on the power-flow map.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-177
Number of pages23
JournalNuclear Engineering and Design
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Dec 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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