Early Argonne National Laboratory at Camp NRTS

by Dan Hughes

While reviewing the literature for this publication:

R. B. Duffey and D. Hughes, 2016, “The Safety of Advanced Reactors”, Chapter 16 in Igor Pioro (Editor), Handbook of Generation IV Nuclear Reactors, Woodhead Publishing, Amsterdam. [Get your very own copy]

I ran across a lot of information about some of the very first research into use of Natural Circulation (NC) coolant flows in nuclear reactors. Camp NRTS played a major role in this original research. Some of what I wrote follows.

Updated Friday April 21: I have noticed that the link I gave to Haroldson’s book does not point to uploaded copies to either my DropBox or WordPress servers. And additionally points to the wrong material. I’ve updated the post to correct the problem.

I’m almost certain that this sentence should have been indicated to be a quote:

The results of geysering instabilities could be observed from a nearby public transportation roadway. [End Update]

—- Begin Excerpt (with light editing)—–

The concept of using natural circulation in nuclear-powered energy production systems dates from the earliest days, the early-1950s, of nuclear energy applications. The question of the hydrodynamic stability of Natural Circulation Loops (NCLs) was first investigated, analytically and experimentally, in this early period. Representative publications include Hamilton et al. (1954), Wissler et al. (1956), Chilton (1957), Lowdermilk et al. (1958), Garlid et al. (1961), Anderson et al. (1962), Lottes et al. (1963) and Jain (1965), among several others. An electronic literature search will produce many citations to early publications from the 1950s that are difficult to obtain. In the United States this research was underway at a few National Laboratories, Universities, and private organizations. The latter were generally supported by way of government contracts. Some of the work was directed toward applications to nuclear powered naval vessels.

Creveling and Schoenhals (1966), Keller (1966), and Welander (1967) carried out fundamental mathematical modeling work on highly idealized systems. These papers are considered landmark initial studies and continue to be cited to this day. Note, however, that experimental and analytical research had been underway for over a decade when the papers were published. The report by Garlid et al. (1961) has extensive citations to the very early literature including both analytical and experimental investigations. The report also contains an analog computer program for the model equations. Alstad et al. (1956) investigated single-phase NCLs and Wissler et al. (1956), Anderson et al. (1962), Jeglic and Grace (1965), Grace and Krejsa (1967), and Yadigaroglu and Bergles (1969) two-phase loops.

The concept of a Super-Critical Water-Cooled Reactor based on natural circulation was also investigated in the 1960s (Harden, 1963; Cornelius, 1965a, 1965b, for examples). The renewed interest in supercritical reactors has recently driven significant additional research.

The early work in the United States was directed toward the various models of Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) then under experimental and analytical investigations. These operating machines included the Experimental Boiling Water Reactor (EBWR), Special Power Excursion Reactor Test Program (SPERT), SPERT-I, and the BOiling water ReActor eXperiment (BORAX), BORAX-I through V machines (Lottes et al., 1962). Stability of boiling two-phase flow and heat transfer, Onset of Flwo Instability (OFI), and Critical Heat Flux (CHF), or Departure from Nucleate Boiling (DNB), were all investigated. Berenson (1964) has a summary the experimental results up to that time. In general the stability of BWRs during various phases of operation continues to be an active area of research. All findings to date indicate that startup and operation of nuclear powered natural circulation systems is readily achieved.

. . .

Fundamental analytical and experimental work continued throughout the 1950s into the 1970s. Various issues associated with BWRs, including stability and the onset of instability and effects of neutronic power feedback, were primary areas of focus. BWRs were considered in the early literature, primarily relating to the EBWR, SPERT I, and the variations of the BORAX I through V (Berenson et al., 1962) and Levy and Beckjord (1960). The BORAX operating machines were constructed at the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS) near Idaho Falls, Idaho, beginning in the very early 1950s. Boiling, stability and neutrons have a very long history (Haroldsen, 2008). These experiments were the first to investigate void-reactivity coupling and feedback. The results of geysering instabilities could be observed from a nearby public transportation roadway. [edh, That would very likely be what is now US 20.]

—– End Excerpt ——-

Ray Haroldsen, the author of (Haroldsen, 2008), has presented a very detailed review and summary of some of the research conducted at the NRTS with BORAX machines and EBR-I. You can read it here.

With the renewed interests in use of Natural Circulation for reactors, especially those designs that use coolants other than water, the experiments and resulting data and findings from some of the early work at Camp NRTS are receiving great interest.

Herb Isbin, who many of us knew, is an author on some of these. Others reading here might recognize, and worked with, other authors of these citations.

I think Natural Circulation experiments were carried out with the Semi-Scale rig at Test Area North following the Three Mile Island Small Break LOCA.

One of the most complete summations of stability of NC and NCLs is this PhD disseration by Ruspini from 2013, and the associated paper.

I ran across this report, from 1956 about a production reactor based on NC after the MS was submitted. And this remarkable document from 1974, which has a complete bibliography from 1954 to 1972, produced by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, Lucas Heights Research Establishment.

Life is a circle. Almost all the subjects of research in the 1950s are subjects of research today. I think China will build at least two versions of every machine that was built and tested at the NRTS back in the 1950s and 1960s. Transient two-phase flows in complex engineered equipment is hard: very hard.

Alstad C D, Isbin H S and Amundson N R (1956), ‘The transient behavior of single-phase natural circulation water loop systems’, Argonne National Laboratory Report, ANL-5409.

Anderson R P, Bryant L T, Carter J C and Marchaterre J F (1962), ‘Transient analysis of two-phase natural-circulation systems’, Argonne National Laboratory Report, ANL-6653.

Berenson P J (1964), ‘Flow stability in multi-tube forced-convection vaporizers’, Air Force Aero Propulsion Laboratory Report APL TDR 64-117.

Chilton H (1957), ‘A Theoretical Study of Stability in Water Flow through Heated Passages’, Journal of Nuclear Energy, 5, 273-284.

Cornelius A (1965a), ‘An investigation of instabilities encountered during heat transfer to a supercritical fluid’, Ph.D. Thesis, Oklahoma State University.

Cornelius A J (1965b), ‘An investigation of instabilities encountered during heat transfer to a supercritical fluid’, Argonne National Laboratory Report, ANL-7032.

Creveling H F and Schoenhals R J (1966), ‘Steady flow characteristics of a single-phase natural circulation loop’, Technical Report No 15, Purdue Research Foundation, COO-1177-15.

Garlid K, Amundson N R and Isbin H S (1961), ‘A Theoretical Study of the Transient Operation and Stability of Two-Phase Natural Circulation Loops’, Argonne National Laboratory Report, ANL-6381.

Grace T M and Krejsa E A (1967), ‘Analytical and experimental study of boiler instabilities due to feed-system – subcooled region coupling’, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Report NASA TN D-3961.

Hamilton D C, Lynch F E and Palmer L D (1954), ‘The nature of flow of ordinary fluids in a thermal convection harp’, ORNL-1624.

Harden D G (1963), ‘Transient behavior of a natural-circulation loop operating near the thermodynamic critical point’, Argonne National Laboratory Report, ANL-6710.

Haroldsen, R (2008), The Story of the BORAX Nuclear Reactor and the EBR-1 Meltdown, http://www.ne.anl.gov/pdfs/reactors/Story-of-BORAX-Reactor-by-Ray-Haroldsen-v2.pdf, Accessed August 23, 2015.

Jain K C (1965), ‘Self-sustained hydrodynamic oscillations in a natural-circulation two-phase-flow boiling loop’, Argonne National Laboratory Report ANL-7073.

Jeglic F A and Grace T M (1965), ‘Onset of flow oscillations in forced-flow subcooled boiling’, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Report NASA TN D-2821.

Keller J B (1967), Periodic oscillations in a model of thermal convection’, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 26, Part 3, 599–606.

Levy S and Beckjord E S (1960), ‘Hydraulic Instability in a Natural Circulation Loop with Net Steam Generation at 1000 psia’, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Heat Transfer Conference, Paper No 60-HT-27, Buffalo, New York.

Lottes P A, Anderson R P, Hoflund B M, Marchaterre J F, Petrick F M, Popper G F and Weatherhead R J (1963), ‘Boiling water reactor technology status of the art report’, Argonne National Laboratory Report, ANL-6561.

Lowdermilk W H, Lanzo C D and Siegel BL (1958), ‘Investigation of boiling burnout and flow instability for water flowing in tubes’, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Report NACA TN 4382.

Welander P (1967), ‘On the oscillatory instability of a differentially heated fluid loop’, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 29, 17-30.
See also Note on the Self-sustained Oscillations of a Simple Thermal System. Tellus, 1957. [edh, Note that this is from 1957. I think he was trying to establish priority / precedence ]

Wissler E H, Isbin H S and Amundson N R (1956), ‘The oscillatory behavior of a two-phase natural circulation loop’, Presented at the Nuclear Engineering and Science Congress, Cleveland, Ohio, AIChE Preprint 59, 1955 See also American Institute of Chemical Engineers Journal, 2, 157-162.

Wissler E H, Isbin H S and Amundson N R (1956), ‘Oscillatory Behavior of a Two-phase Natural Circulation Loop’, AIChE Journal, 2, 157-162.

Yadigaroglu G and Bergles A E (1969), An experimental and theoretical study of density-wave oscillation in two-phase flow’, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Report DSR 74629-3.

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