Unformatted text preview: Chapter 5 HEAVY WATER REACTOR
© M. Ragheb
2/11/2008 5.1 INTRODUCTION
The Heavy Water Reactor (HWR) concept allow the use of natural uranium as a
fuel without the need for its enrichment, offering a degree of energy independence,
especially if uranium is available for mining or for extraction as a byproduct of another
industry such as gold mining or phosphate fertilizer production. However, it needs the
installation of a heavy water D2O production capability, which is a much simpler
endeavor anyway, since separating the light isotopes (D from H) is much simpler than
separating the heavy isotopes (U235 from U238).
HWRs have become a significant proportion of world reactor installations, second
only to the Light Water Reactors (LWRs). They provide fuel cycle flexibility for the
future and can potentially burn the recycled fuel from LWRs, with no major reactor
design changes, thus extending resources and reducing spent fuel storage. Fig. 1: First Generation Douglas Point on a stamp face, first HWR of the Candu
design, now decommissioned, was part of a nuclear complex including the Bruce
HWRs. 5.2 EVOLUTION OF THE CANDU HWR DESIGN
The HWR concept is primarily represented by the CANDU design which is an
acronym for CANada Deuterium Uranium. The CANDU system uses pressurized heavy
water D2O as moderator and coolant and natural uranium as fuel in the form of uranium
The HWR design, because of its relative technical simplicity is in vogue in
developing countries. New HWR designs are being developed mainly in Canada and
India. HWR reactors are currently operated in Canada at Ontario, New Brunswick and
Québec, in Korea, Argentina and Romania. Other similarly designed Pressurized Heavy
Water Reactors (PHWRs) are operated in India and Pakistan.
In China, the Qinshan project, a partnership between Atomic Energy of Canada
Limited (AECL), Canada and the Third Qinshan Nuclear Power Company (TQNPC),
included two units that went into commercial operation in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
In India, a continuing process of evolution of the HWR design has been carried
out since the Rajasthan I and II projects. Tarapur 4, an evolutionary 500 MWe HWR
achieved criticality in March 2005 and another 500 MWe unit Tarapur 3. Fig 2: Bruce HWRs Reactors complex, Canada. Fig. 3: Second generation Point Lepreau, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
(AECL) Candu 6 power plant.
A boiling light water cooled, heavy water moderated Advanced HWR was under
development in India. This design is a thermal breeder using the thorium and U233 fuel
cycle and incorporates many passive features, including natural circulation cooling.
In Canada, AECL continues to evolve the basic CANDU design to develop the
Advanced CANDU Reactor (ACR), focusing on improvements in economics, inherent
safety characteristics and performance, while retaining the features of the earlier family
of PHWR nuclear power plants that are now decommissioned such as the Douglas Point
HWR. The stated goals include lower plant capital and operating costs, plus reduced
project schedules, through the use of improved design and construction methods and
operational improvements. The design uses Slightly Enriched Uranium (SEU) fuel to
reduce the reactor core size, which also reduces the amount of heavy water required to
moderate the reactor and allows the use of light water in place of heavy water as the
At the leading edge of the ongoing AECL program for evolutionary
improvements in the CANDU line of reactors is a research and development program,
designated as CANDU-X, or innovative CANDU reactors operating at higher thermal
efficiencies, which implies a high temperature coolant or supercritical water as a coolant.
Such reactors would also incorporate passive high temperature fuel channels, natural
circulation heat removal, and passive containment heat removal. 5.3 CANDU 6 HEAVY WATER REACTOR DESIGN The core of the nuclear steam supply system of a CANDU 6 power plant is a large
cylindrical vessel called the calandria. This vessel is filled with cool, low-pressure D2O.
The vessel houses 380 horizontal tubes, loaded with natural uranium fuel bundles.
Each fuel channel consists of a 104 mm diameter, 4.3 mm thick zirconium
niobium alloy pressure tube, inserted into a slightly wider calandria tube, and two
stainless steel end fittings at the ends of the fuel channel. The tubes are 6.3 m in length.
Garter Spring spacers separate the two tubes.
Heavy water flows through the pressure tubes in a secondary pressurized circuit,
removing heat from fuel bundles and transferring it to the steam generators, where
secondary circuit light water is being heated and converted into steam to drive the steam
turbine and the electrical generator. During reactor operation, the pressure tube material
is subject to high pressure at 11.3 MPa and high temperature reaching 310 °C. Fig. 4: Darlington CANDU reactor face showing the horizontal pressure tubes. Fig. 5: Horizontal calandria of HWR showing its components. Fig. 6: Fuel pellets, tube and bundle used in the HWR design. Fig. 7: On line refueling machine in horizontal tubes CANDU design. Fig. 8: Electrical generator and disabled steam turbine in the Douglas Point plant. 5.4 CANDU PERFORMANCE The CANDU 6 reactor design possesses the highest performance rating of all
other reactors concepts and is able to be refueled at full power using an online refueling
machine. This leads to a power generating capacity factor of 75 percent, even after 13
years of operation making it a more reliable system than other energy options.
The Lifetime Capacity Factor (LCF) is the Total Gross Generation (TGG) figure
divided by the capacity (CF) divided by the total number of hours (H) from the time of
first synchronization, multiplied by 100: LCF = TGG
CF . H
hrs (1) The CANDU 6 units are reported as having the highest lifetime capacity factors
within their class. Fig. 9: Levelized Unit Energy Cost (LUEC) of gas, coal and nuclear sources in
Ontario, Canada, for units placed in service in 2002, in 1989 Canadian dollars.
Ontario Hydro. 5.5 SAFETY ASPECTS
Originally licensed in Canada, the CANDU 6 design has also been licensed in
every country where it has been installed over the past two decades. With the Wolsong 2,
3 and 4 plants in the Republic of Korea, it met all requirements for licensing in both
Canada and Korea, the latter having licensed both PWR and Candu systems.
The Canadian regulator, the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), generally
plays a role in the transfer of expertise to international regulatory bodies. Part of the licensing acceptability is its approach to safety. Long operating experience under a wide
range of demanding conditions bears this out. The unique defense-in-depth design
incorporates tri-level passiveness. Preventative boundaries and independent shut-down
systems are built into the design at multiple levels.
The design has established a long history of minimizing radiation doses to the
operating staff. This has contributed to ease of plant maintenance which, in turn, has
contributed to operating reliability and lower operating costs.
The power plants are highly automated, requiring only a minimum of manual
operator action. Each plant has two independent digital computers which operate
continuously, one operating and one on standby.
The safety systems include two independent and fully capable shutdown systems.
To provide maximum safety, the systems are separated physically and functionally.
The moderator operates at low pressure and temperature, completely separate
from the primary heat transport coolant circuit, providing a large body of water capable
of absorbing excess heat.
Power plants have an emergency core cooling system and a containment system.
In the event of a Loss Of Coolant Accident (LOCA), the reactor safety system will
automatically shut down the reactor, isolate the defective primary heat transport coolant
circuit, and assure a supply of cooling water over the fuel. 5.6 ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS
A CANDU 6 reactor produces about 24 cubic meters of used fuel bundles per
year, a volume that would fit into a small room. The design of the power plant is such
that these wastes are controlled and represent no threat to station personnel or to the
public at large. Fig. 10: Concrete silos temporarily store the used fuel elements allowing cooling
before final recycling or disposal. The 700 MWe class nuclear power plant saves the burning of about 84 million
metric tonnes of coal or about 330 million barrels of oil over a 40-year period and the
millions of tonnes of acid-producing NOx and SOx atmospheric pollutants these fossil
fuels would generate. It avoids the release of 196 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over
its lifetime, an amount that would be produced by a fossil-fuelled plant of equal size.
Air and water discharges are free of such contaminants as heavy metals, organic
compounds and acid gases. Radioactivity releases in any form are closely monitored, and
are consistently less than 1 percent of those permitted by regulatory standards.
Power stations occupy relatively little land since space is not required for large
coal storage and ash disposal areas. As an example, the CANDU 6 at Point Lepreau
produces about 300 kgs of used fuel per day. An equivalent coal-fired station produces
eight metric tonnes of fly ash and 1,440 metric tonnes of solid ash per day. 5.7 WASTE MANAGEMENT
The overall waste handling philosophy and strategy, which has been the subject of
50 years of continuing research and development, is to provide interim storage at the
reactor site, followed by permanent disposal underground in geologically stable
Used nuclear fuel has been stored in water filled pools at HWR nuclear generating
stations for 25 years and can be stored in this way for many decades. The use of concrete
canisters or silos for dry storage of used HWR reactor fuel is now coming into wide use
because it provides safe storage at lower cost than water filled storage pools.
At the Point Lepreau plant, after at least seven years under water, the spent fuel
which would have seen a decrease in radioactivity of about 99 percent is moved to on-site
dry storage canisters, where each year's discharge fills about 10 canisters.
The MACSTOR above-ground dry storage system for spent HWR fuel, suitable
as well as fuel from other reactor types such as the PWR, BWR and VVER, has been
developed. It features cooling and shielding, easy fuel retrievability for future off site
disposal, resistance to earthquakes and tornadoes, and low construction and operating
costs. A MACSTOR unit was installed in a record five and a half months at Hydro
Quebec's Gentilly-2 CANDU station in 1995. 5.8 DISCUSSION
The HWR concept has evolved over the past 3 decades into a proven design with
high reliability and worldwide acceptability. As more HWR units enter service, operator
and customer feedback will continue to be the major contributions to its evolution. Fig. 11: Cutout diagram showing a Candu 9 plant setup. The HWR remains a world leader in terms of reliability, high capacity factor and
power production. There were as of 2005, 39 HWRs in operation worldwide and 8 under
construction. The number of countries with HWRs were 7 with a total generating
capacity of 20 GWe and a substantial history of operating experience of 775
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This note was uploaded on 06/16/2010 for the course NPRE 402 taught by Professor Ragheb during the Spring '08 term at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
- Spring '08