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Supercritical Pressure Water for Nuclear Power Engineering


Assessment of the Potentialities of the Use of Supercritical Pressure Water for Nuclear Power Engineering

Tech Area / Field

  • FIR-ENG/Reactor Engineering and NPP/Fission Reactors
  • PHY-OTH/Other/Physics

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
FEI (IPPE), Russia, Kaluga reg., Obninsk


  • University of Manchester / School of Engineering, UK, Manchester\nToshiba Corporation / Isogo Nuclear Engineering Center, Japan, Yokohama\nKorea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korea, Taejon\nUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison / College of Engineering, Nuclear and Engineering Physics, USA, WI, Madison\nArgonne National Laboratory (ANL), USA, IL, Argonne\nFramatome ANP GmbH, Germany, Erlangen\nInternational Atomic Energy Agency, Austria, Vienna\nUniversity of Tokyo / Nuclear Engineering Research Laboratory, Japan, Tokyo\nKorea Atomic Energy Research Institute, Korea, Yusung Taejon\nSRI International / Stanford Research Institute, USA, CA, Menlo Park\nEcole Polytechnique de Montreal / Physics Engineering Department, Canada, QC, Montreal

Project summary

Project objectives. Carrying out the assessment of the potentialities of the use of supercritical pressure (SCP) water for nuclear power engineering with the aim of increasing the economic efficiency of power plants.

Comparison of their basic technical parameters both with the known power plants and those under development. Analysis of general safety problems. Preparation of an overview of published scientific information on problems of SCP power plants including experience accumulated in conventional power engineering.

Consideration for SCP conditions the following issues: physical processes, thermal hydraulic processes, water regimes under different operating conditions, solubility of structural materials as well as the peculiarities of equipment operation under high temperature and pressure conditions.

Determination of the available approaches to solve the problems of SCP power plants, which provide their efficiency, safety and minimal environmental impact.

Project background. There are following reasons to believe, that the results of researches carried out in the frame of the proposed project will have a pronounced effect on the current status of power engineering development.

Nowadays nuclear power engineering can be forced out from the electricity-production market because of high prices for electricity produced, if drastic measures are not taken to reduce capital outlay and the time for construction of new nuclear power plants (NPP). All this can occur in spite of low fuel component in the electricity cost, the provided resources and delivery of fuel, the minimal environmental impact, and a considerable potential of NPPs to mitigate the effect of greenhouse gas impact in the context of the international protocols.

Nuclear power plants generating electricity can not be competitive if their efficiency remains on a level of about 33-35%, whereas the efficiency in conventional power engineering approaches 50% already to-day. Significant increase in thermal efficiency can be achieved by transition to supercritical parameters of coolant.

The economy of NPPs is characterized by high capital component and low fuel component in the reduced expenditures. The cost of equipment and mounting the steam generating installation makes up approximately 70% of the total cost of power plant. Therefore possible reduction in capital investments can be primarily achieved through the technology scheme of reactor and nuclear power plants.

The once-through water cooled SCP reactors with thermal and fast neutrons have practically the identical thermal scheme and efficiency of about 44% and can be attractive for implementation in the 21st century. The ground for such assumption is based first of all on the experience of using water with supercritical parameters in conventional power engineering. The great advantage of once-through SCP power plants is the fact that it is possible to use commercial equipment, which almost are developed and mastered for thermal power plants.

Increasing the steam parameters, implementation of supercritical pressure, and, as a result, considerable increase of efficiency are the way, which the conventional power engineering based on organic fuel has followed in the past There are all grounds to believe, that nuclear power engineering will be forced to follow this way.

The identity of thermal schemes of NPPs with thermal and fast neutrons reactors, similar (nearly the same) temperature conditions and other parameters make it possible to provide a rather uniform structure of nuclear power engineering in the future. Moreover, the unification of equipment will be provided for power engineering on the whole, including thermal and nuclear ones. Thus, all these activities could result in a significant saving of financial resources, which are required to develop the power engineering complex of Russia.

Scope of activities. Fulfillment of a number of physical, thermal and strength evaluations, analysis of possible technical problems including the safety ones. In particular, for the project realization the researches should be performed on the following four basic tasks (sections):

Basic characteristics of SCP power plants

- Main features of thermodynamic cycle.

- Principal thermal schemes.
- Types of equipment.
- Weight and overall dimensions characteristics.
- Comparison of technical parameters of SCP power installations.

Thermal Hydraulics under SCP conditions

- Basic correlations for calculation of heat transfer at supercritical parameters of water flow.

- Control experimental investigations to model thermal hydraulic processes under SCP conditions:

a) preparation and mounting of the test facility equipped with control data acquisition system;
b) carrying out the control experiments;
c) analysis of obtained experimental results;

- Thermal hydraulic characteristics of heated channels under SCP.

Properties of Structural Materials under High Temperature and Pressure Conditions

- Mechanical properties of materials for different structural components of SCP power installations including materials of vessel, fuel rods, drive mechanism of control rods, pressure suppression system and others.

- Irradiation resistance of structural materials.

- Physical-chemical processes in water with supercritical parameters:

d) physical processes in water with supercritical parameters;
e) water-chemical regimes in the circuits;
f) solubility of structural materials in water with supercritical parameters.

- Strength characteristics of different structural elements.

General Safety Problems under SCP Conditions

- Problems of irradiation safety.

- Possible scenarios of accidents, probabilistic assessment of their safety and methods of their prevention.
- Assessment of consequences of LOCA accidents.

The following stages will be fulfilled within the frame of activities under the project:

- selection of scientific information;

- compilation of collected information;
- evaluation of basic parameters and comparison of technical characteristics;
- control experimental investigations;
- evaluation of strength characteristics with different factors considered;
- development of recommended correlations, which are most suitable for engineering evaluations;
- preparation of deliverables.

The control experimental investigations will be carried out on a special manufactured test section, which is mounted on the Thermophysical Freon test facility. These investigations are based on the thermal simulation methodology where such coolant as Freon-12 being characterized by low critical parameters (pressure, temperature, and heat capacity or heat evaporation) is used. This approach permits one to considerably simplify the fulfillment of experiments and reduce their cost as compared with those carried out with water. In treating experimental data a system of scaling factors will be employed, which enables thermophysical data from Freon to water to be scaled.

Expected results and their application. The project proposed refers to the category of applied researches in the field of reactor technology as well as thermophysics, physics of water liquid state, material science and strength.

In the course of the project fulfillment an overview of the published scientific information will be carried out on the problems of SCP power plants, with experience accumulated in conventional power engineering considered. It will include such issues as physical processes, thermal hydraulic processes under SCP, water regimes under different operating conditions, solubility of structural materials, peculiarities of equipment operation under high temperature and pressure conditions, mechanical properties of structural materials. On this background, physical, thermal and strength evaluations will be made; different technical problems, as well as safety problems will be considered.

The SSC RF – IPPE has a more than 50-years experience on the development of fast neutron reactors (physics, thermal physics, material science etc.). The accumulated experience as well as high skilled specialists and the variety of experimental facility could be a sufficient base to organize and carry out researches within the frame of the proposed project.

Complex consideration of the above mentioned problems will allow us to establish, whether pressure increase in advanced power installations is the main way for the development of nuclear power engineering just as it takes place in conventional power engineering.

The project is intended to be two years at the estimated total cost of the project of 285,000 US $. The deliverables will be prepared as a set of reports made as hard copies on the corresponded sections (tasks) of the proposed project in Russian and English, including their electronic versions on compact disks.

The economic efficiency of this project will be realized in the course of the development of more economical advanced power plants, the implementation of optimal thermal schemes, and the unification of power equipment for nuclear and conventional power engineering. Besides, the economic effect will be provided due to the advanced design methodology of power plants based on the results of the complex research within the frame of the proposed project.

Meeting ISTC goals and objectives. To solve the above mentioned tasks, weapon professionals from the SSC RF – IPPE, which earlier took part in R&D works on development, manufacturing and operation of transport nuclear power plants, including those for submarines and military space programs as well as industrial breeder reactors for production of fissionable materials, will be involved in project fulfillment. The activities within the frame of the project make it possible to redirect talents of these specialists to peaceful activity.

During cooperation with foreign collaborators by exchange of information, joint seminars, verification of results using independent methods and so on, the former weapon researchers and specialists will be integrated into the international scientific community.

The project realization will support fundamental and applied researches in the field of power production, nuclear safety and environmental protection. The proposed project meets the ISTC goals and objectives in the field of power production and safety of nuclear power plants.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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