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Conceptual Analysis of Criticality Aspects of Fission Electric Cell Reactors

[+] Author Affiliations
Jamie Cash, Gary Rochau, Donald King, Charles Morrow

Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM

Paper No. ICONE10-22545, pp. 151-156; 6 pages
  • 10th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering
  • 10th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering, Volume 4
  • Arlington, Virginia, USA, April 14–18, 2002
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-3598-7 | eISBN: 0-7918-3589-8
  • Copyright © 2002 by ASME


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Direct Energy Conversion project has a goal of developing direct energy conversion (DEC) processes suitable for commercial development. DEC is any fission process that returns usable energy with no intermediate thermal process. This project includes the study of the fission electric cell (FEC). In the FEC, fission fragments exit the fuel element cathode and are collected by the cell anode. Previous work [1] has shown the potential of FECs with theoretical efficiencies up to 60%. Inspection of this work indicates the need for additional system criticality studies prior to any conclusions regarding the final FEC reactor configuration. This paper outlines the development of models to facilitate reactor criticality design decisions. The models address criticality, design life, and reactor configuration. In addition, this paper proposes future work to complete the criticality model. The direct energy conversion concept converts nuclear energy to electrical energy without the use of a Carnot cycle based system. Kinetic energy of the highly charged fission fragments is converted directly into electrical potential using strong magnetic fields to separate the positive fission fragments from the electrons that are also produced during the fission process. A parametric analysis is performed using Monte Carlo N-Particle (MCNP) [2] simulations to calculate criticality for exact geometric models. The effect on criticality of changing enrichment, number of cells, size of cells, fuel thickness, and reactor size is determined. Heavy water, helium, and beryllium are each considered for a reflector design.

Copyright © 2002 by ASME
Topics: Nuclear fission



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