Xenon-135  Oscillations

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Reactor Theory (Nuclear Parameters) DOE-HDBK-1019/2-93 XENON Negative xenon reactivity, also called xenon poisoning, may provide sufficient negative reactivity to  make  the  reactor  inoperable  because  there  is  insufficient  positive  reactivity  available  from control rod  removal or chemical shim  dilution (if used) to  counteract it.   The  inability of the reactor to be started due to the effects of xenon is sometimes referred to as a xenon precluded startup.   The period  of time  where the reactor  is  unable  to "override"  the effects  of xenon  is called xenon dead time.   Because the amount of excess core reactivity available to override the negative  reactivity  of  the  xenon  is  usually  less  than  10%  Dk/k,  thermal  power  reactors  are normally limited to flux levels of about 5 x 1013 neutrons/cm2-sec so that timely restart can be ensured after shutdown. For reactors with very low thermal flux levels (~5 x 1012 neutrons/cm2-sec or less), most xenon is removed by decay as opposed to neutron absorption.   For these cases, reactor shutdown does not cause any xenon-135 peaking effect. Following the peak in xenon-135 concentration about 10 hours after shutdown, the xenon-135 concentration will decrease at a rate controlled by the decay of iodine-135 into xenon-135 and the decay rate of xenon-135.   For some reactors, the xenon-135 concentration about 20 hours after shutdown from full power will be the same as the equilibrium xenon-135 concentration at full power.   About 3 days after shutdown, the xenon-135 concentration will have decreased to a small percentage of its pre-shutdown level, and the reactor can be assumed to be xenon free without a significant error introduced into reactivity calculations. Xenon-135  Oscillations Large thermal reactors with little flux coupling between regions may experience spatial power oscillations because of the non-uniform presence of xenon-135.  The mechanism is described in the following four steps. (1) An initial lack of symmetry in the core power distribution (for example, individual control rod movement or misalignment) causes an imbalance in fission rates within the reactor core, and therefore, in the iodine-135 buildup and the xenon-135 absorption. (2) In the high-flux region, xenon-135 burnout allows the flux to increase further, while in the low-flux region, the increase in xenon-135 causes a further reduction in flux.   The iodine concentration increases where the flux is high and decreases where the flux is low. (3) As soon as the iodine-135 levels build up sufficiently, decay to xenon reverses the initial situation.  Flux decreases in this area, and the former low-flux region increases in power. (4) Repetition of these patterns  can lead to xenon oscillations moving about the core with periods on the order of about 15 hours. With little change in overall power level, these oscillations can change the local power levels by a factor of three or more.   In a reactor system with strongly negative temperature coefficients, the xenon-135 oscillations are damped quite readily.   This is one reason for designing reactors to have negative moderator-temperature coefficients. NP-03 Rev. 0 Page 39


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