Summary Course Description:
This is a laboratory-based course that uses the UMass-Lowell Research Reactor (UMLRR) to illustrate, validate, and expand upon a mix of topics from reactor core physics, reactor operations and control, and balance-of-plant/energy removal considerations in nuclear systems. Typical experiments may include topics such as illustrating how to use the concept of subcritical multiplication to safely approach a critical state, the demonstration of various techniques for measuring reactivity, the actual generation of blade worth curves within the UMLRR, and the analysis of various reactor kinetics and dynamics scenarios (including temperature and xenon effects). Matlab is used for data analysis and for reactor simulation, as appropriate.
The course is offered as an Internet-based Reactor Lab (IRL) experience. The students participate in the reactor labs via the UMLRR Online application which allows real-time remote access to data from the reactor, and via web-based chat capability with the reactor operators and course instructor. The course instructor provides the class lectures and moderates the lab sessions using a remote conferencing tool. Everyone is able to observe and interact directly with the reactor staff during the labs and have access to the same real-time data available to the reactor operators. After completion of each reactor lab sequence, the composite operations data can be downloaded and used with offline visualization and data analysis tools to help extract and analyze the data pertinent for a given experiment. Pre-analysis and post-analysis of the reactor labs/demos are required as part of a sequence of structured weekly HW assignments. Regular involvement/interaction during class via routine informal discussions and a few short semi-formal oral presentations is also expected of all students.
Last Taught: The last time I taught this course was during Spring 2018.
Course-Related Educational Resources:
Note that, since this was not a traditional lecture course, the organization of the resource materials available here is quite different from most of the other courses included on the profjrwhite.com website. Please be aware that there is a lot of good stuff available here via the several links given below, containing a variety of Lecture Notes, PowerPoint Presentations, Matlab GUIs, Demos, and Examples, pre-lab and post-lab HW sets (with some solutions/analyses) and, of course, several files containing actual UMLRR operations data for the live reactor demos and experiments performed in Spring 2018. The available resource material is organized in a fashion similar to the way the material was presented and distributed during the actual IRL class -- which is best described in the course syllabus used in Spring 2018.
To get a decent overview of the actual UMLRR facility and the philosophy/approach behind the development of the Reactor Experiments course at UMass-Lowell, you might also want to look at the following conference papers that were presented on this subject:
J. R. White, “New Reactor Experiments Course at the University of Massachusetts Lowell”, Proceedings Research Reactor Fuel Management Conference (RRFM 2013), St. Petersburg, Russia (April 2013). (full version)
J. R. White and L. M. Bobek, “Facility Highlights and Reactor Labs Available at the UMass-Lowell Research Reactor” IAEA Specialists Meeting on Research Reactor Utilization for Higher Education Programs, Vienna, Austria (June 2014). (full version)
Resource List (ordered by Reactor Demo/Lab):
Reactor Demo #0 -- UMLRR Overview and Data Acquisition Demo
This demo highlights the available data acquisition tools used in this class. The goal here is to demonstrate the procedure for performing data acquisition and analysis using a variety of available Matlab-based tools, as well as the live UMLRR_Online application that allows remote access to real-time data from the UMLRR. This page contains links to all the files directly associated with the in-class demo. It also contains the PowerPoint slides used to overview the UMLRR facility.
Upon completion of this lesson, the student should be quite familiar with the UMLRR and the locally-available data acquisition and data analysis tools that are used in all subsequent experiments.
Reactor Demo #1 -- Review of Reactor Kinetics and Typical Reactor Startup Procedure
This lesson presents a review/overview of reactor kinetics and dynamics, with focus on the Generation Time Formulation of Point Kinetics. After appropriate review, an actual reactor demonstration that overviews a typical startup in the UMLRR is given -- and the history file from the Spring 2018 demo is included here. Thus, this page contains links to the review/overview of reactor kinetics and dynamics (including the Matlab-based kinetics_gui code), as well as actual reactor data from the UMLRR startup demo.
Upon completion of this lesson, the student should have a good understanding of point kinetics and how the UMLRR is brought from a subcritical shutdown condition to critical power operation. This "startup sequence" is performed on a regular basis each time the reactor is started.
Reactor Demo #2 -- Reactor Operations Demo and Point Kinetics Simulations with Matlab
The goals of this lesson are to review several key concepts from the last class on Reactor Kinetics, to discuss how to use Matlab to simulate some typical reactor transients, to illustrate the effect of inherent feedbacks on reactor behavior, and to observe and discuss a sequence of real operational transients within the UMLRR. This page contains links to the history file from the Reactor Operations Demo performed on Feb. 6, 2018 and some sample Matlab scripts and functions that illustrate how to solve the point kinetics equations for some typical reactor transients.
Upon completion of this lesson, the student should have a solid foundation in the reactor kinetics and dynamics area, and a good understanding of several typical operational transients that can occur in real reactor cores. You should also be comfortable in using Matlab's ODE solvers to simulate reactor transients with and without feedback effects.
Reactor Lab #1 -- Approach to Critical Experiment
The purpose of this experiment is to use the concept of the subcritical multiplication factor to predict the critical height of a control blade within the UMass-Lowell Research Reactor (UMLRR). Performing an "Approach to Critical" experiment by plotting the traditional 1/M curves is an excellent means for illustrating the behavior of subcritical systems, for highlighting the importance of the subcritical multiplication factor, and for showing how knowledge of the detector count rate in different configurations can give an experimental methodology for predicting when a system will reach the critical state. This page contains links to all the files directly associated with these subjects and with Reactor Lab #1.
Upon completion of this experiment, the student should have a better understanding of subcritical systems and how to use the 1/M method to predict when criticality will occur in the system.
NOTE: Knowledge of the blade worth curves is essential for day-to-day operation of the UMLRR and it is also needed for the pre-lab and post-lab analyses associated with most of the experiments peformed over the course of the semester. Thus, this page also contains a link to the available 2018 data (and earlier) for the integral blade worth curves for the UMLRR, as well as a Matlab GUI (bw_display) that allows easy visualization and application of these data.
Reactor Lab #2 -- Reactivity Measurement Techniques
The purpose of this experiment is to become familiar with various techniques for measuring reactivity changes and reactivity levels within a variety of reactor configurations. This page contains links to all the files directly associated with Reactor Lab #2.
Upon completion of this experiment, the student should have a better understanding of various methods for measuring reactivity changes and the subcritical reactivity level, and be able to apply and interpret the four methods discussed as part of the lab.
Reactor Lab #3 -- Measuring Integral Blade Worth Curves within the UMLRR
The purpose of this experiment is to become familiar with various techniques for measuring blade worth curves within the UMLRR -- with focus on the Inverse Kinetics Method. In addition, an effort is made to validate the simple feedback-free point kinetics model that has been used to illustrate the various reactor operations scenarios addressed so far this semester, and also to formally benchmark the (recently-implemented) Inverse Kinetics capability at UMass-Lowell. This page contains links to the many files directly associated with Reactor Lab #3.
Upon completion of this experiment, the student should have a better understanding of various methods for measuring integral worth curves for a real reactor, and have more confidence in our ability to predict the approximate feedback-free behavior of a reactor via numerical solution of the point kinetics equations.
Reactor Lab #4 -- Reactivity Feedback Effects
The purpose of this experiment is to address temperature and xenon effects within the UMLRR and to develop and validate a complete dynamics simulation of the UMLRR core that includes all the appropriate feedback mechanisms. This page contains links to the many files directly associated with Reactor Lab #4.
Upon completion of this experiment, the student should have a better understanding of the inherent feedbacks that occur in thermal systems, and be able to identify and discuss the key feedback components that are present in different situations. In addition, you should be able to understand and utilize a simple 11-equation dynamics model of the UMLRR and be able to design and simulate different reactor sequences to illustrate various feedback mechanisms, including both the fuel and coolant temperatures and the buildup/decay of Xe-135.
Last updated by Prof. John R. White (March 2020)
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