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Dynamic Computer Model of a Stirling Space Nuclear Power System

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Research paper

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In this project the components of a Stirling space nuclear power system were modeled using MATLABRegistered and SimulinkRegistered under both steady state and transient conditions. Using information provided through NASAs Glenn Research Center, the Department of Energys Naval Reactors, and literature from previous work in nuclear space power systems, the system architecture was developed. At steady state, the space power system was designed to produce 200 kWe and consisted of a NaK cooled fast reactor linked to four Stirling power converters via two NaK heat transfer loops connected by heat exchangers. A third NaK heat transfer loop was used to transport the waste heat of the Stirling converters to radiator panels, which radiate the heat into ambient space. Heat pipes were modeled which linked the secondary heat transfer loop to the Stirling converters and the third heat transfer loop to the radiator panels. An alternator was used to convert the thermal power input of the Stirling converters into electrical power. The model was based on combining the point reactor kinetic equations with transient energy, force, volume, and mass balances for system components outside the reactor. The model was tested with dynamic perturbations that included small reactivity changes in the reactor, Stirling converter failures, effects of planetary albedo, and electrical resistance load changes. At steady state, the model produced the expected temperatures, pressures, flow rates, and heat flows. The dynamic simulations indicated that the overall system would be load following and stable to external perturbations. However, in cases that varied the electrical load resistance, the thermal efficiency of the Stirling converters were significantly affected.

Subject Categories:

  • Electrical and Electronic Equipment
  • Electric Power Production and Distribution
  • Computer Programming and Software
  • Thermodynamics

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