Boiling water reactor

The boiling water reactor (BWR) uses ordinary water (light water) as both its coolant and its moderator. In the BWR the water in the reactor core is permitted to boil, and the steam generated is used directly to drive a steam turbine. This steam is then condensed and recycled back to the reactor core.

This arrangement represents probably the simplest possible for a nuclear reactor because no additional steam generators are required. However the internal systems within a BWR are complex. Steam pressure and temperature are low compared to a modern coal-fired power plant and the steam turbine is generally very large. BWRs have capacities of up to 1400 MW and an efficiency of around 33%.

The BWR uses enriched uranium as its fuel. This fuel is placed into the reactor in the form of uranium oxide pellets in zirconium alloy tubes.

Figure 17.1 Diagram of a BWR

Refuelling a BWR involves removing the top of the reactor. The core itself is kept under water, the water shielding operators from radioactivity.

In common with all reactors, the fuel rods removed from a BWR reactor core are extremely radioactive and continue to produce energy for some years. They are normally kept in a carefully controlled storage pool at the plant before, in principle at least, being shipped for either reprocessing or final storage.

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