Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Nuclear Engineering

Major Professor

G. Ivan Maldonado

Committee Members

David H. Cook, Arthur E. Ruggles, Lawrence H. Heilbronn, Rao V. Arimilli


The computational ability to accurately predict the dynamic behavior of a nuclear reactor core in response to reactivity-induced perturbations is an important subject in the field of reactor physics. Space-time and point kinetics methodologies were developed for the purpose of studying the transient-induced behavior of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) High Flux Isotope Reactor’s (HFIR) compact core. The space-time simulations employed the three-group neutron diffusion equations, which were solved via the COMSOL partial differential equation coefficient application mode. The point kinetics equations were solved with the PARET code and the COMSOL ordinary differential equation application mode. The basic nuclear data were generated by the NEWT and MCNP5 codes and transients initiated by control cylinder and hydraulic tube rabbit ejections were studied.

The space-time models developed in this research only consider the neutronics aspect of reactor kinetics, and therefore, do not include fluid flow, heat transfer, or reactivity feedback. The research presented in this dissertation is the first step towards creating a comprehensive multiphysics methodology for studying the dynamic behavior of the HFIR core during reactivity-induced perturbations. The results of this study show that point kinetics is adequate for small perturbations in which the power distribution is assumed to be time-independent, but space-time methods must be utilized to determine localized effects.

En route to developing the kinetics methodologies, validation studies and methodology updates were performed to verify the exercise of major neutronic analysis tools at the HFIR. A complex MCNP5 model of HFIR was validated against critical experiment power distribution and effective multiplication factor data. The ALEPH and VESTA depletion tools were validated against post-irradiation uranium isotopic mass spectrographic data for three unique full power cycles. A TRITON model was developed and used to calculate the buildup and reactivity worth of helium-3 in the beryllium reflector, determine whether discharged beryllium reflectors are at transuranic waste limits for disposal purposes, determine whether discharged beryllium reflectors can be reclassified from hazard category 1 waste to category 2 or 3 for transportation and storage purposes, and to calculate the curium target rod nuclide inventory following irradiation in the flux trap.

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