Investigation of Alternative Layouts for the Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Brayton Cycle for a Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor

by Anton Moisseytsev & Jim Sienicki
Argonne National Laboratory

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Analyses of S-CO2 Brayton cycle performance have largely settled in on the recompression supercritical cycle (or Feher cycle) incorporating a flow split between the main compressor downstream of heat rejection, a recompressing compressor providing direct compression without heat rejection, and high and low temperature recuperators to raise the effectiveness of recuperation and the cycle efficiency. Alternative cycle layouts have been previously examined by Angelino (Politecnico, Milan), by MIT (Dostal, Hejzlar, and Driscoll), and possibly others but not for Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactors (SFRs) operating at relatively low core outlet temperature. Thus, the present authors could not be sure that the recompression cycle is an optimal arrangement for application to the SFR. To ensure that an advantageous alternative layout has not been overlooked, several alternative cycle layouts have been investigated for a S-CO2 Brayton cycle coupled to a SFR having a 510°C core outlet temperature and a 470°C turbine inlet temperature to determine if they provide any benefit in cycle performance (e.g., enhanced cycle efficiency). No such benefits were identified, consistent with the previous examinations, such that attention was devoted to optimizing the recompression supercritical cycle. The effects of optimizing the cycle minimum temperature and pressure are investigated including minimum temperatures and/or pressures below the critical values. It is found that improvements in the cycle efficiency of 1% or greater relative to previous analyses which arbitrarily fixed the minimum temperature and pressure can be realized through an optimal choice of the combination of the minimum cycle temperature and pressure (e.g., for a fixed minimum temperature there is an optimal minimum pressure). However, this leads to a requirement for a larger cooler for heat rejection which may impact the tradeoff between efficiency and capital cost. In addition, for minimum temperatures below the critical temperature, a lower heat sink temperature is required the availability of which is dependent upon the climate at the specific plant site.