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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Nuclear Air‐Brayton Combined Cycle Power Conversion Design, Physical Performance Estimation and Economic Assessment

  • Author(s): Andreades, Charalampos
  • Advisor(s): Peterson, Per F
  • et al.

The combination of an increased demand for electricity for economic development in parallel with the widespread push for adoption of renewable energy sources and the trend toward liberalized markets has placed a tremendous amount of stress on generators, system operators, and consumers. Non-guaranteed cost recovery, intermittent capacity, and highly volatile market prices are all part of new electricity grids.

In order to try and remediate some of these effects, this dissertation proposes and studies the design and performance, both physical and economic, of a novel power conversion system, the Nuclear Air-Brayton Combined Cycle (NACC). The NACC is a power conversion system that takes a conventional industrial frame type gas turbine, modifies it to accept external nuclear heat at 670°C, while also maintaining its ability to co-fire with natural gas to increase temperature and power output at a very quick ramp rate. The NACC addresses the above issues by allowing the generator to gain extra revenue through the provision of ancillary services in addition to energy payments, the grid operator to have a highly flexible source of capacity to back up intermittent renewable energy sources, and the consumer to possibly see less volatile electricity prices and a reduced probability of black/brown outs.

This dissertation is split into six sections that delve into specific design and economic issues related to the NACC. The first section describes the basic design and modifications necessary to create a functional externally heated gas turbine, sets a baseline design based upon the GE 7FB, and estimates its physical performance under nominal conditions.

The second section explores the off-nominal performance of the NACC and characterizes its startup and shutdown sequences, along with some of its safety measures. The third section deals with the power ramp rate estimation of the NACC, a key performance parameter in a renewable-heavy grid that needs flexible capacity. The fourth section lays out the cost structure of the Mk1 Pebble-Bed Fluoride-salt-cooled High-temperature Reactor (FHR) with the NACC, since the NACC cannot be treated separately from its heat source.

The fifth section evaluates the cost structure of a twelve-unit Mk1 FHR and NACC, including capital construction costs, operating costs, fuel and decommissioning costs in bottom up methodology. The sixth section proposes alternative NACC configurations and scales (mobile, remote NACC) or alternative power cycles to the NACC that can be coupled to the FHR (supercritical carbon dioxide Brayton cycle).

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