Simulated transient dynamics and heat transfer characteristics of the water boiler nuclear reactor – SUPO – with cooling coil heat extraction

Andrew Buchan, Christopher C. Pain, Anthony J.H. Goddard, Matthew D. Eaton, Jefferson L.M.A. Gomes, Gerard J. Gorman, Chris C. Cooling, Brendan Tollit, Erick T. Nygaard, Peter L. Angelo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The term “water boiler” reactor refers to a type of aqueous homogeneous reactor (AHR) that was designed, built and operated by Los Alamos in the 1940s. This was the first type of liquid fuelled reactor and the first to be fuelled with enriched Uranium. For security reasons the term “water boiler” was adopted and three versions were built: LOPO (for low power), HYPO (for high power) and SUPO (for super power) which were spherical shaped reactor vessels. The name was appropriate as the reactors appeared to boil although this was actually due to the release of radiolytic gas bubbles; although SUPO was operated during some studies close to the boiling point of uranyl nitrate. The final water boiler “SUPO” was operated almost daily as a neutron source from 1951 until its deactivation in 1974-23 years of safe, reliable operation. Many of the key neutron measurements needed in the design of the early atomic weapons were made using LOPO, HYPO and SUPO. More recently SUPO has been considered as a benchmark for quasi-steady-state operation of AHRs with internal cooling structures.

This paper presents modelling and analysis of the coupled neutronic and fluid time dependent characteristics of the SUPO reactor. In particular the quasi-steady-state dynamics of SUPO have been investigated together with its heat transfer characteristics. In the simulations presented the SUPO reactor is modelled using the spatially dependent neutron/multiphase CFD simulation tool, FETCH, at a quasi-steady-state power of 25 kW. SUPO also possessed a cooling coil system that fed cooling water through the reactor for the extraction of the fission and decay heat. This cooling system, and the heat extraction, is modelled in the simulations using a new sub-modelling approach that is detailed here. The results from this simulation, such as gas fraction, gas generation rate, coolant rate and average temperature, are compared against the available experimental information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-83
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of Nuclear Energy
Issue number-
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


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