Light Weight Space Power Reactors for Nuclear Electric Propulsion

H. Ludewig, S. Mughabghab, O. Lazareth, K. Perkins, E. Schmidt, J.R. Powell
1991 Fusion Technology  
A Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP) unit capable of propelling a manned vehicle to MARS will be required to have a value of a (kg/kWe) which is less than five. In order to meet this goal the reactor mass, and thus its contribution to the value of a will have to be minimized. In this paper a candidate for such a reactor is described. It consists of a gas cooled Particle Bed Reactor (PBR), with specially chosen materials which allow it to operate at an exit temperature of approximately 2000 K.
more » ... of the unique features of a PBR is the direct cooling of particulate fuel by the working fluid. This feature allows for high power densities, highest possible gas exit temperatures, for a given fuel temperature and because of the thin particle bed a low pressure drop. The PBR's described in this paper will have a ceramic moderator (BejC), ZrC coated fuel particles and a carbon/carbon hot frit. All the reactors will be designed with sufficient fissile loading to operate at full power for seven years. The burn up possible with particulate fuel is approximately 30%-50%. These reactor designs achieve a value of a less than unity in the power range of interest (5 MWe).
doi:10.13182/fst91-a11946931 fatcat:acykhjdygfcvzdrw3dwl2wr6li