Natural Circulation & Cooling of Fluids

Natural circulation is frequently the primary means of cooling for pool-type reactors and for irradiated fuel assemblies stored in pools of water after removal from the reactor. The heat source is the fuel assembly. The heat sink is the bulk of the water in the pool.

Water at the bottom of a fuel assembly absorbs energy generated by the assembly. The water increases in temperature and decreases in density. Gravity pulls cooler (more dense) water into the bottom of the assembly displacing the warmer water. The warmer (lighter) water is forced to give up its position to the cooler (heavier) water. The warmer (lighter) water rises higher in the assembly. As water travels up the length of the assembly, it absorbs more energy. The water becomes lighter and lighter being continuously forced upward by more dense water moving in below it. In turn, the cooler water absorbs energy from the assembly and is also forced to rise as natural circulation flow continues. Water exiting the top of the fuel assembly gives up its energy as it mixes with the bulk of the water in the pool. The bulk of the water in the pool is commonly cooled by circulation through heat exchangers in a separate process.

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