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RBMK - Slovakia and Bulgaria

  1. Mar 9, 2009 #1
    Hi,

    Which are the major falws of an RBMK reactor.

    I have found three:
    1. fixed graphite moderator that doesn't act as the LWR reactor to slow down the chain fissions when the temprature in the core gets to hot
    2. the missing containment building ,or inapropiate one . Can someone explain what wasthe issue of the RBMK containment building, cause on wikipedia it is said that the RBMK has a caontainment building , and the documentaries over Chernobyl that I've seen show a containment building with a seeiling of many hundreds -thousand tones of concrete
    3. the control rods had a graphite head, which were increasing the reactivity in the first miliseconds when the control rods were introduced.

    I do not want to focus on what happened at Chernobyl.

    I'm very much interested why the EU doesn't accepteven now the so called improved RBMKs that were present in Slovakia and Bulgaria.
    I must confese though that I do not know details about those improvements.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 9, 2009 #2

    QuantumPion

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    Well as for #2, that concrete structure over Chernobyl wasn't there until after the accident! It was built around the reactor building to keep in the radioactivity several years after the fact.

    I think the reason the EU doesn't like the remaining RBMK's around is just because of the fear of Chernobyl. With proper operation, the reactors can be operated safely and have been for decades, although they are still riskier then western designs.
     
  4. Mar 9, 2009 #3

    Astronuc

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  5. Mar 9, 2009 #4

    QuantumPion

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    I know there is one in Lithuania anyway. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the one power station with 2 RBMK reactors provided like 80% of the country's electricity.
     
  6. Mar 9, 2009 #5

    Astronuc

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    I forgot about Ignalina, which may be the only RBMK's outside of Russia and Ukraine (Chernobyl).

    AFAIK, at least on of the Ignalina units is shutdown.
    http://insp.pnl.gov/-profiles-ignalina-ig.htm
    http://www.iaea.org/programmes/a2/

    But sometimes the published information is not updated or is incorrect.
     
  7. Mar 10, 2009 #6
    I recall the accident story, when it was said that the blast at Chernobyl distroyed the thousands of tons of ceiling.

    This is what I wanted to achieve with this thread to understand which are those differences in design between the RBMK's and the western design, that make RBMK's more dangerous. I have identified three reasons, but I'm not sure of them, I'm not an expert in the area.

    Moreover I see that I was wong about Bulgaria and Slovakia which have VVERs not RBMKs.


    P.S. Sorry for the previous post, I was in the airport and the metal keyboard was killing me.
     
  8. Mar 10, 2009 #7

    vanesch

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    I think the main reason is that thermal runaway is not physically impossible in an RBMK.
    This means that a Chernobyl-type accident is possible in the first place.
     
  9. Mar 10, 2009 #8

    Morbius

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    jimmy,

    You are wrong about the above. As it heats up, graphite ALSO expands and lowers the reactivity just
    as water does. The graphite may not be in direct contact with the fuel so that it doesn't respond as fast
    as the coolant does - but just because the RBMK had a fixed graphite moderator is NOT in and of itself
    a design defect. The graphite moderator at Chernobyl DID respond - but in the wrong direction.

    The problem with the RBMK is that it was "over moderated". The RBMK is actually a scaled up version
    of a Soviet nuclear weapons production reactor. The RBMK was meant to provide both power and more
    nuclear weapons material.

    Essentially an RBMK is 8 of these production reactors stacked in a 2 X 2 X 2 cube. The problem is that
    the Soviet engineers didn't redesign the fuel. Because of its larger size, the RBMK has less neutron
    leakage and therefore requires less moderation.

    You want a reactor to be "under moderated". That way if you lose moderation - the reactivity of the
    reactor will go down - as will the power. In the RBMK, it was "over moderated" - it had more than
    enough graphite moderator to do the job - and the excess actually interferes with the reaction. In such
    a reactor, when the graphite heats up, and the effective moderation goes down - you are only getting
    rid of excess moderator - and reactivity goes UP, not down; and the power also goes UP.

    The design flaw is NOT that the reactor uses fixed graphite as a moderator. The USA's Hanford
    "N Reactor" was a large fixed graphite moderator reactor that provided both power and nuclear
    weapons material. However, the N Reactor was properly designed and was stable.
    Many of the anti-nukes like to claim that Chernobyl had a containment building. On a recent radio program
    on KGO Radio 810 in San Francisco; the guest Harvey Wasserman claimed that the Chernobyl RBMK
    had a containment building which failed.

    A true containment building has thick walls of concrete. Here is a graphic of the RBMK courtesy of the
    International Nuclear Safety Center [ INSC ] at Argonne National Laboratory:

    http://www.insc.anl.gov/sov_des/rbmk.php [Broken]

    See the big thick concrete wall [ speckled yellow ] to the right of the number "8" denoting the refueling
    machine. Follow that up. You see it STOPS just above the bridge crane. The whole top of the
    reactor building is just a regular industrial building. A containment building has thick concrete walls
    that completely surround the reactor.

    Yes - that is another design defect.

    However, the NUMBER ONE reason that Chernobyl had an accident - is that they conducted their
    experiment in the middle of a Xenon Transient.

    When you shutdown or lower the power of a nuclear reactor; it undergoes a temporary transient
    build up of Xenon-135. Xenon-135 is an EXTREMELY potent neutron absorber.

    The operators had lowered the power of the reactor in preparation for an experiment that they were
    going to run. The load controller in Kiev called and asked for the plant to remain online because the
    power was needed. It was about 12 hours later that the load controller released the plant from the grid.

    That time delay allowed the buildup of Xenon-135 that those who planned the experiment hadn't
    anticipated. The reactor was very UNSTABLE in the Xenon-poisoned state at low power.
    The operators had to BYPASS the safety features of the reactor and withdraw more control rods
    than normally allowed in order to keep the reactor going.

    With the reactor in this VERY UNSTABLE condition - they should have canceled their experiment.
    However, they pressed on under UNPLANNED FOR conditions - and the result is history.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Physicist
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  10. Mar 10, 2009 #9
    Hi,

    Thank you for your reply.

    What about the VVER reactors, that EU is still pushing to be closed, as I understood that they are better than the RBMKs, however why does EU want them so much closed, it must be some safety risk that they are seeing.

    Do you think the disadvantages mentioned by Astronuc here http://insp.pnl.gov/-profiles-reactors-vver230.htm, are enough to produce such a fear in the EU that they will push so much for closing the reactors?

    Ofchourse here we are starting to touch the politics side of the EU decision, however I think that the politics side is allways based on some technical realities.

    Thanks
     
  11. Mar 10, 2009 #10

    Morbius

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    jimmy,

    I don't know much about the design of the VVER reactors - except that they are better than the RBMKs.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Physicist
     
  12. Mar 10, 2009 #11

    vanesch

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    Outch ! :bugeye:
     
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