The BWR is a power reactor; that is, it is designed to generate electrical power.
The most important feature of the Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) is that it uses light water (ordinary water) as a neutron moderator and a core coolant. Unlike the pressurized water reactor (PWR), it does not have a steam generator.
This type of light water reactor has a primary circuit and a secondary circuit. In this case, the BWR reactor operates with a single water circuit in the core.
As it does not have to withstand such high pressures, this type of reactor does not need such a robust casing.
The first BWR was an experimental reactor called Borax I, built by the Argonne National Laboratory and General Electric (GE) in Idaho, the United States, in 1952.
Scheme of the Operation of a Boiling Water Reactor
The reactor power is regulated by inserting or removing the control rods from the core, where nuclear chain reactions occur.
In the BWR reactor, the water used is light water (ordinary water). This type of nuclear reactor uses a single cooling circuit. In contrast, whit HWR and PHWR reactors, which are cooled and moderated by heavy water. Light water circulates through the nucleus, capturing the heat from nuclear reactions, boils, producing water and steam.
The steam produced in the reactor core goes out from the top. At this point, steam dryers separate water and treat the moisture leaving the reactor, and then it goes straight to the turbines.
Finally, the steam passes through a condenser to turn it into liquid water again and start the cycle again.
The boiling water reactor uses a single cooling circuit so that the steam that drives the turbine is made up of water passed through the inside of the reactor. For this reason, the turbine building must be protected to avoid radioactive emissions.
Some early BWRs and the proposed ESBWR designs use only natural circulation.
Boiling Water Reactor, Advantages, and Disadvantages
Benefits of This Type of Reactor
The boiling water reactor does not use steam generators or pressure compensators.
It requires lower operating temperatures, even at fuel rods.
The pressure vessel is subjected to less irradiation than in a pressurized water reactor. For this reason, the reactor vessel does not become so fragile with age.
Disadvantages of This Type of Reactor
The management of the station is more complicated.
The control rods must be inserted from below. In case of a loss of power, they could not fall into the reactor by gravity, and the reactor would not stop.
Need for a more significant number of feedback sensors.
You need a reactor vessel of about two times more in volume than a PWR of comparable power.
Although designed for lower pressure, it is more challenging to manufacture and transport.
Turbine contamination with water activation products: short-lived N-17 and traces of tritium. It complicates maintenance work quite a bit.
Once the control bars have fully entered, the reaction is stopped. However, nuclear fuel continues to emit heat. It means that after the reactor is shut down, you have to keep pumping coolant for one to three years to be safe.