Disk Conversion System for NERVA Reactor

Paper #:
  • 929204

  • 1992-08-03
Bernard, F., Holman, R., Jackson, W., Maxwell, C. et al., "Disk Conversion System for NERVA Reactor," SAE Technical Paper 929204, 1992, https://doi.org/10.4271/929204.
The combination of a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) generator of the disk type with a NERVA reactor yields an advanced power system particularly suited to space applications with the capability of producing up to gigawatt pulses and multi-megawatt continuous operation. Several unique features result from the combination of this type of reactor and a disk MHD generator in which hydrogen serves as the plasma working fluid. Cesium seeding is utilized under conditions which enable the generator to operate stably in the non-equilibrium electrical conduction mode. In common with all practical MHD generators, the disk output is DC and voltages in the range 20-100kV are attainable. This leads to a simplification of the power conditioning system and a major reduction in specific mass. Taken together with the high performance capabilities of the NERVA reactor, the result is an attractively low overall system specific mass. Further, the use of non-equilibrium ionization enables system specific enthalpy extractions in excess of 40% to be attained.This paper reports the results of a study to establish the basis for the design of a cesium seeded hydogen MHD disk generator. Generator performance results are presented in terms of a stability factor which is related to cesium seeded hydrogen plasma behavior. It is shown that application of the results already obtained with cesium seeded noble gases (argon and helium) to the case of hydrogen as the working fluid in a disk MHD generator enables a high performance power system to be defined. The paper concludes with recommendations for further work to establish plasma properties and generator performance for both space and terrestrial applications.
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