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Typical Pressures in Engineering – Examples

The pascal (Pa) as a unit of pressure measurement is widely used worldwide. It has largely replaced the pounds per square inch (psi) unit, except in some countries that still use the Imperial measurement system, including the United States. For most engineering problems, pascal (Pa) is a fairly small unit, so it is convenient to work with multiples of the pascal: the kPa, the MPa, or the bar. The following list summarizes a few examples:

  • Typically most nuclear power plants operate multi-stage condensing steam turbines. These turbines exhaust steam at a pressure well below atmospheric (e.g.,, at 0.08 bar or 8 kPa or 1.16 psia) and in a partially condensed state. In relative units, it is a negative gauge pressure of about – 0.92 bar, – 92 kPa, or – 13.54 psig.
  • The Standard Atmospheric Pressure approximates to the average pressure at sea-level at the latitude 45° N.  The Standard Atmospheric Pressure is defined at sea-level at 273oK (0oC) and is:
    • 101325 Pa
    • 1.01325 bar
    • 14.696 psi
    • 760 mmHg
    • 760 torr
  • Car tire overpressure is about 2.5 bar, 0.25 MPa, or 36 psig.
  • Steam locomotive fire tube boiler: 150–250 psig
  • A high-pressure stage of condensing steam turbine at nuclear power plant operates at steady state with inlet conditions of  6 MPa (60 bar, or 870 psig) t = 275.6°C, x = 1
  • A boiling water reactor is cooled and moderated by water like a PWR, but at a lower pressure (e.g.,, 7MPa, 70 bar, or 1015 psig), which allows the water to boil inside the pressure vessel producing the steam that runs the turbines.
  • Pressurized water reactors are cooled and moderated by high-pressure liquid water (e.g.,, 16MPa, 160 bar, or 2320 psig). At this pressure, water boils at approximately 350°C (662°F), which provides a subcooling margin of about 25°C.
  • The supercritical water reactor (SCWR) is operated at supercritical pressure. The term supercritical in this context refers to the thermodynamic critical point of water (TCR = 374 °C;  pCR = 22.1 MPa)
  • Common rail direct fuel injection: It features a high-pressure (over 1 000 bar or 100 MPa or 14500 psi) fuel rail on diesel engines.
Pressure in Pressurized Water Reactor
A pressurizer is a key component of PWRs.

Pressurized water reactors use a reactor pressure vessel (RPV) to contain the nuclear fuel, moderator, control rods, and coolant. They are cooled and moderated by high-pressure liquid water (e.g.,, 16MPa). At this pressure, water boils at approximately 350°C (662°F).  This high pressure is maintained by a pressurizer. The inlet temperature of the water is about 290°C (554°F). The water (coolant) is heated in the reactor core to approximately 325°C (617°F) as the water flows through the core. As it can be seen, the reactor has approximately 25°C subcooled coolant (distance from the saturation).

A pressurizer is a component of a pressurized water reactor. Pressure in the primary circuit of PWRs is maintained by a pressurizer, a separate vessel connected to the primary circuit (hot leg), and partially filled with water heated to the saturation temperature (boiling point) for the desired pressure by submerged electrical heaters.

On the other hand, there are spray lines to decrease pressure inside the pressurizer, which causes a decrease in pressure in the reactor coolant system. These spray lines spray reactor coolant from the cold leg of a loop into the steam space and condense a portion of the steam. The quenching action reduces pressure and limits the pressure increases.

Pressures in Condensing Steam Turbines
engineering thermodynamics
Rankine Cycle – Thermodynamics as Energy Conversion Science

Typically most nuclear power plants operate multi-stage condensing steam turbines. In these turbines, the high-pressure stage receives steam (this steam is nearly saturated – x = 0.995 – point C at the figure; 6 MPa; 275.6°C) from a steam generator and exhausts it to moisture separator-reheater (point D). The steam must be reheated to avoid damages caused to the steam turbine blades by low-quality steam. The reheater heats the steam (point D), and then the steam is directed to the low-pressure stage of the steam turbine, where it expands (point E to F). The exhausted steam is at a pressure well below atmospheric (absolute pressure of 0.008 MPa) and is in a partially condensed state (point F), typically of a quality near 90%.

See also: Wet Steam

See also: Steam Tables

Pressure coefficient - How pressure influences reactivity
The pressure coefficient (or the moderator density coefficient) is defined as the change in reactivity per unit change in pressure.

αP = dP

It is expressed in units of pcm/MPa. The magnitude and sign (+ or -) of the pressure coefficient is primarily a function of the moderator-to-fuel ratio. That means it primarily depends on a certain reactor design.

Although water is considered to be incompressible, in reality, it is slightly compressible (especially at 325°C (617°F)). It is obvious, the effect of pressure in the primary circuit have similar consequences as the moderator temperature. In comparison with effects of moderator temperature changes, changes in pressure have of lower order impact on reactivity and the causes are only in the density of moderator, not in the change of microscopic cross-sections.

Reactor Physics and Thermal Hydraulics:
  1. J. R. Lamarsh, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA (1983).
  2. J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.
  3. W. M. Stacey, Nuclear Reactor Physics, John Wiley & Sons, 2001, ISBN: 0- 471-39127-1.
  4. Glasstone, Sesonske. Nuclear Reactor Engineering: Reactor Systems Engineering, Springer; 4th edition, 1994, ISBN: 978-0412985317
  5. Todreas Neil E., Kazimi Mujid S. Nuclear Systems Volume I: Thermal Hydraulic Fundamentals, Second Edition. CRC Press; 2 edition, 2012, ISBN: 978-0415802871
  6. Zohuri B., McDaniel P. Thermodynamics in Nuclear Power Plant Systems. Springer; 2015, ISBN: 978-3-319-13419-2
  7. Moran Michal J., Shapiro Howard N. Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics, Fifth Edition, John Wiley & Sons, 2006, ISBN: 978-0-470-03037-0
  8. Kleinstreuer C. Modern Fluid Dynamics. Springer, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4020-8670-0.
  9. U.S. Department of Energy, THERMODYNAMICS, HEAT TRANSFER, AND FLUID FLOW. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1, 2, and 3. June 1992.

See above: