Reactor power changes when the temperature and position of the control rods of a nuclear reactor are changed. This change is unique to each reactor,and its characteristics are called “nuclear reactor kinetics.”
The control rods are made of strong neutron-absorbing materials, and when they are inserted into the reactor, the reaction rate of neutron absorption increases. The reactor becomes subcritical and its power decreases. Conversely, the reaction rate of neutron absorption decreases when the control rods are withdrawn; the reactor becomes supercritical and its power increases. The reaction rate of neutron absorption changes when the reactor temperature is changed and, therefore the reactor power changes.
The reactor power is proportional to the number of fission reactions per second in the nuclear reactor. As fission reactions are caused by neutrons, the number of their reactions is proportional to the total number of neutrons in the reactor. However, the number of neutrons varies depending on the neutron production rate due to the fission reactions, the rate of neutron absorption by the nuclear fuel and reactor structure materials, and the rate of neutron leakage from the reactor.
The nuclear reactor kinetics usually explains an increase or decrease in the number of neutrons in the entire core. In other words, the spatial distribution of neutrons is not considered in the core.
Throughout the course the student will learn the main basics about the control and monitoring of a nuclear core reactor.