boiling-water reactor

boiling-water reactor

Boiling-water reactor. Credit: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A boiling-water reactor is a nuclear reactor in which water is used as a coolant and moderator. Steam is thus produced in the reactor under pressure, and can be used to drive a turbine.


In a typical commercial boiling water reactor (1) the reactor core creates heat, (2) a steam-water mixture is produced when very pure water (reactor coolant) moves upward through the core absorbing heat, (3) the steam-water mixture leaves the top of the core and enters the two stages of moisture separation where water droplets are removed before the steam is allowed to enter the steam line, (4) the steam line directs the steam to the main turbine causing it to turn the turbine generator, which produces electricity. The unused steam is exhausted to the condenser where it is condensed into water. The resulting water is pumped out of the condenser with a series of pumps, reheated, and pumped back to the reactor vessel. The reactor's core contains fuel assemblies which are cooled by water, which is force-circulated by electrically powered pumps. Emergency cooling water is supplied by other pumps which can be powered by onsite diesel generators. Other safety systems, such as the containment cooling system, also need electric power.