See also: Supercritical Water Reactor
The supercritical water reactor (SCWR) is a concept of Generation IV reactor, that is operated at supercritical pressure (i.e. greater than 22.1 MPa). The term supercritical in this context refers to the thermodynamic critical point of water (TCR = 374 °C; pCR = 22.1 MPa), and must not be confused with the criticality of the reactor core, that describes changes in the neutron population in the reactor core.
The supercritical water reactor may be operated as a thermal reactor or as a fast-neutron reactor, depending on the core design. The concept of the supercritical water reactor may be based on classical pressure vessel as in commercial PWRs or on pressure tubes as in CANDU reactors. The pressure-vessel design of supercritical water reactors is developed largely in the EU, US, Japan, Korea, and China, while the pressure-channel design is developed largely in Canada and in Russia. The pressure-vessel design allows using a traditional high-pressure circuit layout. The pressure-channel design allows the key features of passive accident and decay heat removal by radiation and convection from the distributed channels even with no active cooling and fuel melting and use of multi-pass reactor flows making reheating and superheating possible.
For both pressure vessel and pressure-tube designs, a once through steam cycle has been envisaged, omitting any coolant recirculation inside the reactor. It is similar as in boiling water reactors, steam will be supplied directly to the steam turbine and the feed water from the steam cycle will be supplied back to the core.
As well as the supercritical water reactor may use light water or heavy water as neutron moderator. As can be seen, there are many SCWR designs, but all SCWRs have a key feature, that is the use of water beyond the thermodynamic critical point as primary coolant. Since this feature allows to increase the peak temperature, the supercritical water reactors are considered a promising advancement for nuclear power plants because of its high thermal efficiency (~45 % vs. ~33 % for current LWRs).