Nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) is regarded as the preferred option for the upcoming crewed interstellar exploration due to its excellent performance compared to the current most advanced chemical propulsion systems. Over the past several decades, many novel concepts have been proposed, among which the particle bed reactor (PBR) is the most efficient, compact, and lightweight method. Its unique features, such as the extremely high power density and the radial flow path of coolant in the fuel region, introduce many challengeable issues to the thermal hydraulic design of PBR, with the flow distribution being representative. In this work, the flow distribution process within the core is analyzed based on the understanding of the axial pressure profile in a dummy PBR. A “flow shift” phenomenon leading to the hot spot in the core is introduced first, and three methods, i.e., decreasing the pressure drop within the hot gas channel, increasing the flow resistance on the cold frit or hot frit, and changing the flow pattern from “Z” to “U”, are proposed to reduce the “flow shift” and the consequent temperature mal-distribution. The pros and cons of using cold frit or hot frit to distribute the coolant are also discussed. Finally, by using three numerical examples, these analyses are demonstrated. The findings here may provide technical support for PBR design.
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