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A Methodology for Selecting High Thermal-Hydraulic Performance Fuel Configurations for Tightly Packed Epithermal Core Designs

Antonino Romano, Neil E. Todreas

Nuclear Technology / Volume 139 / Number 1 / Pages 61-71

July 2002


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Cylindrical fuel pins with wires are the design of choice for tightly packed fuel arrays. However, it is important to investigate novel fuel configurations in order to increase the thermal margins. Hence, new fuel designs have been studied for the epithermal option of the light water-cooled IRIS core. These designs are also of potential use in other tightly packed, epithermal advanced core designs.

First, design equations have been used to determine number, height, and size of the principal features (clad, gap, fuel cross-sectional area) of the novel fuel configurations under investigation. Then, performance indices have been introduced to relate fuel geometrical characteristics to selected thermal-hydraulic parameters, such as pressure drop, critical heat flux (CHF), fuel centerline temperature, and clad surface temperature and stress distribution. Finally, variously shaped fuel configurations, including cylindrical, triangular, square, and hexagonal, have been ranked according to the performance indicators.

The hexagonal fuel pins, both twisted and straight, proved to be good solutions for the epithermal tight core of the light water-cooled IRIS reactor, with performances comparable to those of the cylindrical fuel with wires. In particular, for water-to-fuel ratios ~0.33, the twisted hexagonal shape is the preferable design with a reduction of the total pressure drop by 16% and an increase of the CHF margin by 200%, compared to the traditional cylindrical pins with grids. Furthermore, the straight hexagonal shape allows flatter subchannel velocity profiles, wall shear stress, and wall temperature distributions. However, geometric constraints unfortunately do not allow application of the twisted hexagonal shape for smaller water-to-fuel ratios, which is a design regime of more favorable epithermal neutronics performance. In this regime, the cylindrical pins with wires are the solution of choice.

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