Because of the complexity of the flow within light water reactor (LWR) cores, numerous small-scale phenomena locally influence heat transfer and critical heat flux (CHF). They include development of viscous and thermal boundary layers, interchannel mixing, spacer grid mixing, rod vibrations, or confinement effects such as the proximity of the walls or the influence of the gap between adjacent fuel bundles. LWR prototypical conditions are particularly harsh environments and limit measurements to quantities such as pointwise pressure drop and temperature, the latter resulting in global heat transfer and CHF correlations. The local phenomena mentioned above are embedded in these correlations, leading to inherent empiricism (and therefore conservatism). Validated computational fluid dynamics (CFD) codes and models can predict these phenomena, thus providing modelization tools of greater accuracy. However, major requirements for validation campaigns include the matching of validation and application domains and the deployment of mature and high-resolution diagnostics. For the latter, many are available for single-phase flows due to their predominance in several research fields. Furthermore, in the lower part of LWR cores, flow is single phase, and only this regime is considered in this paper. To circumvent the challenges of deploying diagnostics in LWR conditions, surrogate fluids are commonly used, enabling the measurement of velocity, temperature, pressure, or wall shear stress. A large number of single-phase tests with resolution adequate to validate CFD models have been conducted with air, steam, and water at moderate temperature and pressure. However, to date, with these fluids, the application domain defined by the Reynolds and Prandtl numbers has not been reached.

Four surrogate gases are proposed to match application and validation domains while allowing the deployment of a broad range of diagnostics: pressurized sulfur hexafluoride, xenon, cryogenic nitrogen, and highly pressurized air. By controlling their operating temperature and pressure, they allow matching prototypical Reynolds and Prandtl numbers while preserving the length scale, velocity scale, and timescale. This is achieved by reproducing the kinematic viscosity and thermal diffusivity of several nuclear reactor coolants. Furthermore, for single-phase conjugate heat transfer, a complete scaling analysis is performed for one pressurized water reactor fuel rod within a bundle under normal operating conditions. Electrically heated rods made of magnesium oxide and Zircaloy, combined with the proposed surrogate fluids, provide a close matching of conjugate heat transfer. Additionally, the use of these surrogates offers a significant decrease of the heating and pumping powers. Single-phase heat transfer separate-effect tests can then be performed for the first time in a laboratory setup with one, or several, full-size fuel bundles at prototypical conditions, while allowing the deployment of a large range of diagnostics. Finally, existing test facilities for hydraulics and thermal hydraulics of prototypical fuel bundles can be utilized with minor retrofits, further facilitating test implementation.