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Characterization of modeling and experimental data inconsistencies from burst testing for high-burnup commercial fuel rod app...

by Nathan A Capps, Ryan T Sweet
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Journal of Nuclear Materials
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Fuel fragmentation, relocation, and dispersal are some of the largest issues remaining in the nuclear industry before rod-average burnup can be increased beyond 62 GWd/tU. The issue is primarily related to the potential for fuel to be dispersed into the reactor primary system, which may increase public risk. One way to prevent dispersal is to avoid cladding burst. The objective of this work is to support the high burnup safety case by evaluating cladding burst under high-burnup, full-length fuel rods and to identify uncertainties that could improve model predictions. The results of this analysis will evaluate realistic, prototypic loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA) conditions; support future cladding burst test designs; and inform the development of mechanistic material models. Realistic high-burnup operating conditions were implemented in the BISON fuel performance code to simulate steady-state and LOCA transient fuel rod evolution to the point at which cladding burst occurred. Parametric studies are performed to assess code response to changes in rod internal pressures and heating rates. Results were compared with simulated LOCA experiments to identify inconsistencies between commercial fuel rod analysis and experimental validation. The representative full-length fuel rod LOCA simulation results did not agree with cladding burst tests. Cladding burst tests indicated burst occurring well below (100–150 °C) those calculated in the full-length fuel rod LOCA analysis. Further investigation indicated that the cladding burst tests do not appear to be representative for full-length fuel rods. The inconsistency investigated in this work showed that the differences between the BISON simulation and the experiment's cladding burst conditions arise from an incomplete characterization of the cladding surface temperature, detailed rodlet characterization, lack of cladding strain measurements, and uncertainty in the cladding creep and failure models.