Skip to main content

Heat transfer optimization of uo2-mo fuel using genetic algorithms...

by Jacob P Gorton, Joel L Mcduffee, Patrick L Snarr, Christian M Petrie, Andrew T Nelson
Publication Type
Journal Name
Nuclear Engineering and Design
Publication Date
Page Number

Two genetic algorithm (GA) methods were applied to thermal finite element models to optimize the heat transfer efficacy of a UO2-Mo composite fuel pellet with typical pressurized water reactor fuel geometry. Mo additions to UO2 have been shown to increase the thermal conductivity, thus reducing centerline temperatures and temperature gradients. Previous studies evaluated uniformly dispersed Mo or continuous Mo internal geometries (e.g., fins, plates, discs) that were selected using engineering intuition. The current study uses two different implementations of the same GA to optimize Mo placement and minimize the fuel temperature with the only constraint being a maximum 10% Mo volume fraction. One approach superimposed Mo line elements onto the monolithic UO2 pellet model, and the other converted entire UO2 volume elements to Mo. The former method generated 1D heat transfer connections between nodes, whereas the latter method allowed for the formation of 3D structures. Features of the optimal fuel design produced by the GAs included dispersed Mo near the centerline that shifted the peak fuel temperature outward by 0.6 mm, Mo chains in the high-heat-flux region in the mid-to-outer radial zone, and a large continuous structure that spanned the full radius and height of the pellet and accounted for 87.7 % of the total Mo in the pellet. Analysis of this design indicates that the optimal Mo configuration is a balance between creating continuous heat transfer pathways and optimally dispersing Mo to minimize the heat transfer distance through UO2. This architecture ultimately produced an effective thermal conductivity of 11.3 W/m·K under the assumed boundary conditions. This result is higher than any previous values from the literature. Potential fabrication methods and challenges are discussed in addition to the implications on fuel performance.