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Impact of LWR assembly structural features on cladding burst behavior under LOCA conditions

by Daniel P Schappel, Nathan A Capps
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Nuclear Engineering and Design
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This provides an initial scoping study on clad balloon and burst behavior for burnup extension of reactor fuel. The associated issues with burnup extension are fuel fragmentation, relocation, and dispersal in the event of cladding failure. The general finding of this work is that the structural features, spacer grids and mixing vanes, locally suppress cladding deformation but have little impact on the overall clad performance during loss-of-coolant accidents. The work detailed in a previous report by Capps et al. focused on core optimization via neutronics, thermal hydraulics and thermomechanical analysis for burnups beyond 62 GWD/tU and enrichments above 5%. Uncertainty of fuel fragmentation relocation and dispersal in high-burnup rods during accident conditions was also investigated. The dispersal aspect of fuel fragmentation depends on cladding rupture. Thus, assessing uncertainties in the rupture behavior is helpful in estimating the dispersal of high-burnup fuel. This study builds on the previous work by assessing the impact of assembly structural features on cladding balloon and burst behavior in a full-length fuel rod.

In this work, the BISON fuel performance code was used to generate 2D radial and height meshes containing structural features commonly used in nuclear fuel assemblies. First, meshes were generated with spacer grids. Results were then compared to the cladding burst temperature and balloon strain results from the previous work. A mesh sensitivity study was performed to ensure that mixing vanes and spacer grid effects were appropriately considered, resulting in a more refined mesh than the previous study. The balloon deformation and burst times of the cladding were compared to the original case. Consideration was also given to the effect of rod initial pressure. 3D quarter rod simulations were also performed and found good agreement with the 2D simulations in clad deformation and reasonable agreement in burst times.