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A review of neutronics and thermal hydraulics–based screening methods applied to accelerated nuclear fuel qualification...

by Jacob P Gorton, Christian M Petrie, Andrew T Nelson
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Progress in Nuclear Energy
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This paper reviews the state-of-the-art engineering approach for using thermal hydraulic (TH) and neutronics modeling and simulation (M&S) tools to perform rapid screening studies of novel nuclear fuel concepts within the context of accelerated fuel qualification. Global research efforts have introduced nuclear fuel and material concepts that mark a significant departure from traditional reactor materials. The number of new technologies being considered for development for light water reactors and advanced reactor types has created the need for an accelerated fuel qualification procedure. A key component of this procedure is the rapid identification of the most promising fuel concepts using computational screening studies. Advanced TH and neutronic M&S tools should be leveraged to efficiently determine whether the reactor performance and safety characteristics of a given concept warrant additional studies or whether the concept requires modification or elimination. This paper reviews best practices for performing these TH and neutronics screening studies at various stages during a fuel concept's progression through the qualification procedure. The motivation behind standardizing this approach is to minimize time and resources spent on qualification activities for fuel concepts that could be quickly refined or eliminated from consideration based on their reactor physics and TH characteristics. Adoption of this screening procedure—which focuses primarily on nuclear fuels but may be applicable to other reactor materials—will also help accelerate new material qualification by generating boundary conditions crucial to fuel performance evaluations and highlighting needed areas of separate effects experimentation. This article reviews the motivation behind the introduction of novel nuclear fuel concepts, provides incentive for utilizing TH- and neutronics-based screening studies, describes the screening approach and methodology, and includes discussion on how to interpret screening results to provide recommendations for the continued development of a given concept.