The accurate evaluation of fuel and cladding peak temperatures is of prime importance for nuclear reactor design and safety. The Global Threat Reduction Initiative reactor conversion program often encounters exotic flow geometries in its mission to aid in converting reactors from high-enriched to low-enriched fuel. These geometries can pose modeling challenges. Analysis presented here concerns a reactor with twisted fuel pins that are in direct contact with each other in a large, hexagonal-pitch lattice. The Reynolds number for a unit cell is only 7500. Such flow conditions can present difficulties for standard approaches based on Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS). Moreover there are no available experimental data and a small expected margin to the limiting cladding surface temperature. Given some of the geometric uncertainties, reducing the turbulence model uncertainty is thus important for meaningful calculations. A computational fluid dynamics model of a full-length unit cell was built using the commercial code STAR-CCM+. Multiple RANS models were employed, which gave disparate results. To provide higher-fidelity data for comparison, given the lack of experimental data, a periodic single-helical-pitch simulation with a Large Eddy Simulation (LES) approach was performed using Nek5000, a massively-parallel spectral-element code. This was compared with single-pitch RANS simulations from STAR-CCM+. Stream-wise velocity profile shape was generally well-represented by RANS. Cross-velocities and peak turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) were underestimated for most of the turbulence models with respect to LES, while mean flow TKE was universally underestimated. The overall results suggest that the Realizable k-ε Two-Layer model, which was the best at reproducing the LES TKE distribution, would likely be the most appropriate turbulence model choice for this flow. Future work includes full conjugate heat transfer simulations of 1/6 sectors of fuel assemblies featuring this type of pin lattice.

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