Power up-rating of existing nuclear reactors promises to be an area of great study for years to come. One of the major approaches to efficiently increasing power density is by way of advanced fuel design, and cross-shaped spiral-fuel has shown such potential in previous studies. Our work aims to model the thermal-hydraulic consequences of filling a BWR core with these spiral-shaped pins. The helically-wound pins have a cross-section resembling a 4-petaled flower. They fill an assembly in a tight bundle, their dimensions chosen carefully such that the petals of neighboring pins contact each other at their outer-most extent in a self-supporting lattice, absent of grid spacers. Potential advantages of this design raise much optimism from a thermal-hydraulic perspective. These spiral rods possess about 40% larger surface area than traditional rods, resulting in increased cooling and a proportional reduction in average surface heat flux. The thin petal-like extensions help by lowering thermal resistance between the hot central region of the pin and the bulk coolant flow, decreasing the maximum fuel temperature by 200°C according to Finite Element (COSMOS) models. However, COSMOS models also predict a potential problem area at the “elbow” region of two adjoining petals, where heat flux peaking is twice that along the extensions. Preliminary VIPRE models, which account only for the surface area increase, predict a 22% increase in critical power. It is also anticipated that the spiral twist would provide the flowing coolant with an additional radial velocity component, and likely promote turbulence and mixing within an assembly. These factors are expected to provide further margin for increased power density, and are currently being incorporated into the VIPRE model. The reduction in pressure drop inherent in any core without grid-spacers is also expected to be significant in aiding core stability, though this has not yet been quantified. Spiral-fuel seems to be a favorable alternative to traditional pins from a thermal-hydraulic standpoint, though further study of the trends shown in this paper are required.

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