The purpose of this study is to develop a finite element model that accurately describes the buckling behavior of a spacer grid. The spacer grid is the most important component of a nuclear fuel assembly and supports the fuel rod with a structurally sufficient buckling strength. Therefore, the development of a reliable spacer grid model is essential to evaluate the mechanical integrity of a nuclear fuel assembly. To achieve this objective, a three-dimensional finite element model was proposed to simulate the buckling characteristics and mechanical behavior of a PWR spacer grid.

To simulate the exact mechanical properties of the spacer grid cell, the parameter values required for the model were determined by conducting a fuel rod drag test and spacer grid spring/dimple stiffness test. Finally, a spacer grid static compression test and dynamic impact test were performed according to the gap size of the spacer grid cell, and the model was verified by comparing the test and analysis results. The results obtained using the developed spacer grid finite element model agreed well with the mechanical test results, and it was confirmed that both the buckling characteristics and mechanical behaviors of the model were accurately simulated by the proposed model.

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