This work aims to develop a finite element model of a PWR control rod at operating conditions for stress analysis of the rod cladding. The finite element model simulates a control rod exposed to high operating temperatures and pressure while portions of the rod are irradiated, resulting in accumulated fluence of neutrons by the rod materials. These high temperature and accumulated fluence induce thermal expansion and swelling of the rod materials, especially of the absorber, which may eventually interact with the rod cladding, generating stresses and strains in the wall of the cladding tube. Moreover, if the maximum stress or strain in the tube wall exceeds the design allowable limit, the absorber rod is considered failed. The author creates the control rod finite element model and apply the operating loads on two-dimensional axisymmetric elements to obtain displacements, temperatures, stresses, and strains. The model also includes contact surface elements to evaluate eventual mechanical interactions between absorber and cladding due to thermal expansion and swelling effects. This is a coupled nonlinear static analysis solution that includes thermal expansion effects to calculate temperature distribution and subsequent thermal strains in the absorber rod due to the heat generation rates and coolant temperature; swelling analysis to calculate absorber growth induced by irradiation; and creep analysis to calculate absorber stress relaxation under coolant pressure and temperature. The finite element model is capable of determining whether or not absorber-to-cladding gap closure will occur and if so, calculate maximum stress and strain in the rod cladding associated with mechanical interaction between the two components induced by the operating temperature and thermal fluence loads.

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