A three-dimensional finite element model is being developed for a quarter fuel element, which is equivalent to a full fuel element using symmetry. The model uses the Multiphysics Object-Oriented Simulation Environment (MOOSE) framework developed at Idaho National Laboratory. The model facilitates an in-depth investigation into a variety of deformation phenomena for a horizontal nuclear fuel element including bowing, sagging, and stresses and strains.

This paper presents a preliminary analysis of the local stresses and strains of the sheath (clad) at the pellet-to-pellet interfaces for low, normal and high linear powers. During irradiation the fuel pellets thermally expand and take on an hourglass shape. The hourglassing behaviour leads to higher local stresses and strains in the sheath at the locations of the pellet-to-pellet interfaces. The purpose of this work is to quantify these stresses and strains for varying linear powers, and to illustrate the effect that the material model chosen for the cladding has on the results. Preliminary results are presented for two sheath types: elastic, and elastic including diffusional creep. These models are benchmarked against a validated industry code called ELESTRES. The results indicate that the predicted sheath hoop strain is about half of what is determined by ELESTRES in both the elastic and elastic-creep cases. This highlights the requirement of a pellet cracking model in three-dimensional simulations. The elastic-creep model predicts less stress within the sheath than the elastic model as expected.

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