In this work, a so-called mini-core consisting of a 3 × 3 array of 17 × 17 pressurized water reactor (PWR) fuel assemblies (FA) is considered with the aim of identifying the most conservative window size for hot channel analysis of bowed fuel assemblies. Overall, five different mini-core configurations are analyzed: one is the reference case, i.e. without FA displacement and four different cases with diagonal and parallel FA displacements. Rod power maps for these mini-cores were exported from neutronic calculations with CASMO-SIMULATE codes.

Subchannel modelling with COBRA-TF code of all five mini-cores allows one to identify the rod position with a minimum departure from the nucleate boiling ratio (DNBR) and to construct input decks with different rod window sizes around the previously identified rod position. Overall, eight different window sizes are considered: 3 × 3, 5 × 5, 7 × 7, 9 × 9, 11 × 11, 13 × 13, 15 × 15 and 17 × 17. Results of subchannel analysis for a mini-core and different subchannel window configurations are compared with the help of DNBR parameter, which is the ratio between the critical heat flux (CHF) and the actual local heat flux on a rod. An assessment of three different CHF models is applied in this work: Groeneveld CHF look-up table (LUT), W3 CHF correlation, and Doroschuk CHF LUT.

The general conclusion of this work is that for deformed core configurations, an appropriate rod window size needs to be determined to adequately capture the local flow redistribution. For large displacements (the largest displacement considered in this work is 10 mm), the DNBR ratio can drop to one. DNBRs obtained with the W3 CHF correlation give the most conservative results.

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