Fuel assemblies are exposed to severe thermal, mechanical and radiation loads during operation. Global core and local fuel assembly flow fields typically result in fuel rod vibration. Under certain conditions, this vibration, when coupled with other factors, might result in excessive cladding fretting wear. This phenomenon is of the concern for nuclear fuel designers, especially in light of the need for higher burnup, longer cycle lengths, and operational safety margins in fuel designs. Understanding of (1) the fretting wear margins for a particular nuclear fuel design, (2) the probability of a fuel assembly exposed to a particular set of thermal, mechanical, flow and radiation conditions being at risk of excessive wear, and (3) the factors affecting fretting wear resistance, are important in order to better guide design, testing, and operational flexibility. In this paper, an integrated method to estimate fretting margin of nuclear fuel is presented, including its formulation, benchmark against experimental data and example application to in-core conditions. The major features of the method are as follows: • flow and rod vibration response are coupled through a linear structural analysis model, • flow field is determined using a sub-channel thermal-hydraulic code, • wear progression is treated as a time-dependent process, through taking into account impact of resulting rod-to-support clearance, • a possibility of a fluid-elastic instability is accounted for. Supporting data on basic wear mechanisms, flow field and fuel assembly fretting wear behavior obtained at a number of experimental facilities at Westinghouse Electric Company and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited are also presented. These facility include: • VIPER hydraulic test loop data where vibration response and wear are measured under prototypical flow conditions, and • autoclave fretting-wear machine steam employed to determine fretting-wear coefficients of fuel rod and grid-support designs.

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