High-fidelity and accurate nuclear system codes play a key role in the design and analysis of complex nuclear power plants, which consist of multiple subsystems, such as the reactor core (and its fuel, burnable poisons, control elements, etc.), the reactor internal structures, the vessel, and the energy conversion subsystem and beyond to grid demand. Most commonly the interplay between these various subsystems is modeled using coupled codes, each of which represents one of the subsystems. And the most common direct coupling is that of thermal-hydraulics and neutronics codes.

The subject of this paper is the coupling of codes that model not only thermal-hydraulics and neutronics, but also structural components damage. Furthermore, the neutronic component is not limited to the sole core solver. The coupled code system encompasses thermal-hydraulics, material performance of the fuel, neutronic solver, and neutronic data preparation. Thus, this paper presents a framework for coupling RELAP5/SCDAPSIM/MOD4.0 with a suite of neutron kinetics codes that includes NESTLE, DRAGON and a version of the ENDF library.

The version of the RELAP5/SCDAPSIM/MOD4.0 code used in this work is one developed by Innovate System Software (ISS) as part of the international SCDAP Development and Training Program (SDTP) for best-estimate analysis to model reactor transients including severe accident phenomena. This RELAP5/SCDAPSIM/MOD4.0 code version is also capable of predicting nuclear fuel performance. It uses nodal power distributions to calculate mechanical and thermal parameters such as heat-up, oxidation and meltdown of fuel rods and control rods, the ballooning and rupture of fuel rod cladding, the release of fission products from fuel rods, and the disintegration of fuel rods into porous debris and molten material. On the neutronics side, this work uses the NESTLE and DRAGON codes. NESTLE is a multi-dimensional static and kinetic neutronic code developed at North Carolina State University. It solves up to four energy groups neutron diffusion equations utilizing the Nodal Expansion Method (NEM) in Cartesian or hexagonal geometry. The DRAGON code, developed at Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, performs lattice physics calculations based on the neutron transport equation and is capable of using very fine energy group structures.

In this work, we have developed a coupling approach to exchange data among the various modules. In the coupling process, the generated nuclear data (in fine multigroup energy structure) are collapsed down into two- or four-group energy structures for use in NESTLE. The neutron kinetics and thermal-hydraulics modules are coupled at each time step by using the cross-section data. The power distribution results of the neutronic calculations are transmitted to the thermal-hydraulics code. The spatial distribution of coolant density and the fuel-moderator temperature, which result from the thermal-hydraulic calculations, are transmitted back to the neutron kinetics codes and then the loop is closed using new neutronics results. Details of the actual data transfers will be described in the full length paper.

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