The core of a CANDU®(1) pressurized heavy water reactor consists of a lattice of either 390 or 480 horizontal Zr-Nb pressure tubes, depending on the reactor design, which contain the nuclear fuel. Each pressure tube is surrounded by a Zircaloy calandria tube that operates at a significantly lower temperature. Fuel channel annulus spacers maintain the annular gap between the pressure tube and the calandria tube throughout the reactor operating life. To meet this design requirement, the annulus spacers must have adequate structural strength to carry the interaction loads between the pressure tube and the calandria tube. Crush tests performed on specimens from Inconel X-750 spacers, both non-irradiated and ex-service, have demonstrated that their structural strength had degraded with operating time due to irradiation damage. An engineering process-zone model was developed and used to analyze the spacer crush test results, and to predict the maximum load carrying capacities of the Inconel X-750 spacer coils, as described in the companion paper “Engineering Process-Zone Model for Evaluation of Structural Strength of Fuel Channel Annulus Spacers in CANDU Nuclear Reactors” presented at the PVP2017 Conference. The developed model is based on the strip-yield approach of a process zone with a uniform restraining stress that represents the fracture region surrounded by elastic material. This baseline process-zone model has been improved by allowing the restraining stress to evolve with the variation in the opening displacement in accordance with a traction-separation constitutive relation. The development of this improved engineering process-zone model incorporating a non-trivial traction-separation constitutive relation is described in this paper.

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