In order to better understand the mechanisms of fretting wear damage of guide cards in some Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), an experimental investigation is undertaken at the Magaly facility in Le Creusot. The test rig consists of a complete Rod Cluster with eleven Guide Cards, submitted to axial flow inside a water tunnel. In order to mimic the effect of fretting wear, the four lower guide cards have enlarged gaps, so that the Control Rods are free to oscillate. The test rig is operated at ambient temperature and pressure, and Plexiglas walls can be arranged along its upper part, and a series of camera records the vibrations of the control rods above and below the guide cards. The vertical flow velocity is in the range of a few m/s. Beam-like pinned-pinned modes at about 5 Hz are observed, and oscillations of several mm of the central rods are measured, which come along with impacts at the higher flow velocities. A simple non-linear calculation reveals that the main effect of the impacts between Control Rods and Guide Cards is an increase of the natural frequency of the rods by about 10%. Furthermore, as the vibration spectra collapse remarkably well with the flow velocity, the experiments prove that turbulent forcing is responsible for the large oscillations of the control rods, no other mechanism being involved.

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