The US Department of Energy Spent Fuel and Waste Science and Technology program is performing research to determine the mechanical loading conditions applied to spent nuclear fuel (SNF) during normal conditions of transportation to inform mechanical tests of SNF and close an important knowledge gap related to the practical disposition of SNF in the US. A recent multi-national collaborative test campaign measured SNF assembly impact response to the 30 cm horizontal package drop scenario, which is a common regulatory basis test of SNF package design. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are using the test data to validate explicit finite element models to calculate the mechanical loads and structural response of spent nuclear fuel assemblies in the as-tested 30 cm horizontal package drop scenario. Once the as-tested package drop model is validated, the next step is to apply the model to the general 30 cm drop scenario, which includes all impact angles, all fuel assembly types, and all burnup conditions. PNNL is developing a damage model that will incorporate the results of finite element parametric studies to establish trends in SNF mechanical loading to various input parameters, like impact orientation and burnup. The damage model will have the capability to estimate mechanical loads for any single set of input parameters, but it will first be used to describe the upper bounds of potential SNF loading in the 30 cm drop scenario. This paper describes PNNL’s progress toward developing the general solution to the problem of spent nuclear fuel mechanical loads in the 30 cm package drop scenario, and it describes the next steps in closing the knowledge gap.

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