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Title: Pellet Cladding Mechanical Interaction Modeling Using the Extended Finite Element Method

Conference ·
OSTI ID:1367805

As a brittle material, the ceramic UO2 used as light water reactor fuel experiences significant fracturing throughout its life, beginning with the first rise to power of fresh fuel. This has multiple effects on the thermal and mechanical response of the fuel/cladding system. One such effect that is particularly important is that when there is mechanical contact between the fuel and cladding, cracks that extending from the outer surface of the fuel into the volume of the fuel cause elevated stresses in the adjacent cladding, which can potentially lead to cladding failure. Modeling the thermal and mechanical response of the cladding in the vicinity of these surface-breaking cracks in the fuel can provide important insights into this behavior to help avoid operating conditions that could lead to cladding failure. Such modeling has traditionally been done in the context of finite-element-based fuel performance analysis by modifying the fuel mesh to introduce discrete cracks. While this approach is effective in capturing the important behavior at the fuel/cladding interface, there are multiple drawbacks to explicitly incorporating the cracks in the finite element mesh. Because the cracks are incorporated in the original mesh, the mesh must be modified for cracks of specified location and depth, so it is difficult to account for crack propagation and the formation of new cracks at other locations. The extended finite element method (XFEM) has emerged in recent years as a powerful method to represent arbitrary, evolving, discrete discontinuities within the context of the finite element method. Development work is underway by the authors to implement XFEM in the BISON fuel performance code, and this capability has previously been demonstrated in simulations of fracture propagation in ceramic nuclear fuel. These preliminary demonstrations have included only the fuel, and excluded the cladding for simplicity. This paper presents initial results of efforts to apply XFEM to model stress concentrations induced by fuel fractures at the fuel/cladding interface during pellet cladding mechanical interaction (PCMI). This is accomplished by enhancing the thermal and mechanical contact enforcement algorithms employed by BISON to permit their use in conjunction with XFEM. The results from this methodology are demonstrated to be equivalent to those from using meshed discrete cracks. While the results of the two methods are equivalent for the case of a stationary crack, it is demonstrated that XFEM provides the additional flexibility of allowing arbitrary crack initiation and propagation during the analysis, and minimizes model setup effort for cases with stationary cracks.

Research Organization:
Idaho National Lab. (INL), Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
Sponsoring Organization:
USDOE Office of Nuclear Energy (NE)
DOE Contract Number:
Report Number(s):
Resource Relation:
Conference: Top Fuel 2016, Boise, ID, USA, September 11–16, 2016
Country of Publication:
United States