Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Nuclear Engineering

First Advisor

Travis W. Knight


A nuclear reactor systems code has the ability to model the system response in an accident scenario based on known initial conditions at the onset of the transient. However, there has been a tendency for these codes to lack the detailed thermo-mechanical fuel rod response models needed for accurate prediction of fuel rod failure. This proposed work will couple today's most widely used steady-state (FRAPCON) and transient (FRAPTRAN) fuel rod models with a systems code TRACE for best-estimate modeling of system response in accident scenarios such as a loss of coolant accident (LOCA). In doing so, code modifications will be made to model gamma heating in LWRs during steady-state and accident conditions and to improve fuel rod thermal/mechanical analysis by allowing axial nodalization of burnup-dependent phenomena such as swelling, cladding creep and oxidation. With the ability to model both burnup-dependent parameters and transient fuel rod response, a fuel dispersal study will be conducted using a hypothetical accident scenario under both PWR and BWR conditions to determine the amount of fuel dispersed under varying conditions. Due to the fuel fragmentation size and internal rod pressure both being dependent on burnup, this analysis will be conducted at beginning, middle and end of cycle to examine the effects that cycle time can play on fuel rod failure and dispersal.

Current fuel rod and system codes used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) are compilations of legacy codes with only commonly used light water reactor materials, Uranium Dioxide (UO2), Mixed Oxide (U/PuO 2) and zirconium alloys.

However, the events at Fukushima Daiichi and Three Mile Island accident have shown the need for exploration into advanced materials possessing improved accident tolerance. This work looks to further modify the NRC codes to include silicon carbide (SiC), an advanced cladding material proposed by current DOE funded research on accident tolerant fuels (ATF). Several additional fuels will also be analyzed, including uranium nitride (UN), uranium carbide (UC) and uranium silicide (U3Si2). Focusing on the system response in an accident scenario, an emphasis is placed on the fracture mechanics of the ceramic cladding by design the fuel rods to eliminate pellet cladding mechanical interaction (PCMI). The time to failure and how much of the fuel in the reactor fails with an advanced fuel design will be analyzed and compared to the current UO2/Zircaloy design using a full scale reactor model.