A spacer grid is one of the most important structural components in a LWR fuel assembly. The spacer grid, which supports nuclear fuel rods laterally and vertically with a friction grip, is an interconnected array of slotted grid straps welded at the intersections to form an egg-crate structure. Dimples and springs are stamped into each grid strap to support the fuel rods. The form of grid straps and spring form is known to be closely related with the crush strength of spacer grid assembly and the integrity of fuel rod support, respectively. Zircaloy is prevailing as the material of the spacer grid because of its low neutron absorption characteristic and its successful extensive in-reactor use. The primary considerations are to provide a Zircaloy spacer grid with crush strength sufficient to resist design basis loads especially due to seismic accidents, without significantly increasing pressure drop across the reactor core. Generally, the thickness and height of the Zircaloy grid strap have been the main design variables in order to meet the above considerations. Recently, it was reported that a dimple location is also a design variable that affects the crush strength of a spacer grid assembly. In this study, a new spacer grid form was developed in order to enhance the integrity of the fuel rod support and the crush strength of the spacer grid assembly by using a systematic optimization technique. Finite element analysis and crush strength tests on the developed new spacer grid form were carried out to check the performance enhancement compared to commercial spacer grids. The enhancement of fuel rod support was confirmed by comparisons of contact area, peak stresses, plastic deformation and etc. According to the results, it is estimated that the actual critical load enhancement of the spacer grid assembly is approximately up to 30% and the actual contact area, when a fuel rod inserted into a spacer grid cell, is more than double for the developed new spacer grid form. And also, some design variables that effect the crush strength of a PWR spacer grid assembly were classified and their effects on the crush strength were investigated by a finite element analysis and a crush strength test.

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