Thermal modeling of a vertical dry storage cask for used nuclear fuel

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Thermal modeling of temperature profiles of dry casks has been identified as a high-priority item in a U.S. Department of Energy gap analysis. In this work, a three-dimensional model of a vertical dry cask has been constructed for computer simulation by using the ANSYS/FLUENT code. The vertical storage cask contains a welded canister for 32 Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) used-fuel assemblies with a total decay heat load of 34 kW. To simplify thermal calculations, an effective thermal conductivity model for a 17 × 17 PWR used (or spent)-fuel assembly was developed and used in the simulation of thermal performance. The effects of canister fill gas (helium or nitrogen), internal pressure (1-6 atm), and basket material (stainless steel or aluminum alloy) were studied to determine the peak cladding temperature (PCT) and the canister surface temperatures (CSTs). The results showed that high thermal conductivity of the basket material greatly enhances heat transfer and reduces the PCT. The results also showed that natural convection affects both PCT and the CST profile, while the latter depends strongly on the type of fill gas and canister internal pressure. Of particular interest to condition and performance monitoring is the identification of canister locations where significant temperature change occurs after a canister is breached and the fill gas changes from high-pressure helium to ambient air. This study provided insight on the thermal performance of a vertical storage cask containing high-burnup fuel, and helped advance the concept of monitoring CSTs as a means to detect helium leakage from a welded canister. The effects of blockage of air inlet vents on the cask's thermal performance were studied. The simulation were validated by comparing the results against data obtained from the temperature measurements of a commercial cask.




Li, J., & Liu, Y. Y. (2016). Thermal modeling of a vertical dry storage cask for used nuclear fuel. Nuclear Engineering and Design, 301, 74–88.

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