Multiscale Modeling of Flow in Rod Bundles: From Direct Numerical Simulation and Subchannel to Coarse-Mesh CFD

Adam R. Kraus, Elia Merzari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fast and accurate evaluation of flow and heat transfer phenomena in rod bundles is a problem of long-standing interest in nuclear engineering. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can provide accurate but relatively time-intensive estimates, such that simulations of very long transients with high spatial detail are infeasible. On the other hand, subchannel codes require relatively low computational time and can provide pin-level estimates, but have substantial empiricism in evaluating aspects such as crossflows and turbulent mixing coefficients. A multiscale method (SC+) for bridging this accuracy/speed gap, based on the Subchannel CFD (SubChCFD) method of Liu et al. [Nucl. Eng. Design, Vol. 355, paper 110318 (2019)], is demonstrated and developed here with a focus on a 5 × 5 square rod bundle geometry. The method has been newly implemented into the commercial code STAR-CCM+ and benchmarked against Liu et al.’s data. The 5 × 5 geometry was chosen in part due to the availability of direct numerical simulation (DNS) data at a relevant Reynolds number of a similar configuration for comparison. The SC+ results are variously compared against results from DNS, large eddy simulation, wall-resolved Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes, and coarse-mesh CFD methods. As an expansion to the original SubChCFD approach, a simple Hi2Lo approach is demonstrated using the DNS data as a correction to the original friction factor correlations employed. This is verified to improve the predictions. Additional test cases with geometric perturbations are pursued, illustrating the flexibility of SC+. The potential of this method for modeling the narrow gap vortex instability, which would represent an advancement over standard subchannel approaches, is also assessed. The method is expanded to include transverse flow losses, which was found to improve the results for modeling the gap instability. Initial extensions of SC+ for hexagonal rod bundles are also presented; some inaccuracies for the coarsest meshes prompted a detailed investigation of the mesh convergence behavior of the method. Geometric correction factors were devised that provided substantial improvement on these very coarse meshes, improving the prospects of SC+ for wider usage. Future work plans are to expand the methodology to wire-wrapped rod bundles and to implement the method into Pronghorn, with a unified pipeline via the Cardinal wrapper between the codes NekRS, Pronghorn, and BISON, to solve fuel performance problems of direct interest to industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1477-1496
Number of pages20
JournalNuclear Science and Engineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering

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