Numerical investigation of an advanced U-RANS based pressure fluctuation model to simulate non-linear vibrations of nuclear fuel rods due to turbulent parallel-flow

S. Kottapalli, A. Shams*, Alexander van Zuijlen, M. J.B.M. Pourquie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Nuclear reactor designs such as PWR and BWR are susceptible to vibrations induced on the nuclear fuel rods due to fast flowing coolants around the rods. The non-linear behaviour of flexible components have always been a challenge to compute especially when dealing with strongly coupled fluid–structure interaction cases as found in the reactors. Simulating such a behaviour involves a two-way coupling of a well resolved turbulent flow Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) solver to a Computational Solid Mechanics (CSM) solver. The use of a high fidelity CFD solver to resolve turbulent flows in an FSI (Fluid-Structure Interaction) simulation is computationally expensive ergo is not practical in for industrial purposes. To address this issue, a different approach is discussed in this article to simulate turbulence induced vibrations through the use of U-RANS models. The method is based on computing the modeled turbulent pressure and velocity fluctuations from values obtained by solving U-RANS (Unsteady-Reynolds Averaged Navier Stokes) equations. The calculated turbulent fluctuating field is combined with mean values to compute an instantaneous turbulent pressure field to apply an external pressure and shear force on the structure and vice-verse until convergence is achieved. This method can be used to accurately estimate the behaviour of a flexible structure in a turbulent flow. The article provides a detailed explanation of the model followed by validation with three numerical test cases. The first case involves a CFD simulation where results from the pressure fluctuation model (PFM) is compared to a benchmark DNS (Direct Numerical Simulation) of a turbulent channel flow with friction Reynolds number, Reτ=640. Later the PFM is applied to a 2-dimensional strongly-coupled FSI simulation with a flexible steel flap in turbulent water flow to study the feasibility and stability of PFM applied to an FSI problem. Finally, the PFM is used to simulate an experimental case of a brass rod excited by turbulent water performed by Chen and Wambsganns (1972). The results show that the PFM is capable of simulating turbulence induced vibration (TIV) with low-fidelity U-RANS models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-126
JournalAnnals of Nuclear Energy
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Flow induced vibrations
  • Fluid–structure interaction
  • Nuclear reactors
  • Pressure fluctuation modeling
  • Turbulent flows
  • U-RANS


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