The response of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) to hypothetical package drop events is of particular interest in the scope of spent fuel storage and transportation because of the mechanical shock encountered in such scenarios. Previous testing and modeling by the U.S. Department of Energy have demonstrated that the shock and vibration environment of normal shipping and handling conditions (excluding package drop events) is relatively benign and does not challenge the integrity of spent nuclear fuel. Cask drop events are worth considering because SNF packages are required to withstand free drops onto unyielding surfaces as part of their licensing basis. The acceleration experienced during drop events can be orders of magnitude higher, and thus more advanced models are needed to encompass potential nonlinear behavior of the fuel, such as spacer grid buckling and rod-to-rod impact. This work describes a number of finite element models developed to calculate the response of spent nuclear fuel to various hypothetical drop events that have been validated by package and fuel assembly drop tests conducted in the last decade. Sensitivity of the model response to factors such as package drop orientation, secondary impacts, and irradiated material properties, as well as their potential impacts to fuel cladding integrity, was also investigated. Cask drops are not expected as a regular occurrence during SNF transportation, but this work helps raise the understanding of SNF mechanical loads to the point of consistency with the package design requirements.

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