A method for calculating the engineering margin factor (EMF) in calculations of the energy release in the core of VVER-1000 reactors is proposed in the paper. The analysis of various approaches in the calculation of EMF is carried out and various factors influencing EMF and the ways of their consideration —deterministic and statistical — are determined. The main attention is paid to the influence of gaps between the fuel assemblies on the energy release of fuel rods and the contribution of this factor to the EMF. The limitations and conservatism of two-dimensional small-scale calculations of the energy release of fuel rods in case of deviation of the gap size between the fuel assemblies from the design one are shown.
A three-dimensional approach to calculating the contribution of gaps to the EMF is proposed. The approach is based on
detailed measurements of the shape of fuel assemblies removed from the core performed at Zaporizhzhya NPP ;
simulation of the distribution of gaps in the reactor core  using measurement data;
two-dimensional calculations of the energy release of fuel rods in separate fuel assemblies, surrounded by gaps of different widths, with mirroring boundary conditions;
three-dimensional calculations of energy release of fuel rods in fuel assemblies in the reactor core.
Two-dimensional and three-dimensional calculations are performed by the wellknown ALPHA-H/PHOENIX-H/ANC-H codes. The proposed approach allows considering not only the change in the fuel rod power, particularly of the peripheral rods, which is inherent in the currently used methods of calculating EMF, but also takes into account the change in the power of the fuel assemblies in the core, which makes the proposed method more realistic and removes the excessive conservatism of EMF calculations and, thereby, allows improving fuel efficiency.
For fuel assemblies produced by Westinghouse, it is proposed to use full EMF: for fuel rod power (FΔH) 1.111 and for fuel rod linear power (FQ) 1.173. The use of the BEACONTM monitoring system makes it possible to further reduce the EMF: for fuel rod power (FΔH) - up to 1.084 and for fuel rod linear power (FQ) - up to 1.121.
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