A fuel assembly skeleton includes a top nozzle, a number of longitudinally-extending guide thimbles having upper ends, a number of joints interconnecting the top nozzle and the upper ends of the guide thimbles. All but a few of the joints are structural joints providing rigid connections between all but a corresponding few of the guide thimble upper ends and the top nozzle. Each of the other few joints is a non-structural joint providing a non-rigid connection between a guide thimble upper end and the top nozzle. The number of structural joints constitutes at least a substantial majority of the joints and, in any event, the number is at least three times the number of non-structural joints. Each non-structural joint is composed of a hollow sleeve rigidly connected to the top nozzle and disposed in a slip fit relationship about the guide thimble upper end. The sleeve is bulge fitted in a passageway defined in the top nozzle.
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