A nuclear reactor having a coolant flow deflector secured to a reactor core barrel in line with a coolant inlet nozzle. The flow deflector redirects incoming coolant down an annulus between the core barrel and the reactor vessel. The deflector has a main body with a front side facing the fluid inlet nozzle and a rear side facing the core barrel. The rear side of the main body has at least one protrusion secured to the core barrel so that a gap exists between the rear side of the main body adjacent the protrusion and the core barrel. Preferably, the protrusion is a relief that circumscribes the rear side of the main body.