MIT grad student's work sheds light on nuclear reactor water dynamics

Benjamin Magolan, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been devising and testing algorithms to help visualize the flow of coolant water inside the core of a nuclear reactor, MIT said on Wednesday.

Magolan is in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering's (NSE) master's program, with a focus on computational fluid dynamics (CFD). His work, which provides insights into reactor thermal-hydraulic dynamics, has earned him the Rickover Fellowship in Nuclear Engineering.

“It’s exciting and cool that files I create might someday be essential in the design of the next generation of light-water reactors,” Magolan said.

His project is part of the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL), an initiative by the Department of Energy. Magolan also has done work on the Hydra-TH code, which was created at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. When his model is integrated into the Hydra-TH code, it will be able to predict coolant-water behavior as it moves through a reactor core.

“The whole purpose of my work is to predict the turbulence-driven secondary flows that cause the coolant to spiral through reactor fuel assemblies,” Magolan said. “Capturing this behavior leads to better flow predictions.”

Magolan will continue his studies as a doctoral student in the fall. Under the Rickover Fellowship, his research will continue as he further develops this model to include the behavior of vapor and how it affects reactor performance and other matters.

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