Researchers simulate reactor-core physics with supercomputer

CASL researchers have developed a model that is capable of predicting the interior environment of a nuclear reactor.
CASL researchers have developed a model that is capable of predicting the interior environment of a nuclear reactor. | Courtesy of CASL
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said late last week that a team of researchers was able to develop a model that simulates the physics of a nuclear reactor core.

Researchers from the Consortium of Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) utilized the Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee to create a simulation of the internal physics of an AP1000 nuclear reactor. Through this, the team can change variables associated with different materials and metals to determine a substance’s behavior in a reactor and whether it would be viable as fuel or another component.

The NEI said the simulation also allows operators to make more informed decisions and allow nuclear facilities to run accident simulations without risking safety or operations, which also is more cost-effective. This model was developed based on the first unit at the Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station in Tennessee.

“Our simulation is not perfect, but we can see all the trends," CASL Director Jess Gehin said.  "We’re doing as well or better than industry-simulation tools and can get a lot more detail. It’s very important to have that baseline from the Watts Bar simulation to give us confidence in our results.”

The NEI said this project exemplifies the benefits of public and private collaboration in research and the nuclear industry.

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