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Supercomputing Reactor Cores With Titan

John Turner of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (left) and Sandia National Lab’s Roger Pawlowski analyze the Watts Bar reactor simulation using the CASL Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications. Image courtesy of ORNL.

John Turner of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (left) and Sandia National Lab’s Roger Pawlowski analyze the Watts Bar reactor simulation using the CASL Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications. Image courtesy of ORNL.

The Nuclear Energy Institute reports that the Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge is being used to simulate the complex physical environment inside a nuclear reactor’s core, thereby aiding researchers in studying reactor operations and performance.

A team at Oak Ridge’s Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) is using Titan to design a “virtual reactor” called VERA (Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications). VERA is designed to model the inner workings of a typical pressurized water reactor similar to Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar reactor 1 in Spring City, Tennessee.

Our simulation technology must be capable of resolving sub-millimeter phenomena over the whole reactor core,” said CASL Director Douglas Kothe. “A full core simulation in which the core volume is partitioned into several billion small computational elements is now possible,” Kothe said.

A more predictive virtual reactor would allow the industry to address challenges such as reducing waste, boosting power output and increasing plant longevity. For example, VERA could be used to predict the in-reactor behavior of advanced nuclear fuel cladding materials.

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