ANL researchers developing application to study nuclear reactor cores in action

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Got a pointer over the email transom today to news of a new physics application being developed at Argonne National Laboratory. The neutron transport code, called UNIC, is giving researchers their first look at a highly detailed description of a nuclear reactor core.

Elevation plot of the highest energy neutron flux distributionsThe code could prove crucial in the development of nuclear reactors that are safe, affordable and environmentally friendly. To model the complex geometry of a reactor core requires billions of spatial elements, hundreds of angles and thousands of energy groups—all of which lead to problem sizes with quadrillions of possible solutions.

…“The UNIC code is intended to reduce the uncertainties and biases in reactor design calculations by progressively replacing existing multilevel averaging techniques with more direct solution methods based on explicit reactor geometries,” said Andrew Siegel, a computational scientist at Argonne and leader of Argonne’s reactor simulation group.

Although still in development, the code has been run at very large core counts and has already produced new scientific results

In particular, the Argonne team has carried out highly detailed simulations of the Zero Power Reactor experiments on up to 163,840 processor cores of the Blue Gene/P and 222,912 processor cores of the Cray XT5, as well as on 294,912 processor cores of a Blue Gene/P at the Jülich Supercomputing Center in Germany. With UNIC, the researchers have successfully represented the details of the full reactor geometry for the first time and have been able to compare the results directly with the experimental data.

More in the story linked above.