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Using supercomputers to make safer nuclear reactors
Date:11/1/2007

offer a viable, productive way to start getting rid of the worlds stockpile of weapons-grade nuclear fuel.

The idea is to design reactors that can use this material and that are safe, Podowski said. With this project, we are trying to improve the understanding of the physics of the system in order to provide the necessary advancements for the design of new, safer, and better reactors.

To expedite this understanding, Podowskis team will construct an incredibly detailed computer model of an SFR. The model will allow researchers to zoom in and watch as individual molecules of fission gas and fuel material interact with other molecules inside the reactor, or zoom out to simulate and test the behavior of the reactor as a whole. Creating such a model, not to mention running hundreds or thousands of simulations with slightly modified models and conditions, requires a tremendous amount of computing power and would not be possible without the help of supercomputers, Podowski said.

In order to construct the model and run these massive simulations, Podowskis team will develop and deploy a suite of powerful, high-performance software tools capable of performing such a task. Since no one computer code or technology is robust enough to model the wide variety of systems that comprise an SFR, the team will use different computer codes for different parts of the model and then develop new ways of linking those differently coded segments together into a single, cohesive, seamless package.

The researchers will use simulations to study fuel performance, local core degradation, fuel particle transport, and several other aspects of the SFRs. By better understanding how design and operational issues will affect the reactor at different stages in its life cycle, Podowski said, the new study will help to dramatically improve the design and safety of SFRs long before the first physical prototype is ever built.

Nuclear reactors are safe, but nothi
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Contact: Michael Mullaney
mullam@rpi.edu
518-276-6161
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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