Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors

The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL), the US Department of Energy's (US DOE) Energy Innovation Hub specific to Nuclear Energy, has been formed, headquartered at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) with Dr. Douglas B. Kothe as Director of CASL.

The basic mission of the CASL is to create a virtual reactor (VR) to computationally model and predictively simulate the operation of light water reactors, with a view to (i) decreasing overall capital and operating costs associated with LWRs (ii) decreasing spent nuclear fuel volume generated by LWRs (iii) improving nuclear safety performance, especially by developing computational tools which better predict ageing, degradation and failure of LWR materials and components. The objective is both to impact the sustainability program for current generation light water reactors, as well as to impact the design of future generation nuclear reactors.

The Core partners in CASL are Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Idaho National Lab (INL), Los Alamos National Lab (LANL), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), North Carolina State University (NCSU), Sandia National Labs, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), University of Michigan, and Westinghouse Electric Company.

The operational structure and mission statement of CASL explicitly incorporates the vision US Secretary of Energy Dr. Chu has articulated, for example, of 'Bell Labs-like institutions which are mission-driven but solve fundamental problems as well'. See here.

In CASL Director Dr. Kothe's words, (CASL):

• Focuses on a single topic, with work spanning the gamut, from basic research through engineering development to partnering with industry in commercialization
• (creates) Large, highly integrated and collaborative creative teams working to solve priority
technology challenges
• Embraces both the goals of understanding and use, without erecting barriers between
basic and applied research
(emphasis added).


To develop the VR, CASL has been organized into five technical focus areas (FAs) to perform the necessary work ranging from basic science, model development, and software engineering, to applications:

Advanced Modeling Applications (AMA
) – The primary interface of the CASL VR with the applications related to existing physical reactors, the challenge problems, and full-scale validation. In addition, AMA will provide the necessary direction to the VR development by developing the set of functional requirements, prioritizing the modeling needs, and performing assessments of capability.

Virtual Reactor Integration (VRI) – Develops the CASL VR tools integrating the models, methods, and data developed by other Focus Areas within a software framework. VRI will collaborate with AMA to deliver usable tools for performing the analyses, guided by the functional requirements developed by AMA.

Models and Numerical Methods (MNM)
– Advances existing and develops new fundamental modeling capabilities for nuclear analysis and associated integration with solver environments utilizing large-scale parallel systems. The primary mission of MNM is to deliver radiation transport and T-H components that meet the rigorous physical model and numerical algorithm requirements of the VR. MNM will collaborate closely with MPO for sub-grid material and chemistry models and will connect to VRI for integration and development of the CASL VR.

Materials Performance and Optimization (MPO) – Develops improved materials performance models for fuels, cladding, and structural materials to provide better prediction of fuel and material failure. The science work performed by MPO will provide the means to reduce the reliance on empirical correlations and to enable the use of an expanded range of materials and fuel forms.

Validation and Uncertainty Quantification (VUQ)
– The quantification of uncertainties and associated validation of the VR models and integrated system are essential to the application of modeling and simulation to reactor applications. Improvements in the determination of operating and safety margins will directly contribute to the ability to uprate reactors and extend their lifetimes. The methods proposed under VUQ will significantly advance the state of the art of nuclear analysis and support the transition from integral experiments to the integration of small-scale separate-effect experiments

The European PERFECT Project shares many of the goals of the CASL, in developing 'virtual reactors', though the PERFECT project aims to develop 2, one each for the reactor pressure vessel and the internal structures. The first will concentrate on modeling irradiation degradation, while the second will concentrate on the corrosion faced by internal structures.