ORNL Researchers Use Code Toolkit to Back Exascale Small Modular Reactor for Nuclear Modeling

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ORNL Researchers Use Code Toolkit to Back Exascale Small Modular Reactor for Nuclear Modeling
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Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working to advance the future of fission power by using an exascale small modular reactor equipped with a toolkit of computer codes to conduct simulations of reactor systems in high resolution.

“By accurately predicting the nuclear reactor fuel cycle, ExaSMR reduces the number of physical experiments that reactor designers would perform to justify fuel use,” Steven Hamilton, ExaSMR project leader at ORNL, said in a statement published Monday.

“In large part, that’s what simulation is buying companies: a predictive capability that tells you how certain features will perform so that you don’t need to physically construct or perform as many experiments, which are enormously expensive,” Hamilton added.

The toolkit is designed to help researchers predict the entire fission process of a nuclear reactor design. It consists of OpenMC, Shift and NekRS computer codes that are being optimized for new exascale-class supercomputers.

OpenMC and Shift both use Monte Carlo methods and are being used to simulate reactor depletion and nuclear particle transport, while NekRS is designed to model thermal fluid dynamics.

The research team has linked up with nuclear power technology company Westinghouse for the ExaSMR project.

Under the effort, Westinghouse will conduct simulations to assess the performance of different fuel types in an operating reactor by running ExaSMR on Frontier, the world’s first exascale supercomputer, unveiled by ORNL and Hewlett Packard Enterprise in 2022.

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