CASL seeks to provide coupled, higher-fidelity, usable modeling and simulation (M&S) capabilities needed to address light-water reactor operational and safety performance-defining phenomena—to predict, with confidence, the performance of nuclear reactors through comprehensive, science-based M&S technology that is deployed and applied broadly throughout the nuclear energy industry to enhance safety, reliability, and economics. The DOE recently approved CASL’s renewal to develop further advanced computing capabilities that serve as a virtual version of existing, operating nuclear reactors—to enable nuclear energy to continue to provide dependable, affordable energy to America while advancing innovative research in an energy source central to achieving the President’s goals for a low-carbon energy future. CASL researchers will focus on extending the M&S tools built during its first phase to include additional nuclear reactor designs, including small, modular reactors.
“As President Obama made clear during his State of the Union address, reducing carbon pollution and protecting the climate has to be a top priority,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “CASL’s work to help further our understanding of nuclear reactors, improving safety while also making them more efficient, will help the transition to a low-carbon economy.”
Throughout its first five years, CASL has demonstrated significant progress, leveraging previous taxpayer investments in M&S tools that run on the world’s most powerful computers and applying them to current-generation nuclear reactors. CASL also created innovative methods for the interoperation of software that simulates many physical behaviors found in reactors, improving the accuracy of simulation results.
Images produced by Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications–Core Simulator (VERA-CS) of coolant enthalpy distribution in a pressurized water reactor (PWR) at hot full power. 3D image of core enthalpy.
CASL’s Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications (VERA), essentially a “virtual” reactor, has already been deployed for testing in the nuclear industry. VERA incorporates coupled physics and science-based models, state-of-the-art numerical methods, and modern computational architecture. It is being validated with data from a variety of sources, including operating pressurized water reactors.
CASL, which is led by and headquartered at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, boasts hundreds of technical reports and publications and wide engagement with nuclear-reactor technology vendors, utilities, and the advanced computing industry. Additional founding partners include: Westinghouse; the Electric Power Research Institute; Tennessee Valley Authority; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; North Carolina State University; University of Michigan; and the Idaho, Los Alamos, and Sandia national laboratories.
Images produced by Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications–Core Simulator (VERA-CS) of coolant enthalpy distribution in a pressurized water reactor (PWR) at hot full power. 2D image at the core exit.
Sandia has a long history of providing world-class capabilities in nuclear energy safety and licensing and in advanced computational science and high performance computing. CASL has been a tremendous opportunity for Sandia to provide technical leadership in these areas, and Sandia’s computational tools have played a principal role in creating the foundations of VERA architecture, including advanced multiphysics coupling methods, the DAKOTA optimization and uncertainty quantification (UQ) toolkit, and the Trilinos solver package library. Sandia’s nuclear energy and computational science expertise and technology will continue to play vital roles for CASL during Phase 2 activities.
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