Nuclear research center to increase safety

On May 3, the Department of Energy (DOE) dedicated the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL), an advanced research facility that will accelerate the advancement of nuclear reactor technology. CASL researchers are using supercomputers to study the performance of light water reactors and to develop modeling that will help accelerate upgrades at existing U.S. nuclear plants.

These upgrades could improve the energy output of the country’s existing reactor fleet by as much as seven reactors' worth at a fraction of the cost of building new reactors, while providing continued improvements in reliability and safety, the release from DOE said.

The facility, headquartered at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), brings together four national labs, three industry partners and three universities in an effort to develop tools that will advance new generations of nuclear reactors and safely extend the life and reliability of existing plants.

“Nuclear energy is our nation’s largest source of carbon-free power and is an important part of our energy mix moving forward,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “Work done at this facility will help make our fleet of reactors even safer and more efficient while creating jobs, fueling the economy and saving consumers money on their utility bills.”

The Department announced May 3 that CASL has completed the first “virtual reactor.” This software will provide improved insight into the operations of reactors, helping the industry reduce capital and operating costs, minimize nuclear waste volume, safely extend the lifetime of the current nuclear fleet and develop new materials for next-generation reactors.

Partners in the CASL hub include Electric Power Research Institute, Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Sandia National Laboratories, Tennessee Valley Authority, University of Michigan and Westinghouse Electric Co.

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