Governor’s Chair Works to Stop Nuclear Reactor Fuel Failures

Brian Wirth, Governor’s Chair for computational nuclear engineering, says computers hold the key to figuring out the solutions to the problems that plague the world’s nuclear reactors.

Wirth is the co-editor, along with Kurt Edsinger of the Electric Power Research Institute and Chris Stanek of Los Alamos National Laboratory, of a special issue of the Journal of Metals on computational modeling of nuclear fuel performance. Wirth, Edsinger and Stanek also author two articles within the edition.

In the articles, Wirth and co-authors discusses the causes of problems responsible for triggering modern-day fuel failures at reactors—grid-to-rod fretting, crud-induced corrosion fretting, and pellet clad interaction. He then introduces the reader to the start of the solutions, which lies within the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL). CASL is one of three hubs funded by the Department of Energy that promises to advance areas of energy science and engineering from the early stage of research to the point where the technology can be handed off to the private sector.

Housed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, CASL is attempting to build computational tools that will enable improved reliability and utilization of nuclear energy. Success of CASL is predicated on the development of industrially relevant computational design and analysis tools that ultimately are useful to the entire nuclear energy community to evaluate pressure water reactors’ fuel performance. The hub aims to develop modeling and simulation technologies to make significant leaps forward in nuclear reactor design and engineering. It also aims to develop not only new clean energy solutions but new jobs for America’s families.

To read Wirth’s articles, visit http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/JOMbyIssue.aspx?issue=JOM\2011\August.

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