Washington, Nov.27 : The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois is taking its nuclear energy research into virtual territory.
With the recent arrival of the new IBM Blue Gene/P and the lab's development of advanced computer models, rgonne has a critical role in making it possible to burn repeatedly nuclear fuel that now sits as waste, thus closing the nuclear fuel cycle and reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation.
The move toward greater reliance on computer simulation and modelling to conduct nuclear energy research is a progressive trend seen in other areas of scientific research supported by the department.
"High-speed supercomputers are increasingly tackling difficult problems that could once be addressed only in a laboratory setting," said Argonne Director Robert Rosner.
Mark Peters, deputy to the assistant laboratory director of applied science and technology and Argonne's program manager for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, said: "What Argonne is doing is creating a set of integrated models that demonstrate and validate new technologies, using a smaller number of experiments."
Andrew Siegel, a computational scientist at Argonne and the lab's nuclear simulation project leader, said he and other computational scientists have activated a process for refining computer codes that will eventually be used to conduct the underlying scientific research that will support the development of next generation nuclear systems such as advanced fast reactors.
The Sodium Fast Reactor (SFR) design, which was born at Argonne, is a key part of President Bush's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, a strategy that will significantly reduce the radioactivity and volume of waste requiring disposal and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.
SFR designs are safe, capable of reducing the volume and toxicity of nuclear waste, and economically competitive with other electricity sources.
The kind of modelling and simulation work taking place at Argonne in support of the development of advanced nuclear energy systems is not by accident.
Argonne has the biggest concentration of scientists involved in fast reactor design and fuel reprocessing technologies - expertise that is essential to refining SFR design concepts.
Argonne's nuclear engineers and chemical engineers have already been collaborating with the lab's computer scientists to develop precise computer simulations of the process of physical changes that would occur in an SFR, as well as other important aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. (ANI)
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