Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ORNL's Energy Innovation Hub

Presiden't Obama's BLUEPRINT FOR A SECURE ENERGY FUTURE, released on March 30, includes mention of
As part of a broad effort to spur clean energy breakthroughs, Oak Ridge National Laboratory is leading an Energy Innovation Hub devoted to nuclear energy modeling and simulation. The Hub, which includes partners from universities, industry and other national labs, will use advanced capabilities of the world's most powerful computers to make significant leaps forward in nuclear reactor design and engineering.
The new Nuclear Energy Modeling and Simulation Energy Innovation Hub, is intended to be funded by $122 million over the next 5 years.
The Hub will use the capabilities of the world’s most powerful computers to work on nuclear reactor design and engineering.
A recent report stated
that 8 million processing hours will be directed to designing new and better reactors.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation Hub will allow engineers to create a simulation of a currently operating reactor that will act as a “virtual model” of that reactor. They will then use the “virtual model” to address important questions about reactor operations and safety. This will be used to address issues such as reactor power production increases and reactor life and license extensions.
In addition to ORNL a number of other universities, National Laboratories and other research institutions will collbirate in the project including:
  • Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, California
  • Idaho National Lab, Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, New Mexico
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Massachusetts
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Sandia National Lab, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Tennessee Valley Authority, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Westinghouse Electric Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Energy Innovation Hub researchers will use the ORNL Super computer cluster The DoE intends to build a total of three Energy Innovation Hubs in order to research:
  1. Fuels from Sunlight
  2. Efficient Energy Building Systems Design
  3. Modeling and Simulation for Nuclear Reactors.
The Hubs are intended to move the nation,
beyond our present overwhelming dependence on fossil fuels-and achieving truly significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on an urgent basis-represents a technological challenge of historic scale. Success will require major mobilization of our nation's basic and applied energy research capabilities, along with new investments in engineering and development to accelerate the deployment of revolutionary energy technologies in the marketplace. The developments of the atomic bomb under the Manhattan Project and of radar technology at the MIT Radiation Laboratory during World War II, as well as the invention of the transistor at Bell Laboratories in the 1950s, stand as evidence that exceptionally rapid technological breakthroughs are possible. These transformational breakthroughs came as a result of significant investments in highly motivated and focused scientific collaborations, combining basic and applied research, and aimed at overcoming a specific technological challenge.
The choice of ORNL as the lead Institution in the nuclear hub has very real significance for the national energy future. First, of the three hubs the Nuclear hub is likely to be the most important, because neither fuels from sunlight nor improved building efficiency are likely to do the heavy lifting required to provide the United States with future post carbon energy. ORNL has the largest suite of super computers of situated art any research institution in the world, but further, ORNL has both 60 year old tradition of Molten Salt Reactor research and development, and a growing interest in the research and development of Molten Salt cooled reactors.


Karel Beelaerts van Blokland said...

Charles, this is great for new reactor designs. But how about the current fleet. LFTR is wonderfull for future builts but how about the Thorium One and LightBridge initiative to design Thorium-MOX fuels to be used in existing plants?. Seem a very logic transformation. What are the pitfalls of such a transformation?


Karel Beelaerts van Blokland
the Netherlands

Jess said...

The energy innovation hub for nuclear energy was the first hub awarded and is called the "Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors" or CASL. More information is available at:


Rasmus Kiehl said...

A different approach could be to use the distributed computing power of thousands of individuals for such an effort (a la SETI@Home). I think that this possibility was previously discussed on the EfT forum, no ?

donb said...

It is good to see that powerful computer resources are being made available to advance the design of nuclear reactors. Good tools like this should advance the state of the art.

Something additional is needed. No matter how good the simulation tools, even more is learned when the design gets built. There come a time in any project when it is necessary to 'shoot the engineering' and build the device. This is where the rubber meets the road. While we can feel good about some wonderful simulations, we need to produce energy. Producing energy requires doing the real-world work of putting together funding, getting regulatory approvals, moving dirt, fabricating parts, and bolting together all the pieces. A lot of properly ordered bits in a computer can help us determine what to do, but won't produce a kilowatt-hour of energy.

We already have quite a few "paper reactors" that look promising. Likely they need more design simulation. But we will not know how good any of these reactors really are until those paper designs are expressed in operating hardware.

I think our shortage of prototype reactor hardware is much more critical than any shortage of reactor simulation tools.


Blog Archive

Some neat videos

Nuclear Advocacy Webring
Ring Owner: Nuclear is Our Future Site: Nuclear is Our Future
Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet
Get Your Free Web Ring
by Bravenet.com
Dr. Joe Bonometti speaking on thorium/LFTR technology at Georgia Tech David LeBlanc on LFTR/MSR technology Robert Hargraves on AIM High