Research center to boost safety, power output of U.S. nuclear reactors

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Oak Ridge, Tenn., May 5, 2011 The Department of Energy dedicated the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, 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 highly sophisticated modeling that will help accelerate upgrades at existing U.S. nuclear plants.

These upgrades could improve the energy output of our 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 facility, headquartered at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, brings together four national labs, three industry partners and three universities in a highly collaborative 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 DOE announced 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.

Awarded by DOE in May 2010, CASL was the first of three energy innovation hubs designed to bring together scientists and engineers from private and public institutions across the nation to tackle specific and high-priority energy goals in a collaborative framework.

The hubs are large, multidisciplinary, highly-collaborative teams of scientists and engineers working over a longer time frame to achieve a specific high-priority goal, like developing fuels from sunlight in an economical way and making buildings more energy efficient.

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