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NRG and NCBJ collaborate on safe nuclear reactors

Dutch and Polish researchers use computer capacity NCBJ for simulations

PETTEN/ŚWIERK – Researchers of the National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) and researchers from the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) will start a collaboration to further improve the safety of nuclear reactors. Both institutes signed a memorandum of agreement for a three year collaboration including computations to be performed on 5000 cores of the Polish supercomputer – Świerk Computing Centre (CIŚ).

“Our collaboration is an enormous scientific challenge” – as prof. Mariusz Dąbrowski, the Head of Division of Nuclear Energy and Environmental Studies at NCBJ, underlines. “We will focus on two basic issues, i.e. pressurized thermal shock and coolant mixing in fuel assemblies. ”According to Afaque Shams and Ferry Roelofs of NRG ‘’Both countries will profit from this collaboration. Our Polish colleagues will provide the huge computing facilities needed, while NRG as world leading institute in the field of CFD applications will support the Polish colleagues to setup the simulations”.

One of the postulated accident scenarios is a situation, when a nuclear reactor is losing part of its coolant inventory and cold emergency coolant water is injected to the system from the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS)” – explains Piotr Prusiński, the leader of the CFD Analysis Group in the Division of Nuclear Energy and Environmental Studies at NCBJ – “Such an instantaneous overcooling may lead to very high stresses and instabilities in the reactor vessel wall. This can eventually lead to small cracks. This phenomenon is known as pressurized thermal shock.”

For the transport of heat from the nuclear fuel rods in the core of a nuclear reactor huge amounts of coolant are required. This should prevent unwanted temperature rises which may eventually lead to fuel damage. The simulation of heat and fluid flows is done using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) techniques. The performance of the almost infinite number of calculations needed to describe the interactions of fluids and gases, and their interaction with vessel materials or nuclear fuels, requires huge computing capacity. Such simulations finally provide much more detailed information than can ever be measured experimentally.

“Both issues are well described in the world wide nuclear engineering literature, although till now analyses and experiments were conducted in the frame of models based on assumptions, which are difficult to verify” – added Tomasz Kwiatkowski from the CFD Analysis Group in the Division of Nuclear Energy and Environmental Studies at NCBJ – “With high fidelity simulations we aim at reducing these uncertainties.”

”We perform this kind of fundamental research with financial support of the Dutch ministry of economic affairs. This will help us to improve the safety requirements and protocols for nuclear reactors in the future. NRG and NCBJ have been collaborating before on several occasions. This collaboration will be elaborated in this three year program. Without any doubt, the benefit of the project will be the knowledge, which Polish and Dutch researchers will share.” say Shams and Roelofs.

Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) is an internationally operating nuclear service provider. The company produces isotopes, conducts nuclear technological research, is a consultant on the safety and reliability of nuclear installations and provides services related to radiation protection. Research is performed for governments aimed at developing knowledge about nuclear technology. NRG is a world market leader in the production of medical isotopes. In the Netherlands, NRG is the leading authority on integral radiation protection. NRG operates the High Flux Reactor owned by the European Union. The company has around 500 world-class employees with high quality know-how and works for and with partners in healthcare, the energy market, industry, government and science.

National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) is one of the biggest research institute in Poland with over one thousand  employees. NCBJ is the only in Poland research institute operating a nuclear reactor (the MARIA Research Reactor), which is carrying out routine radioisotope production.  NCBJ’s Radioisotope Centre POLATOM is a world-famous supplier of high-quality radiopharmaceuticals and diagnostic kits for nuclear medicine as well as an important manufacturer of radiochemical products with customers in over 70 countries. NCBJ is the leader both in experiment and theory of fundamental physics. It has participated in many large international research consortia organized to delve deep into the smallest elements the matter is composed of. NCBJ has also broad competence in nuclear energy, including works on nuclear fuel elements and nuclear system safety studies. Other fields of NCBJ activity include: hot plasmas from the point of view of their possible future applications in thermonuclear power industry, material science, environment and safety. It is expected that NCBJ will play the TSO (Technical Support Organization) role for the Polish Nuclear Power Programme. In order to perform this task Świerk Computing Centre has been established and delivers high-tech services and unparalled computer power of its 30, 000 CPU cluster.

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