Oak Ridge Lab to address nuclear security challenges

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Scientists at the Nuclear Science and Technology Division of the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are merging nuclear energy and safety expertise with high-performance computing to address nuclear energy- and security-related challenges.

John C. Wagner, PhD, technical integration manager for nuclear modeling within ORNL's Nuclear Science and Technology division, said that one of the goals of his organization was to integrate existing nuclear energy and nuclear national security modeling and simulation capabilities and associated expertise with high-performance computing to solve problems that were previously unthinkable or impractical in terms of the computing power required to address them.

A combination of ORNL's Jaguar, the world's fastest supercomputer; advanced transport methods; and a next-generation software package called Denovo simulates nuclear models. Denovo was recently awarded eight million processor hours on the Jaguar supercomputer by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment program to develop a uniquely detailed simulation of the power distribution inside a nuclear reactor core.

However, Wagner pointed out that these computer simulations will not completely eliminate the need for experimental or measurement data to confirm or "validate" the software. Instead, the nuclear modeling will increase confidence in the results using a more limited set of physical data.