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Machine Learning Dramatically Streamlines Search for More Efficient Chemical Reactions

A catalytic reaction may follow thousands of possible paths, and it can take years to identify which one it actually takes so scientists can tweak it and make it more efficient. Now researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have taken a big step toward cutting through this thicket of possibilities.

Freezing Lithium Batteries May Make Them Safer and Bendable

Columbia Engineering Professor Yuan Yang has developed a new method that could lead to lithium batteries that are safer, have longer battery life, and are bendable, providing new possibilities such as flexible smartphones. His new technique uses ice-templating to control the structure of the solid electrolyte for lithium batteries that are used in portable electronics, electric vehicles, and grid-level energy storage. The study is published online April 24 in Nano Letters.

New Study Reveals the Mystery Behind the Formation of Hollowed Nanoparticles During Metal Oxidation

In a newly published <i>Science</i> paper, Argonne and Temple University researchers reveal new knowledge about the behavior of metal nanoparticles when they undergo oxidation, by integrating X-ray imaging and computer modeling and simulation. This knowledge adds to our understanding of fundamental processes like oxidation and corrosion.

Rare Supernova Discovery Ushers in New Era for Cosmology

With help from a supernova-hunting pipeline based at NERSC, astronomers captured multiple images of a gravitationally lensed Type 1a supernova. This is currently the only one, but if astronomers can find more they may be able to measure Universal expansion within four percent accuracy. Luckily, Berkeley Lab researchers do have a method for finding more.

Making Batteries From Waste Glass Bottles

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering have used waste glass bottles and a low-cost chemical process to create nanosilicon anodes for high-performance lithium-ion batteries. The batteries will extend the range of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and provide more power with fewer charges to personal electronics like cell phones and laptops.

Changing the Game

High performance computing researcher Shuaiwen Leon Song asked if hardware called 3D stacked memory could do something it was never designed to do--help render 3D graphics.

A Scientific Advance for Cool Clothing: Temperature-Wise, That Is

Stanford University researchers, with the aid of the Comet supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer at UC San Diego, have engineered a low-cost plastic material that could become the basis for clothing that cools the wearer, reducing the need for energy-consuming air conditioning.

Adjusting Solar Panel Angles a Few Times a Year Makes Them More Efficient

With Earth Day approaching, new research from Binghamton University-State of New York could help U.S. residents save more energy, regardless of location, if they adjust the angles of solar panels four to five times a year.

A Real CAM-Do Attitude

A multi-institutional team used resources at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility to catalog how desert plants photosynthetic processes vary. The study could help scientists engineer drought-resistant crops for food and fuel.

Predictive Power

The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors carried out the largest time-dependent simulation of a nuclear reactor ever to support Tennessee Valley Authority and Westinghouse Electric Company during the startup of Watts Bar Unit 2, the first new US nuclear reactor in 20 years. The simulation was carried out primarily on OLCF resources.


3 Small Energy Firms to Collaborate with PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is collaborating with three small businesses to address technical challenges concerning hydrogen for fuel cell cars, bio-coal and nanomaterial manufacturing.

ORNL to Collaborate with Five Small Businesses to Advance Energy Tech

Five small companies have been selected to partner with the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to move technologies in commercial refrigeration systems, water power generation, bioenergy and battery manufacturing closer to the marketplace.

U.S. Department of Energy's INCITE Program Seeks Advanced Computational Research Proposals for 2018

The Department of Energy's INCITE program will be accepting proposals for high-impact, computationally intensive research campaigns in a broad array of science, engineering, and computer science domains.

New Berkeley Lab Project Turns Waste Heat to Electricity

A new Berkeley Lab project seeks to efficiently capture waste heat and convert it to electricity, potentially saving California up to $385 million per year. With a $2-million grant from the California Energy Commission, Berkeley Lab scientists will work with Alphabet Energy to create a cost-effective thermoelectric waste heat recovery system.

New SLAC Theory Institute Aims to Speed Research on Exotic Materials at Light Sources

A new institute at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is using the power of theory to search for new types of materials that could revolutionize society - by making it possible, for instance, to transmit electricity over power lines with no loss.

Lenvio Inc. Exclusively Licenses ORNL Malware Behavior Detection Technology

Virginia-based Lenvio Inc. has exclusively licensed a cyber security technology from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory that can quickly detect malicious behavior in software not previously identified as a threat.

Argonne Scientist and Nobel Laureate Alexei Abrikosov Dies at 88

Alexei Abrikosov, an acclaimed physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory who received the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on superconducting materials, died Wednesday, March 29. He was 88.

Jefferson Lab Accomplishes Critical Milestones Toward Completion of 12 GeV Upgrade

The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has achieved two major commissioning milestones and is now entering the final stretch of work to conclude its first major upgrade. Recently, the CEBAF accelerator delivered electron beams into two of its experimental halls, Halls B and C, at energies not possible before the upgrade for commissioning of the experimental equipment currently in each hall. Data were recorded in each hall, which were then confirmed to be of sufficient quality to allow for particle identification, a primary indicator of good detector operation.

Valerie Taylor Named Argonne National Laboratory's Mathematics and Computer Science Division Director

Computer scientist Valerie Taylor has been appointed as the next director of the Mathematics and Computer Science division at Argonne, effective July 3, 2017.

Three SLAC Employees Awarded Lab's Highest Honor

At a March 7 ceremony, three employees of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were awarded the lab's highest honor ­- the SLAC Director's Award.


The Roadmap to Quark Soup

Scientists discover new signposts in the quest to determine how matter from the early universe turned into the world we know today.

Neutrons Play the Lead to Protons in Dance Around "Double-Magic" Nucleus

Electric and magnetic properties of a radioactive atom provide unique insight into the nature of proton and neutron motion.

Ultrafast Imaging Reveals the Electron's New Clothes

Scientists use high-speed electrons to visualize "dress-like" distortions in the atomic lattice. This work reveals the vital role of electron-lattice interactions in manganites. This material could be used in data-storage devices with increased data density and reduced power requirements.

One Small Change Makes Solar Cells More Efficient

For years, scientists have explored using tiny drops of designer materials, called quantum dots, to make better solar cells. Adding small amounts of manganese decreases the ability of quantum dots to absorb light but increases the current produced by an average of 300%.

Electronic "Cyclones" at the Nanoscale

Through highly controlled synthesis, scientists controlled competing atomic forces to let spiral electronic structures form. These polar vortices can serve as a precursor to new phenomena in materials. The materials could be vital for ultra-low energy electronic devices.

In a Flash! A New Way for Making Ceramics

A new process controllably but instantly consolidates ceramic parts, potentially important for manufacturing.

Deciphering Material Properties at the Single-Atom Level

Scientists determine the precise location and identity of all 23,000 atoms in a nanoparticle.

Smallest Transistor Ever

It has long been thought that building nanometer-sized transistors was impossible. Simply put, the physics and atomic structural imperfections couldn't be overcome. However, scientists built fully functional, nanometer-sized transistors.

Creation of Artificial Atoms

For the first time, scientists created a tunable artificial atom in graphene. The results from this research demonstrate a viable, controllable, and reversible technique to confine electrons in graphene.

Developing Tools to Understand Lithium-Ion Battery Instabilities

Scientists develop tools to understand Li-ion battery instabilities, enabling the study of electrodes and solid-electrolyte interphase formation.


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Predictive Power

Article ID: 673181

Released: 2017-04-18 13:05:37

Source Newsroom: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

  • Credit: TVA

    The startup of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power plant gave researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors a chance to showcase the predictive power of the group’s advanced simulation code.

  • Credit: ORNL

    A visualization showing the distribution of the fission product Xenon-135, an important marker for predicting reactor behavior, in the WB2 reactor core during startup. VERA enables the detailed tracking of Xenon-135 with greater fidelity than any modern reactor simulation tool available today.

Few jobs are more massive than that of building a nuclear power plant, a project that takes years and billions of dollars to complete. But once a new plant is finished, how do engineers know it will operate as designed?

In October 2016, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) began full commercial operation of its Watts Bar Unit 2 (WB2) nuclear power plant, the United States’ first new nuclear reactor in 20 years. WB2 produces about 1,150 megawatts of electricity—enough to power 650,000 homes in East Tennessee. Furthermore, the power is generated without creating any carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, or other pollutants that affect air quality and contribute to climate change.

After 6 months of testing, TVA authorized commercial operation of the plant. As part of the plant startup, TVA leveraged advanced computer simulation capability provided by the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL), a US Department of Energy (DOE) Innovation Hub based at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Established in 2010 with partner institutions from government, academia, and industry, CASL develops and deploys advanced modeling and simulation of nuclear reactors to better understand plant behavior at unprecedented scales.

Using data supplied by CASL members—TVA and the Westinghouse Electric Company—and high-performance computing (HPC) resources managed by the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), a DOE Office of Science User Facility at ORNL, CASL carried out the largest time-dependent simulation of a nuclear power plant to date. The simulations confirmed engineers’ predictions related to the safe and reliable operation of WB2—including when the reactor would sustain a fission reaction—and provided a detailed picture of the reactor’s hour-by-hour behavior during power escalation.

The project marked the first time CASL had the opportunity to showcase its high-fidelity code suite, the Virtual Environment for Reactor Application (VERA), as a predictive tool.

“Even though VERA is essentially a research code, the results of our Watts Bar Unit 2 simulations demonstrate that this is a state-of-the-art tool that industry can use to make real decisions,” said Andrew Godfrey, senior R&D staff member at ORNL. “In this case, CASL’s high-fidelity predictions helped cement TVA’s and Westinghouse’s confidence that the plant would operate as expected. That confidence was later confirmed when measurements made during Unit 2’s initial cycle closely matched VERA’s simulated results.”

Within light water reactors, electricity generation starts with controlled nuclear fission sustained by rods of uranium fuel. Knowing when and under what conditions the fuel will sustain a fission reaction is a critical piece of information for plant operators.

Using VERA, the CASL team built a model of the WB2 reactor core before the plant’s startup. Simulations of the core’s initial cycle, conducted on the OLCF analysis cluster Eos, calculated reactor startup conditions and the underlying physics up to the point of self-sustaining fission. Specifically, the CASL team used VERA to predict boron levels, which control reactivity, and control rod reactivity worths, which quantify how much control rods affect the rate of reactivity. Both simulated figures were found to be well within acceptable levels, information that proved valuable to TVA at startup.

“Our participation in CASL allowed us to obtain accurate design predictions for the startup of Watts Bar Unit 2,” said David Brown, TVA Nuclear general manager of reactor engineering and fuels. “In the past, some reactor analysis methods have had trouble simulating the first cycle of a reactor.

“To overcome the challenges, the supercomputing capability at Oak Ridge was used to complete several large calculations that were validated against actual plant measurements as Watts Bar Unit 2 reached criticality,” he continued. “Validation of the data against real-world results will help CASL continue to improve modeling and simulation technology for the nuclear industry.”

During WB2’s power escalation period between June and October, CASL continued to simulate plant power history through the startup phase, which spanned nine shutdown periods. Using Eos and Titan, the OLCF’s 27-petaflop Cray XK7 supercomputer, the team produced hour-by-hour snapshots, or state points, that captured significant reactor properties in fine detail, including changes in short-lived fission product isotopes, power distribution, and core reactivity. In total, the CASL team calculated 4,128 state points, a task that required more than 2 million core-hours of compute time.

The comprehensive WB2 simulations provided CASL with excellent validation of VERA, which includes new parallelization methods and application features. Additional work by the CASL team has adapted VERA to run on smaller-scale HPC systems (about 1,000 processing units) so that industry researchers can use the technology on in-house systems in the near future.

Encouraged by CASL results and in anticipation of future expectations, Westinghouse is planning to upgrade its internal HPC capabilities soon, according to Zach McDaniel, manager of pressurized water reactor core methods at Westinghouse.

“Initial applications of CASL tools to industry challenges, including test deployments of VERA on Westinghouse systems, have clearly demonstrated the benefits of HPC for the nuclear industry,” McDaniel said.

Through partnerships with a dozen active nuclear power plants, CASL is continuing to develop VERA to better serve industry by investigating challenges such as how to mitigate boron deposits on the outside of fuel rods and how to predict fuel rod failures. Addressing these issues could extend the life of power plants and lower the cost of operation. The CASL team is also simulating new reactor designs, such as NuScale’s integral pressurized water reactor, a small modular reactor, and Westinghouse’s AP1000, which is set to come online in China in 2017 and the US in 2019.

“We’re starting to build a case for industry to take the next step in HPC,” Godfrey said. “With our modeling and simulation tools, we are hoping to show industry partners they can solve problems that no one has been able to solve before and make nuclear power a more competitive source of commercial energy.”

Related Publication: Andrew Godfrey, et al., “Analysis of the Startup of Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2 Using VERA.” International Conference on Mathematics & Computational Methods to Nuclear Science & Engineering, Jeju, Korea, April 16–20, 2017. http://www.casl.gov/docs/CASL-U-2017-1306-000.pdf.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.