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Nuclear Engineering & Engineering Physics Research

nuclear reactor

Nuclear systems engineering

This research area studies the performance of complete fission and fusion energy systems, in order to support safety analysis and design improvements. The nuclear reactions at the heart of these systems drive a wide variety of engineering responses that must be considered individually and together to ensure efficient and safe operation. Novel computational methods and tools are developed to predict the nature of the nuclear environment.  These tools are used to explore design alternatives, from specific material choices, components, or entire systems. Analyses of these alternatives confirm efficient use of fuel and other resources, and support regulations to ensure safe operation.


Centers, consortia and institutes

Current and advanced fission reactor thermal hydraulics

If we are to have a viable commercial nuclear energy fleet and strive to continue to improve upon efficiency, safety, economics and performance of nuclear reactors, we must be able to understand the behavior of a reactor under all operating conditions. Professors Duarte and Anderson have extensive experience modeling reactors and reactor components from a fluids heat transfer and thermodynamics perspective as well as conducting experiments that validate the models.

Radiation transport, reactor physics and nuclear fuel cycles

As simulation takes a larger role in the development of nuclear technology, there is a need to improve the fidelity and complexity of the simulations. With a focus on radiation transport and nuclide inventory tracking—and coupling these to other domain physics—Professors Wilson and Lindley are delivering new simulation capability by combining modern computational science technology with new solution methodologies. These tools are being used to design complex systems like ITER, to understand and improve next-generation reactor designs, and to explore the science-policy boundary of advanced fuel cycles.

Integrated energy systems

Nuclear power has traditionally functioned best as a large baseload generator. However, as the share of variable renewables in the energy mix increases, and deep reductions in carbon emissions are targeted, nuclear energy must play an increasingly flexible role. Professors Lindley and Wilson perform research on the integration of nuclear and renewable energy, the use of nuclear energy to generate heat as well as electricity, and the deployment of novel reactors in new markets. This includes development of computational tools that are used to inform what is feasible and cost-effective; and development of new system concepts that open up new markets for nuclear energy and synergize with renewables.