Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nuclear fission algorithm is created

Nuclear fission algorithm is created

U.S. Department of Energy scientists say they've created a computer algorithm that allows a substantially enhanced view of nuclear fission.

The Argonne National Laboratory scientists said the algorithm, known as the neutron transport code, enables researchers for the first time to obtain a highly detailed description of a nuclear reactor core.

"The code could prove crucial in the development of nuclear reactors that are safe, affordable and environmentally friendly," laboratory officials said in a statement.

To model the complex geometry of a reactor core currently requires billions of spatial elements, hundreds of angles and thousands of energy groups -- all of which lead to problem sizes with quadrillions of possible solutions, the researchers said. Such calculations exhaust computer memory of the largest machines, they said, and therefore reactor modeling codes typically rely on various approximations.

"The (neutron transport code) is intended to reduce the uncertainties and biases in reactor design calculations by progressively replacing existing multilevel averaging techniques with more direct solution methods based on explicit reactor geometries," said Andrew Siegel, leader of Argonne's reactor simulation group.

Officials said the code has run successfully in some of the world's fastest supercomputers, including the IBM Blue Gene at Argonne and the Cray XT5 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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