In the United States are going to modernize obsolete nuclear power plants, extending their lives
In a country as large as the United States, about 20% of all electricity produced is generated at nuclear power plants. Nuclear power gives about 50% of the so-called "low-carbon electricity." But now the states have problems with this - the fact is that the vast majority of nuclear power plants were built in the 70s and 80s of the last century.
The only reactor installed in the 90s, so that it can be considered "young." All the rest are morally and physically obsolete. True, obsolescence prevails here, as Americans are trying to replace outdated equipment.
The solution of the problem, it seems, was not found by officials, but by scientists - experts from the Oak-Ridge National Laboratory (by the way, it was they who solved another problem - the lack of a plutonium isotope, which is used as fuel for thermoelectric spacecraft generators). Scientists have developed a comprehensive methodology for modeling NPP equipment, including the ability to assess the performance of the updated infrastructure.
One of the units of Oak-Ridge, called CASL, deals with this issue. His task is to increase the efficiency of American NPPs to the maximum. To do this, the outdated components of the reactors are planned to be replaced with new ones, so that the reactors themselves continue to operate.
The program manager compared the actionshis unit with the actions of modern repairmen, who are commissioned to update the home of the Victorian era. The building is still strong, nothing threatens it. But it is necessary to change the design, conduct electricity and add other communications and systems necessary for the modern citizen. After renovation, the building will serve faithfully for many more years.
Modeling by VERA allows you to find out how effective the work of individual elements of the infrastructure and the grid itself will be after its modernization. In addition, the model allows you to test various schemes for integrating NPPs into the country's energy networks. For example, in the afternoon in a number of regions a large amount of energy is generated by solar and wind generators. But this energy is wasted because the level of electricity generation at nuclear power plants does not change, and consumers no longer become.
Simulation will show when it is safe to reduce the activity of nuclear power plants, so that the energy generated by alternative sources does not disappear. In addition, the simulation allows you to track the security of the entire system or its individual elements. “This is necessary in order to achieve our goal - the absence of incidents at work,” says one of the program participants. In some cases, we can reduce the energy production at nuclear power plants from 100% to 50%, then, if necessary, increase them.
The system allows you to monitor not only the activity of individual NPPs or their reactors, but also to monitor each fuel cell, knowing where and what is happening at a particular moment.
CASL hopes that the developed technology will provide an opportunity to gradually upgrade nuclear power plants and elements of the grid, so that the entire system works as efficiently as possible.
The VERA computing system has quite good capabilities, which are based on the 1000-core computing cluster from the Idaho National Laboratory. Companies that need to work with VERA receive their own accounts in the system and can work remotely.
According to experts, the work of CASL can increase the effectiveness of the actions of regulators in the nuclear industry. They are often criticized for not being fast enough.
The main task of the experts now is to maximize the life of the NPP without reducing the level of safety.