With colleagues from Oregon State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NERS professors Tom Downar and Bill Martin will help the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) advance its efforts to restart the Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility.
The TREAT Facility, located at Idaho National Laboratory, was designed to conduct tests of different fuels during simulated accident conditions to ascertain fuel behavior. Shuttered since 1994, TREAT was one of only three test facilities in the world able to provide such capabilities. There has been considerable interest to restart TREAT in order to test the next generation of Accident Tolerant Nuclear Fuels currently being developed by the DOE.
The funding for the work Downar and Martin will do comes from a $4 million DoE Nuclear Energy University Program grant. Led by Oregon State University, the effort consists of three key project areas: a comprehensive neutronics benchmarking analysis by Downar and Martin, a loop thermal hydraulic study by Oregon State researchers, and a comprehensive instrumentation plan by investigators at MIT.
The research team also includes representatives from several national laboratories and the reactor design firm TerraPower.
Preparing to restart the TREAT reactor requires innovative methodologies and multi-physics computer codes. Downar and Martin will use several codes to simulate both the steady-state and transient behavior of TREAT, including PARCS/AGREE, which was developed at U-M, and advanced Monte Carlo methods
“Modeling power spikes and other transient conditions is very challenging,” Downar noted. “We are going to apply time-dependent Monte Carlo to TREAT, which has never been done before.”
Another innovation will be the team’s work to quantify uncertainty in the calculation because of uncertainty in the neutron cross-section data.
Both Downar and Martin are looking forward to getting started.
“This is a high-impact project for the DoE, and we have built a strong team with OSU and MIT that has complementary skills,” Downar said. “It’s a real intellectual challenge to work on a problem like this, and Michigan brings unique assets.”