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A virtual software package that can predict reactor performance with pinpoint accuracy secured its first commercial license.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recently received rights to use the Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications (VERA)—an cutting-edge tool that can simulate reactor operations down to a single fuel rod. The resolution far exceeds existing analysis tools and could greatly enhance the services that EPRI can provide to its member utilities.

"VERA’s modeling and simulation tools can be used to better inform operating performance, safety margins and transient behavior in nuclear power plants," said Erik Mader, a technical executive with EPRI. "This could improve plant operator decision-making, reduce uncertainty and accelerate innovation in nuclear energy."

Industry Application

The VERA software suite is a collection of codes that can simulate reactor core behavior down to the molecular level. It has been audited and found compliant with the NQA-1 nuclear quality assurance standard by the industry and can be used to predict potential performance issues before they happen.

VERA has been validated using data from operating pressurized water reactors and accurately simulated the entire 20-year history of Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 1. 

It was later used to predict Watts Bar Unit 2’s first six months of operations prior to the new plant starting up in 2016.

VERA simulation_image_2
A 3D simulation of fuel cycle depletion in Watts Bar Unit 1. 
Photo courtesy: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Powerful Partnerships

VERA was developed through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its Energy Innovation Hub for Modeling and Simulation as a 10-year project to improve the efficiency of nuclear reactor operations through advanced modeling and simulation. 

The Hub—known as the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors and based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory—wraps up this spring. It includes partnerships between the national labs, universities and industry companies, including EPRI.

Our partners in the nuclear industry wanted software that was proven and usable. That’s exactly what we’ve produced.

Dave Kropaczek
Director of the Hub consortium

Next Steps

Licensing VERA to EPRI is a significant move for the Hub as it looks to move VERA to industry for expanded use through additional licenses. The consortium also established a VERA User Group to provide training, ongoing support and access to DOE’s high-performance computing resources to perform large-scale simulations.

DOE will continue its development of code suites like VERA through its Nuclear Advanced Modeling Simulation (NEAMS) program to ensure these codes, and others, are available for the advanced nuclear reactor community. 

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