Researchers from Purdue University, government and the nuclear power industry are improving three computer programs that are critical to preventing disasters such as the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. The complex programs, or "reactor safety codes," are used to simulate severe accidents and, in the process, provide data needed to ensure that power plants are designed properly.
Without such simulations of hypothetical accidents, the only available information is from the actual Three Mile Island (TMI) catastrophe and small-scale laboratory experiments. During the Three Mile Island accident, a valve failed to close at a plant near Middletown, Pa., causing nuclear fuel to overheat and leading to a partial melting of the plant’s core, where nuclear fission reactions take place.
"These codes were all developed for modeling the TMI accident and seeing under what conditions a reactor can be operated safely," said Karen Vierow, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at Purdue who is leading the research. "The codes can be used both to analyze an accident after it occurs and to test plant designs for new reactors that haven’t yet been constructed."
Emil Venere | EurekAlert!
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