by Seth Wilson, PhD Student, Mechanical Engineering
After the successful completion of the ICL-TUM Global Fellows’ Programme 2017, entitled Cities of the Future, I was fortunate enough to remain in Munich, Germany for a further three-weeks. During this time, I carried out a short research project within the Lehrstuhl für Nuckleartechnik (Chair for Nuclear Technology) at the Technische Universität München (TUM) under the supervision of Professor Macián-Juan.
Germany has decided to discontinue its use of nuclear energy and will have phased-out its remaining functioning nuclear power plants by the end of 2022. Without wanting to completely abandon nuclear, research within this field has become more general to processes and systems, such as to have a wider range of applications.
During my research internship, I worked with two best-estimate thermal-hydraulics systems codes: TRACE, developed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the United States; and ATHLET, developed by the Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS), Germany’s central expert organisation in the field of nuclear safety and radioactive waste management.
These computer codes are used to simulate typical pressurised-water (PWR) and boiling-water (BWR) nuclear reactors during normal operation; and more interestingly for the general analysis of abnormal transients and accident situations, in particular the Loss of Coolant Accidents (LOCA). Furthermore, ATHLET couples neutronics and nuclear reactor physics with thermal-hydraulic engineering for a coupled multi-physics analysis.
At the very best, computer codes provide good approximations; it is therefore necessary to quantify and rank any sources of uncertainty that may propagate through into the output. I performed such uncertainty and sensitivity analysis with SUSA, another piece of software developed by the GRS.
I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to collaborate with researchers from further afield. As a result, I now have a better appreciation for my own work at Imperial College. I have increased my network of engineers and researchers, as well as maintained old contacts; I was pleased to discover an old colleague of mine, from my school in Paris, was working on his PhD in the Nuclear Technology department at TUM.