Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Fuels Focus Area (NEAMS)

Laying the groundwork for new fuel performance simulation tools, based on an atomic to engineering scale approach, with the goal of accelerating nuclear energy solutions.

  •  fuel systems

    Using theory to efficiently predict the performance of new nuclear fuel systems.

Get Expertise  

  • NEAMS National Technical Director
  • Chris Stanek
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  • Technical Staff Member
  • David Andersson
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NEAMS program centers on predictive codes

The Fuels Focus Area is one piece of the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy’s Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation (NEAMS) program. The aim is to develop and validate predictive computer simulation codes for the analysis and design of advanced reactor and fuel systems.

The Fuels Focus Area, part of a collaboration to advance new nuclear energy technologies, combines 3D multi-physics models and simulations to predict—in a fraction of the time and cost of current approaches—the performance of new nuclear fuel systems in a wide range of conditions. 

Researchers will be able to compare materials and configurations at various length scales, based on science, and choose the most promising ones to manufacture and test.  

fuels focus

Modeling and simulation results illustrating the mechanism driving xenon diffusion, a key factor inhibiting the performance of oxide nuclear fuels.

Fuels Focus Area

  • Provides predictive simulation capability required for developing advanced reactor systems
  • Creates new simulation tools, based on first-principles physics models instead of status quo empirical models
  • Enhances lower length scale models of materials behavior for atomistic-to-continuum multiscale simulations
  • Provides understanding and improved properties and models for integrated performance codes
  • Reduces time and cost of screening different materials and design configurations, from the microstructural level to individual pellets to entire rods and bundles
Award-winning contributions

The 2014 NEAMS Excellence Award was presented to David Andersson (Los Alamos National Laboratory), Michael Tonks (Idaho National Laboratory), and Richard Williamson (Idaho National Laboratory) in recognition of sustained leadership in developing multiscale mathematical models and computer simulations of nuclear fuels that have advanced the state of the art in the field and have added substantial value to the NEAMS ToolKit. 

Program elements
  • Fission gas release in UO2: Develop models for fission gas diffusion and release as a function of fuel chemistry, microstructure, and damage processes in the fuel.
  • UO2 thermal conductivity: Develop models for the degradation of thermal conductivity due to various phonon scattering mechanisms induced by, for example, changes in chemistry, microstructure evolution, and damage processes in the fuel.
  • Accident-tolerant fuels: Develop materials models for the performance of advanced accident-tolerant fuels such as uranium silicides and steel cladding materials (Fe-Cr-Al).
Capabilities and expertise
  • Multiscale modeling of materials from ab initio electronic structure to continuum
  • Radiation effects in metals and ceramics of interest to the nuclear industry
  • New algorithms to extend the time scale accessible to atomic scale simulations of materials evolution
Technologies and applications: emerging, developed, or potential
  • Overcame the limits of experiments, using computational methods, to study fuel pellets at the atomic scale. Knowing how fission products behave is critical for engineering microstructure and texture of nuclear fuel pellets to better accommodate fission products and survive extreme conditions.
  • Assisting Idaho National Laboratory in the development of two codes: BISON, for fuel performance simulation at the engineering scale, and MARMOT, for predicting microstructure and property evolution in irradiated nuclear fuels.
Sponsors, funding sources, or agencies
  • U.S. DOE Office of Nuclear Energy