MSE Seminar: “Atomistic Modeling of Advanced Nuclear Fuels to Drive Fuel Performance Modeling”

Date(s) - 02/08/2022
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


Benjamin Beeler, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Nuclear Engineering
North Carolina State University

Dr. Ben Beeler received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Nuclear and Radiological Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was a post-doctoral researcher jointly at the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the NC State faculty, he was a computational scientist in the Computational Microstructure Science group in the Fuels Modeling and Simulation Department at Idaho National Laboratory. He is the current leader of the Microstructure Fuel Performance Modeling working group for the United Stated High-Performance Research Reactor program. His professional interests are atomistic description and evolution of nuclear fuel and structural materials, with a focus on advanced reactor fuel systems and molten salts. He has extensive experience in interatomic potential development, particularly related to uranium and uranium alloys. He has studied a number of phenomena in nuclear materials including radiation damage, effects of strain on point defects, diffusion, free surface and grain boundary properties, fission gas bubbles, thermal transport, and optical properties. His research has utilized density functional theory, molecular dynamics, cluster dynamics, kinetic Monte Carlo, and phase-field methods.


The Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission envision a future beyond light water reactors where advanced reactor concepts are developed, qualified, and implemented. These advanced reactor concepts include sodium-cooled faster reactors, lead-cooled fast reactors, molten salt reactors, fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors, gas-cooled reactors, and micro and modular-based reactor designs. To qualify each of these reactor designs, the behavior of the fuel must be stable and predictable.

Fuel performance modeling is utilized to describe both steady-state and transient behavior of the reactor and calculate key lifetime limiting materials-specific phenomena. The accurate prediction of fuel evolution under irradiation requires the implementation of correct thermodynamic and kinetic properties into mesoscale and continuum level fuel performance modeling codes. There is a dramatic shortage in the requisite data needed to fully parametrize physics-based models governing fuel evolution. However, atomistic modeling can provide key insights into fundamental thermophysical properties that can aid in the description of nuclear fuels and how they evolve in-reactor. This presentation will describe such efforts that have been undertaken for metallic fuels, and that are beginning to be undertaken for molten salts.