Realising the Commercial Potential of the Multi-Physics and Multi-Scale FETCH Technology for Nuclear Safety Applications

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Earth Science and Engineering


This project will deliver, as a commercial product, a novel multi-physics computational model FETCH. FETCH is used primarily for the design and safety analysis of nuclear systems. It is a coupled radiation transport and fluid dynamics numerical model developed by the Applied Modelling and Computation Group at Imperial College with the support of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The current version of the code has been commercially used in a range of applications including: safety assessments; design of nuclear reactors; and criticality safety evaluation in nuclear fuel processing. However, it has had little uptake because of the lack of user-friendliness and documentation. The commercial potential of this project arises from the following:a) model flexibility and usability - the model was originally designed to be highly general and this has became a paradigm in the group's overall approach to software engineering driven code development; b) our code pre-releases have been used by industry in short and medium-term research contracts with excellent feedback from them which provides confidence in our novel and flexible model e.g., able to deal with complex geometries and highly computational demanding problems; c) a current lack of analogous, high-quality software in the market able to deal with very demanding types of multi-physics problems common in the nuclear industry and d) new industrial-academic avenues for research, design, safety regulations, commissioning and decommissioning of reactors due to the nuclear 'renaissance'. Industrial contacts have identified a suite of benchmarking tests that are required to gain the necessary confidence for a full commercial exploitation of FETCH. Therefore benchmarking will be carried out through a detailed, reproducible comparison between the new release of the code against experimental data, analytical solutions and other commercial codes. Diagnostics tools will be introduced into the FETCH code to improve usability for practitioners. Business development workshops (with existing industrial and academic collaborators) will evaluate these outputs, identify potential marketing strategies and develop a detailed business plan for commercialisation at an international scale.

Planned Impact

This project will deliver an innovative software package - the FETCH computational model, developed for the design and safety analysis of nuclear systems. The current version of the software package has been commercially used in a wide range of nuclear systems including: criticality safety assessment in low-power fissile solutions and hypothetical geological waste repositories, design of reactors, safety evaluation in fuel processing. A number of nuclear companies have placed contracts with us and although the end-product had an excellent acceptance, issues regarding the lack of the software's user-friendliness and documentation were raised and need to be tackled. Therefore, as a medium-term strategy to enable the academic and commercial software dissemination within the nuclear sector we need to: (a) Further develop a new user-friendly front-end; (b) Include comprehensive documentation of the modules in FETCH; (c) Develop diagnostic tools specifically designed for the nuclear industry; (d) Enable the use of third-party mesh generators; (e) Further develop model and software quality assurance procedures focused on the nuclear industry requirements. This project delivers a step-change improvement in the ability of the FETCH software package for the design of nuclear reactor cores and safety assessment for nuclear systems. This work will impact upon the following (potential market): 1) Consulting companies: with an interest in using the new technologies to support decision making and prediction of nuclear systems, including reactors and criticality safety. The new technologies could help inform the design of passive safety systems. 2) Engineers: would benefit from the availability of tools that could be used to optimise designs in nuclear engineering. 3) Designers in companies/industries: would benefit from the optimisation control approach used in design optimisation (e.g. fuel enrichment, control rods positioning for controlling reactivity). 4) Environmental Safety agency: would benefit from improved predictability in modelling criticality safety, thus this work could be also used to assess strategies to reduce the risk of potential accidents. 5) Government security bodies: the technology proposed here could provide a tool in the design and implementation of effective emergency response actions in the case of criticality accident scenarios. 6) Government regulatory bodies: could use this technology to inform policy makers, risk reduction strategies for the UK. The investigators of this proposal have considerable experience in knowledge exchange and commercial exploitation of their work. This will help to exploit the project results, with an expected high national and international impact. Planned activities to ensure good engagement and communication with potential beneficiaries include: a) Technical workshop to communicate the FETCH-SAC members of the computational developments (software engineering). Industrial and academic collaborators may help establishing suitable benchmark test-cases to improve the confidence on the model; b) Training events on the outputs of this proposal and the resulting open-source model: this will help engage academic and industrial collaborators on the use of the FETCH model and feedback to improve the usability and documentation; c) Commercial workshop to communicate the FETCH-SAC members our progress on the FETCH validation against standard benchmarks initially proposed by the industrial collaborators. d) Visits to UK and international industry/academia. Over the last ten years, Serco Assurance has collaborated with AMCG on criticality safety analysis. They have demonstrated a strong interest in including FETCH as part of their commercial nuclear software suite (see letter of support). Through this project, Serco will provide a stronger link with the nuclear industry in UK and will supply potential benchmark test cases for reactor physics calculations.
Description Some of the research has been re-applied to the analysis of medical isotope reactor designs in collaboration with Babcock & Wilcox.
Sector Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Description EPSRC
Amount £1,159,335 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/J002011/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)