Our research is focused on the engineering of advanced nuclear power systems with their corresponding fuel cycles, and developing the required reactor physics tools to model them.
Dr. Kotlyar has established a sustainable research program in the field of advanced nuclear reactor design and multi-physics analysis. His Computational Reactor Engineering Laboratory (CoRE) focuses on developing the next generation production tools as well as designing advanced and low cost nuclear energy systems. Dr. Kotlyar’s research aims to bridge the theoretical reactor physics with the practical aspects of nuclear engineering and design. His research relies on the following thrust areas:
- Thrust 1: Advanced Reactor Physics Modeling Tools, which are necessary to understand the operational limits and assess fuel performance, in terms of burnup and thermal hydraulic reliability, and the associated safety margins.
- Thrust 2: Design of Advanced Nuclear Systems for both terrestrial and special purpose applications. Dr. Kotlyar’s research in this area includes the design of various reactor types and fuel cycle options to address the issues of the current fuel cycles most efficiently. This part of his research also focuses on concerns about nuclear proliferation, resource utilization, and waste repository sizing.
Thrust 1: Advanced Reactor Physics Modeling Tools
The unique characteristics of different advanced reactor systems have led to the conclusion that conventional techniques commonly used to model Light Water Reactors (LWRs) are no longer valid. These innovative nuclear systems require new tools that will be capable of accurate and efficient modeling. Dr. Kotlyar’s group focuses on developing tools to model universal reactors.
Monte Carlo (MC) methods are particularly well suited for modeling complicated 3D problems, especially those that cannot be reliably modelled with existing deterministic methods. MC codes have been available for decades; however, their applicability was limited due to prohibitively high computational power requirements. Recent advances in computer technology and parallel processing methods are gradually changing the reactor analysis environment and MC codes are increasingly used as a standard calculation tool in reactor calculations. It is even becoming practical to consider MC methods with multi-physics coupling (i.e., depletion and thermal-hydraulics) to expand the range of applications even further. During the past years, Dr. Kotlyar has been developing novel and efficient methods to be implemented in reactor simulation physics packages.
Thrust 2: Design of Advanced Nuclear Systems
Recent research endeavors include the development of a nuclear thermal propulsion engine and a directly-coupled thermophotovoltaic microreactor.
Nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) is a potential technology for future crewed missions to Mars due to its high thrust, and high specific impulse. This technology is expected to enable reduced interplanetary travel times, which could increase the crew’s safety by reducing exposure to cosmic radiation and other hazards of deep space travel. BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) is working with NASA to develop critical reactor fuel technologies and mature the design of a low-enriched uranium engine. Dr. Dan Kotlyar’s research group is funded by BWXT to support further research in NTP technology by developing a computational multi-physics framework that will allow a better understanding of the operational limits, reliability, and associated safety margins of the engine.
A Directly-Coupled Reactor TPV Project focuses on developing a nuclear core that incorporates advanced, high efficiency thermophotovoltaics as a directly coupled heat engine and to demonstrate that said design can meet safety and regulatory requirements while being economically competitive.