Purdue University Graduate School
Dissertation_rev_final_eqcrfree.pdf (6.67 MB)

Efficient Uncertainty Characterization Framework in Neutronics Core Simulation with Application to Thermal-Spectrum Reactor Systems

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posted on 2020-04-16, 12:13 authored by Dongli HuangDongli Huang
This dissertation is devoted to developing a first-of-a-kind uncertainty characterization framework (UCF) providing comprehensive, efficient and scientifically defendable methodologies for uncertainty characterization (UC) in best-estimate (BE) reactor physics simulations. The UCF is designed with primary application to CANDU neutronics calculations, but could also be applied to other thermal-spectrum reactor systems. The overarching goal of the UCF is to propagate and prioritize all sources of uncertainties, including those originating from nuclear data uncertainties, modeling assumptions, and other approximations, in order to reliably use the results of BE simulations in the various aspects of reactor design, operation, and safety. The scope of this UCF is to propagate nuclear data uncertainties from the multi-group format, representing the input to lattice physics calculations, to the few-group format, representing the input to nodal diffusion-based core simulators and quantify the uncertainties in reactor core attributes.
The main contribution of this dissertation addresses two major challenges in current uncertainty analysis approaches. The first is the feasibility of the UCF due to the complex nature of nuclear reactor simulation and computational burden of conventional uncertainty quantification (UQ) methods. The second goal is to assess the impact of other sources of uncertainties that are typically ignored in the course of propagating nuclear data uncertainties, such as various modeling assumptions and approximations.
To deal with the first challenge, this thesis work proposes an integrated UC process employing a number of approaches and algorithms, including the physics-guided coverage mapping (PCM) method in support of model validation, and the reduced order modeling (ROM) techniques as well as the sensitivity analysis (SA) on uncertainty sources, to reduce the dimensionality of uncertainty space at each interface of neutronics calculations. In addition to the efficient techniques to reduce the computational cost, the UCF aims to accomplish four primary functions in uncertainty analysis of neutronics simulations. The first function is to identify all sources of uncertainties, including nuclear data uncertainties, modeling assumptions, numerical approximations and technological parameter uncertainties. Second, the proposed UC process will be able to propagate the identified uncertainties to the responses of interest in core simulation and provide uncertainty quantifications (UQ) analysis for these core attributes. Third, the propagated uncertainties will be mapped to a wide range of reactor core operation conditions. Finally, the fourth function is to prioritize the identified uncertainty sources, i.e., to generate a priority identification and ranking table (PIRT) which sorts the major sources of uncertainties according to the impact on the core attributes’ uncertainties. In the proposed implementation, the nuclear data uncertainties are first propagated from multi-group level through lattice physics calculation to generate few-group parameters uncertainties, described using a vector of mean values and a covariance matrix. Employing an ROM-based compression of the covariance matrix, the few-group uncertainties are then propagated through downstream core simulation in a computationally efficient manner.
To explore on the impact of uncertainty sources except for nuclear data uncertainties on the UC process, a number of approximations and assumptions are investigated in this thesis, e.g., modeling assumptions such as resonance treatment, energy group structure, etc., and assumptions associated with the uncertainty analysis itself, e.g., linearity assumption, level of ROM reduction and associated number of degrees of freedom employed. These approximations and assumptions have been employed in the literature of neutronic uncertainty analysis yet without formal verifications. The major argument here is that these assumptions may introduce another source of uncertainty whose magnitude needs to be quantified in tandem with nuclear data uncertainties. In order to assess whether modeling uncertainties have an impact on parameter uncertainties, this dissertation proposes a process to evaluate the influence of various modeling assumptions and approximations and to investigate the interactions between the two major uncertainty sources. To explore this endeavor, the impact of a number of modeling assumptions on core attributes uncertainties is quantified.
The proposed UC process has first applied to a BWR application, in order to test the uncertainty propagation and prioritization process with the ROM implementation in a wide range of core conditions. Finally, a comprehensive uncertainty library for CANDU uncertainty analysis with NESTLE-C as core simulator is generated compressed uncertainty sources from the proposed UCF. The modeling uncertainties as well as their impact on the parameter uncertainty propagation process are investigated on the CANDU application with the uncertainty library.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Nuclear Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Hany S. Abdel-Khalik

Additional Committee Member 2

Lefteri H. Tsoukalas

Additional Committee Member 3

Yunlin Xu

Additional Committee Member 4

Alberto Talamo