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SwRI Wins R&D 100 Award for Radioactive Element Migration Simulation Software

SwRI Wins R&D 100 Award for Radioactive Element Migration Simulation Software

Software that simulates the transport of radioactive elements beneath the Earth’s surface has received a 2008 R&D 100 Award. R&D Magazine selected Southwest Research Institute’s TDRW (Time Domain Random Walk) software as one of the 100 most significant technological achievements of the past year.

“As more nations develop geological repositories for high-level nuclear waste, the study and prediction of radionuclide transport in the Earth’s subsurface is a key process in assessing the safety of these potential repositories,” said Dr. Scott Painter, a staff scientist in the Geosciences and Engineering Division’s Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses at SwRI and principal developer of the software program.

TDRW uses a novel particle tracking algorithm in which individual particles represent packets of radionuclide mass. These particles are moved along one-dimensional pathways according to rules that closely mimic the underlying physical and chemical transport processes. That process makes it possible to represent geological complexity in much greater detail than was previously available, resulting in a better understanding of potential risks associated with radionuclide transport.

“The semi-analytical nature of the algorithm is one reason for the improved robustness and computational efficiency,” Painter said, adding that the software also samples randomly from a set of many possible pathways before launching a particle, making it possible to efficiently obtain statistical estimates of total release to the accessible environment. Previous software calculated each pathway and then aggregated the results, which is vastly more expensive to compute.

TDRW already has been licensed to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as six organizations in Europe that are evaluating potential geological repositories for nuclear waste disposal.

SwRI has won 33 R&D 100 Awards since 1971. This year’s awards will be presented Oct. 16, 2008, in Chicago. For more technical information about TDRW, contact Painter at 210-522-3348 or via e-mail [email protected].

SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 3,100 employees and an annual research volume of more than $501 million. Southwest Research Institute and SwRI are registered marks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. For more information about Southwest Research Institute, please visit www.newsroom.swri.org or www.swri.org.

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