Digital Twin to Detect Nuclear Proliferation

Realizing a Full Lifecycle Digital Twin to Detect Proliferation Activities

Figure 1 – “V” diagram of reactor design lifecycle


Digital twins provide the opportunity for comprehensive understanding of nuclear fuel cycle facility operations to significantly strengthen nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation regime through early detection of diversion and misuse of nuclear facilities. NA-22 is currently funding a project to develop a virtualized digital twin framework. At present, this framework is being applied to a hypothetical sodium-cooled fast reactor design to prove this capability is possible. This technology can be expanded to support real-world reactor designs, the full design lifecycle, and existing fleet operating reactors. The existing fleet dataset will rely upon sensor data, e.g., temperature, pressure, and control rod position data collected at these facilities during normal operation. Costs could be reduced if the IAEA had a methodology for prioritizing the most useful signatures for change detection (and thus determining sensor priorities) and studying the optimal location for sensor placement based on their safeguard’s objectives. This project will prove that digital twin concepts can be applied to multiple types of Gen IV reactor concepts from conceptual design through operations. The full lifecycle digital twin spanning design through operations for existing and emerging reactors will provide a unique test bed capability for nonproliferation and emerging NNSA active counter pro community by: 1) providing design and operational data-sets from multiple reactors, physics-based models integrated with the design and operational data sets through the Deep Lynx digital twin framework, and 3D virtual reality simulations to accelerate user insights and decisions. This framework allows for automation and significantly reduces risk. For example, prior to this approach, a change of a requirement from 1 meter to 2 meters of space around the vessel in the requirements phase could be missed and cause a silent error in the safeguards analysis left undiscovered until operations without a digital twin (see Figure 1).

As an industry, we have a long history safeguarding light water reactors but little or no experience with the broader group of Gen IV reactors, which have a short horizon to build and operate. These new small and micro reactors generate new problems for non-proliferation but also provide an opportunity to develop more innovative safeguards approaches to both mitigate proliferation challenges through early design intervention and timely operational monitoring to detect potential proliferation events. Failure to include safeguards throughout design has already led to hard cost and schedule impacts and reduced safeguards effectiveness at existing facilities. This project allows for a unique opportunity to identify proliferation pathways and their mitigations during the design process as well as timely detection of events during operation.

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