Pronghorn: A Multidimensional Coarse-Mesh Application for Advanced Reactor Thermal Hydraulics

A. J. Novak, R. W. Carlsen, S. Schunert, P. Balestra, D. Reger, R. N. Slaybaugh, R. C. Martineau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents an overview of Pronghorn, a multiscale thermal-hydraulic (T/H) application developed by Idaho National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. Pronghorn, built on the open-source finite element Multiphysics Object-Oriented Simulation Environment (MOOSE), leverages state-of-the-art physical models, numerical methods, and nonlinear solvers to deliver fast-running advanced reactor T/H simulation capabilities within a modern software engineering environment. This work summarizes the physical models, multiphysics and multiscale coupling, and numerical discretization in Pronghorn with emphasis on our initial target application to pebble bed reactors (PBRs). A diverse set of applications are shown to depressurized natural circulation in the SANA experiments, forced convection in the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, three-dimensional (3-D)/one-dimensional coupling of Pronghorn and RELAP-7 systems T/H for loop analysis in the High Temperature Reactor Power Module, and forced convection in the Mark-1 Pebble Bed Fluoride-Salt-Cooled High-Temperature Reactor. A multiphysics coupling of Pronghorn, RELAP-7, and Griffin deterministic neutronics for a gas-cooled PBR demonstrates the capability of the MOOSE framework for reactor design calculations. These applications highlight the verification and validation underlying Pronghorn’s software development while emphasizing features that improve upon capabilities offered by legacy tools in areas such as 3-D unstructured meshing, physics modeling, and multiphysics coupling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1015-1046
Number of pages32
JournalNuclear Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • pebble bed reactor
  • Pronghorn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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