The Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications (VERA): Design and architecture. VERA, the Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications, is the system of physics capabilities being developed and deployed by the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL). CASL was established for the modeling and simulation of commercial nuclear reactors. VERA consists of integrating and interfacing software together with a suite of physics components adapted and/or refactored to simulate relevant physical phenomena in a coupled manner. VERA also includes the software development environment and computational infrastructure needed for these components to be effectively used. We describe the architecture of VERA from both software and numerical perspectives, along with the goals and constraints that drove major design decisions, and their implications. We explain why VERA is an environment rather than a framework or toolkit, why these distinctions are relevant (particularly for coupled physics applications), and provide an overview of results that demonstrate the use of VERA tools for a variety of challenging applications within the nuclear industry.