Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Through a three-year, $4 million Integrated Research Project Award from the U.S. Department of Energy, Dr. Wade Marcum will head a multidisciplinary team of researchers from academics, government, and industry in an effort to help restart the Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT) at the Idaho National Laboratory. As part of this effort, a new experimental facility will be built at Oregon State University’s School of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) where Marcum is an assistant professor.

Shut down since 1994, TREAT has the capability of testing fuel for both traditional light-water and sodium-cooled next-generation reactors through the use of fueled-experimental loops inserted within its core. Before the TREAT restarts it’s necessary to evaluate existing data and to design and test the safety of proposed loop assemblies.

Marcum’s team is composed of researchers from the University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), TerraPower, Harris Thermal Transport Products, and Oak Ridge, Idaho, and Argonne National Laboratories. Utilizing new computational tools, experimental instrumentation, and hardware advancements made in the nuclear field since 1994, they are “developing world-class experimental data which will be used to support evolutionary developments and advancements in safer, more efficient nuclear fuel options,” said Marcum.

To accomplish this work, the team will be split into three groups led by Oregon State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan.

Marcum’s Oregon State group, including NSE Professor Brian Woods, will conduct a complete thermal hydraulic study focusing on the experimental loops placed within the TREAT Facility. This project will require construction of a new, one-of-a-kind, large-scale thermal hydraulic experimental facility at NSE.

Design work will start October of 2015 with fabrication slated for summer 2016. The new experimental facility is scheduled for delivery and installation in one of the NSE’s thermal-hydraulic high-bay spaces by September 2016. With this facility, Marcum’s team will be able to test a TREAT Facility loop prototype and yield experimental data that has never been collected.

The University of Michigan group led by Thomas Downar and William Martin, professors of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, will focus on a comprehensive neutronics benchmarking analysis of both steady-state and transient conditions.

Following both the neutronics benchmarking and Oregon State’s prototype experimentation, the MIT team in conjunction with Oregon State will design and develop a TREAT Facility instrumentation plan. The MIT group will be led by Lin-Wen Hu, the associate director of research development and utilization at the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, and research scientist David Carpenter.

Throughout the project, all three groups will work closely with representatives from the national labs and industry working on the TREAT Facility restart, to facilitate the most relevant and impactful outcomes possible. These outcomes will support the licensing of next generation reactors that will provide baseload power more efficiently and safely.