Ari Foley at the Idaho Accelerator Center.
Thursday, September 14, 2017

INL Graduate Fellow Ari Foley adjusting the tungsten bremsstrahlung radiator at the end of the 0 degree port of the 25 MeV accelerator at the Idaho Accelerator Center.  Photo credit: INL Nuclear Physicist Matt Kinlaw.

Idaho National Laboratory is the premier nuclear research lab in the country and maintains close ties with Oregon State. The selection of Oregon State graduate students Ari Foley and Musa Moussaoui as two of the inaugural class of INL Graduate Fellows promises to continue strengthening the partnership.  They will be contributing to nuclear nonproliferation and security programs as well as next-generation nuclear power technology.

Foley and Moussaoui are both graduates of the Oregon State College of Engineering’s School of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE), receiving their bachelor’s degrees in nuclear engineering in 2016 and 2017 respectively. As INL Graduate Fellows, they will pursue their doctoral degrees at NSE while conducting research at INL.

"The graduate fellowship is mutually beneficial for the student, their university, and INL,” said Foley’s mentor at INL, Nuclear Physicist Matt Kinlaw. “The fellowship gives the student an opportunity to access unique national laboratory facilities and capabilities to conduct their graduate research, while also providing the university and INL an opportunity to develop and strengthen ongoing collaborative efforts."

Oregon State is one of five universities partnered with INL under the National University Consortium (NUC). The NUC’s goal is to further "the nation’s strategic nuclear energy objectives, clean energy initiatives, and critical infrastructure security goals,” according to the NUC website. Students from NUC schools, like Moussaoui and Foley, were targeted as candidates for the INL Graduate Fellowship Program.

“Over the years, the mutual benefits of the NUC has been demonstrated through the alignment of research interests among Oregon State faculty and INL staff, numerous patents, a vein of well-qualified staff to the lab resulting from recent Oregon State graduates, named national laboratory fellows, joint faculty appointments, and the most recently added benefit is the creation of this INL Graduate Fellowship program,” said Wade Marcum, associate professor of nuclear engineering and NUC program lead at Oregon State.  

Foley interned at INL in the Nuclear Nonproliferation division in both the summers of 2016 and 2017. She plans on pursuing nonproliferation and security related research as a graduate fellow. "The research focuses on the determination of short-lived fission product yields through the precise measurement and analysis of delayed gamma-ray signatures immediately following photon-induced fission (photofission),” she said. “This is motivated by a need for improved nuclear data and novel isotope production methods to support the nonproliferation and nuclear forensics communities."

According to Kinlaw, “her research is anticipated to have a significant, direct impact on several ongoing nonproliferation and homeland security programs at INL."

Moussaoui, on the other hand, will be tackling research related to next-generation nuclear power at INL’s recently reactivated Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT). “TREAT will now be the foundation for studying the performance of advanced nuclear fuel designs under simulated accident conditions,” said Moussaoui’s mentor at INL, Dan Wachs. He is INL’s National Technical Lead for Fuel Safety Testing and an Oregon State alumnus in both nuclear and mechanical engineering. “In particular, new 'accident tolerant nuclear fuel' technology is being collaboratively developed by the U.S. national laboratories and commercial nuclear fuel vendors to mitigate the consequences of low probability accidents like those experienced at the Fukushimi-Daichi nuclear plants after they were struck by the Great Tohoko earthquake and tsunami."

Moussaoui will be helping develop experimental devices needed to conduct these accident simulations at TREAT. “It's really a terrific opportunity,” said Wachs. “Musa is at the forefront of a new generation of scientists and engineers that will apply modern experimental methods coupled with state-of-the-art modeling and simulation tools to lead this critical area of study. He'll be working with some of the world's premier experts in the field."

Both Moussaoui and Foley plan to pursue careers at national labs after completing their doctoral degrees. “I endeavor for my career to directly support the development of novel and robust nuclear power technology,” said Moussaoui. “Much of the most impactful research is produced by Department of Energy national labs; thus, after graduation, I see myself at INL conducting applied research.”

— Jens Odegaard.