Monday, September 29, 2014

Oregon State University recently received six awards from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) totaling $3,526,245. Distributed by the Energy Department’s Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP), the money will be used for nuclear energy research and infrastructure improvement within OSU’s School of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) and Radiation Center.

“The [Energy Department’s] support for cutting-edge nuclear science and engineering across our universities, national laboratories, and industry reflects the key role of nuclear energy in helping ensure America’s low carbon future,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in announcing the awards. “These awards not only provide crucial funding for research and development, but also for the training and education of the next generation nuclear energy workforce that will enhance American leadership in the safe, secure and efficient use of nuclear energy here and around the world.”

At OSU, four awards will be utilized for NSE research and development projects while the other two will be used to upgrade facilities utilized by NSE.

Dr. Andrew Klein, NSE professor, and Dr. Robin Feuerbacher, OSU Cascades Campus energy systems engineering program lead, received $795,364 to formulate a computational analysis model for evaluating the economic viability of making changes to nuclear facilities based on the potential for safety mechanism failure due to these proposed reconfigurations or upgrades (project abstract). “This project holds great promise to provide new insights for the nuclear industry with respect to simultaneously ensuring public health and safety as well as the economic viability of an important source of electricity,” said Klein.

An award of $800,000 was also given to Dr. Klein and Dr. Brian Woods, NSE professor, to fund analysis and testing of the stratified flow—flow in layers—of gases within next-generation high temperature gas reactors (project abstract). “This project is intended to provide some basic data and fundamental understanding of a very complicated fluid flow regime and we look forward to developing the facilities that will give new insight to these issues,” said Klein. Unplanned air intake, known as air-ingress accidents, into high temperature gas reactors can cause unsafe operation, and the study will characterize the role of stratified flow in these accidents by testing them in a scaled test facility at OSU.

In addition, Dr. Woods will head a study awarded $631,834 to expand the utilization of the Oregon State University High Temperature Test Facility (HTTF).  The HTTF uses no radioactive materials and simulates the reactor core with electric heaters. It’s utilized to test design and safety methods used in high temperature reactors and the project will help broaden the scope of its testing capabilities by studying new potential facility configurations (project abstract).

Dr. Haori Yang, NSE assistant professor, will head a project to develop an imaging system using highly penetrating particles called cosmic ray muons to monitor the contents of dry storage casks storing used nuclear fuel. This will allow inspection and content verification without special facilities. The project received $799,871 (project abstract).

Awards for improvements include $313,540 granted to Dr. Alena Paulenova, NSE associate professor, for upgrading OSU’s irradiation facilities with the acquisition of a new cobalt-60 source for the Gammacell 220 irradiator. The Gammacell 220 is a closed, lead-shielded irradiation compartment at the Radiation Center. Cobalt-60 is a man-made isotope of natural cobalt that emits gamma radiation as it decays. This gamma radiation has a wide variety of multidisciplinary applications ranging from cancer treatment to component testing for the nuclear energy industry (project abstract).

An additional $135,636 was also awarded for new hardware and software to improve gamma spectroscopy—radiation detection—capabilities at facilities related to OSU’s TRIGA research reactor (project abstract). “I am really excited by this opportunity to outfit our Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) lab with state-of-the art electronics and a new high-purity germanium detector,” said Dr. Leah Minc, OSU Radiation Center associate professor senior research, who will be overseeing the project along with Radiation Center Director Dr. Steven Reese.  The upgrades will ensure that the facilities continue to play an important role in advancing nuclear science education and research at OSU.

Overall, the DOE awarded $67 million for nuclear technology infrastructure upgrades and research and development projects at universities and laboratories across the nation.