Monday, April 17, 2017

Ramon Yoshiura continues to set a standard of student excellence as he pursues his master’s in nuclear engineering at Oregon State. He took home top prize from the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) at the 2017 Engineering Graduate Research Showcase for his work on helping to validate the design of a next-generation nuclear reactor. Yoshiura is one of four NSE graduate students studying on a prestigious Nuclear Energy University Program fellowship.

An annual event, the showcase highlights graduate student research projects in poster presentations open to the public, peers, and industry partners. The top three student projects from each of the college’s five schools were recognized. NSE’s second and third place prizes were awarded to Aaron Tamashiro and Mitch Mannino, respectively.

“I am honored and pleased to be chosen as one of the best poster presentations of our department,” said Yoshiura.  

Yoshiura’s research project was conducted under NSE Professor Qiao Wu. One of Wu’s branches of research is conducting a variety of tests related to NuScale Power’s small modular light-water reactor (SMR) design.

NSE enjoys a close relationship with NuScale, which was co-founded by former NSE School Head Jose Reyes out of an NSE small, passively cooled nuclear reactor project that ran from 2000-2007. NuScale’s Small Modular Reactor Design Certification Application was the first of its kind accepted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where it is currently under review. NuScale hopes to have its first commercial reactor up and running by 2026. 

NuScale’s test facility, NIST-1 (pictured), is housed in a high bay at the Radiation Center at Oregon State and uses a 400 kW electrical core in its reactor pressure vessel to simulate the light-water reactor that will be in its final design.  

The NuScale NIST-1 test facility  

Yoshiura’s research was titled “Thermal Conduction Analysis of NIST-1’s Containment Vessel Wall.” As his presentation poster outlined, in testing NuScale’s design it’s important to measure “exactly how much heat is transferred through the heat transfer plate (HTP).” The HTP is a stainless steel plate between the containment vessel and the cooling pool vessel in the NIST-1 design (see diagram).

Diagram of the containment vessel. 

The containment vessel contains steam released from NIST-1’s reactor pressure vessel during a blowdown event. Blowdown is the depressurization of the coolant from above atmospheric pressure to near-atmospheric conditions after a breach opens in a circuit either by design or by accident. The heat from the steam is then transferred through the HTP into a tank of water called the cooling pool vessel (CPV), where it dissipates.

For safety analysis of NuScale’s final reactor design, Yoshiura used a computational program called SOLIDWORKS to simulate a variety of scenarios to see if the total heat transfer through the HTP was being affected significantly by heat from the walls of the containment vessel or if the effect was negligible. His research concluded that, in a 2D model, the additional heat transfer from the wall was negligible, so it wouldn’t impact the future design.

Yoshiura’s work highlights the transformative educational experience that the Oregon State College of Engineering offers students in working on real-world problems with industry partners. Without testing like Yoshiura’s, NuScale wouldn’t be able to move forward in finalizing its design.  “I thank Professor Qiao Wu and NuScale Power for providing the time and resources to make it possible” said Yoshiura.