By Tiffany Adams
Students at the University of New Mexico and North Carolina State University tackled real-world questions through senior design projects recently with assistance from INL employees. Aided by the coordinated help and expertise of university faculty and INL advisers, students examined specific questions affecting special-purpose and modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactors.
In the case of students at UNM, Carlo Parisi, a nuclear engineer and research and development scientist, served as the INL adviser for a small group of students enrolled in Cassiano de Oliveira's senior design class during the spring 2018 semester. The students in Parisi's group tackled the problem of designing a cask to safely transport a special-purpose reactor. SPRs are smaller than traditional reactors and can be deployed by truck, barge, rail or airplane to remote locations such as military bases or isolated villages. Once a reactor has been operational and is being prepared to be moved to a long-term storage site, it needs to be adequately shielded in order to protect workers and the public from radiation during transport.
Using an INL report detailing two conceptual designs of SPRs and Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines, UNM students used a Monte Carlo code base developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory to calculate the radiation that would be produced after five years of reactor operation. The students then used this measurement to determine the amount of shielding needed to adequately insulate the reactor.
Jonathan Paz, a student in Parisi's group, said the engineer's involvement in the project led to a "wonderful experience. Parisi treated us like we were colleagues, and we were expected to meet goals and produce deliverables," Paz said. "This was so much more rewarding and fun than working on just another homework assignment."
Students at NCSU tackled a different set of problems during the 2017-2018 school year. NCSU students investigated the potential for load following, or the adjustment of a reactor's energy output to match the varying daily energy demand, in a modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. Guided by Aaron Epiney, a physicist at INL, Kostadin Ivanov and Maria Avramova, both professors at NCSU, and Paolo Balestra, an NCSU postdoctoral research scholar, students used both RELAP5-3D and PHISICS software applications to determine the ability of a modular HTGR to load follow.
Epiney's involvement in the project was a bit broader than Parisi's, giving general advice based on his experience as a member of the team that built PHISICS and coupled it with RELAP5-3D.
"The students were very curious," Epiney said. "They asked, 'Can we investigate this?' or 'Does it make sense to run these kind of calculations?' I just made sure they didn't waste time. They were pretty free. They investigated the physics and tried to understand what was happening, then drew their conclusions."
For both student groups, the end result was a paper and presentation at the American Nuclear Society Student Conference in Gainesville, Florida, in early April.
NCSU students presenting at the ANS Student Conference in Gainesville
Although the students don't plan on continuing to research these questions after graduation, their experience will assist in their future professional ventures. "This project was valuable to our education because this process and set of constraints are not unlike those we will be expected to face in a professional environment," Paul Yang, a student at UNM, said. Keion Henry, an NCSU student, echoed Yang's sentiments, saying, "This taught me some valuable lessons on how reactors respond to certain scenarios and how various cases with various changed parameters must be run in order truly establish an examined relationship."
In addition, their efforts and findings will not go on unused, according to Parisi. "The next team could use the existing code input deck to improve the shielding design and begin to perform structural analyses in order to meet all NRC requirements for a safe shipping."
Overall, the collaboration was a benefit to both INL and the students. "It was definitely a positive experience," Parisi said.
By Misty Benjamin and Tabrie Cook
Leading the way in securing our nation's energy future, Idaho National Laboratory, together with the Idaho State Board of Education, is breaking ground on two new research facilities: the Cybercore Integration Center and the Collaborative Computing Center (C3).
On Wednesday, April 11, key stakeholders and elected officials celebrated the beginning of a strategic partnership to advance research and educational collaboration in Idaho.
"Supporting this collaboration is about much more than new facilities; we are investing in Idaho's future," Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter said. "The Lab is a major employer in its own right and has a global reputation that benefits many other Idaho businesses. But in addition to the INL's continuing economic importance, this partnership provides Idaho universities with an important edge in preparing tomorrow's world leaders in cybersecurity and nuclear energy research."
Cybercore Integration Center will host advanced electronics labs for industry, government and academia to work together to systematically engineer cyber and physical security innovations to protect the nation's most critical infrastructure, like the power grid.
The Collaborative Computing Center will provide a modern computing environment, hosting research collaborations and opportunities that would otherwise not be possible – a place where INL researchers, Idaho universities, and industry will explore computer modeling and simulation to develop new nuclear materials, advance nuclear energy concepts and conduct a broad span of scientific research.
"We are working with Idaho's universities to strengthen partnerships, for example, by tailoring internships for students seeking advanced degrees in nuclear engineering, mechanical engineering, materials science, chemical engineering and computer science," INL Director Mark Peters said. "Students are the talent of the future, and we want to invest in their success. By offering these career-enhancing opportunities, everyone wins."
Idaho State Board of Education will retain the economic benefit that will be created by the financing, construction, and operation of these facilities. This endeavor enables educational opportunities, globally significant research, and economic opportunity. Off-site computer users, such as students and faculty at Idaho's universities and colleges, will also have remote access to the high-performance computing systems in the Collaborative Computing Center through the Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON).
"We are positioned for the future. This is an exceptional example of a public/private partnership working to advance the educational offerings across the entire state," said Dr. Linda Clark, president of the Idaho State Board of Education. "We are excited about the opportunities this provides for all of Idaho's institutions of higher learning."
By: Paul Menser
For an idea of how researchers at Idaho National Laboratory envision the power distribution system of the future, take a look at large information distribution systems: the internet, of course, but perhaps telephone communications even more.
At the beginning of the 20th century, telecoms were small and highly localized. By mid-century, the nationwide Bell System had evolved, but an overseas call would still cost a bundle. Today, inexpensive intercontinental telecommunications are the norm.
In September, a group of INL researchers hosted a live demonstration of the Global Real-Time Super Lab, linking three national labs and five universities in the United States and Europe for a simulation to study how electricity can be distributed across vast distances to maintain stability and address disruptions.
The concept is to distribute electrons over transmission wires the same way digital packets of zeros and ones are sent over the internet. Power systems around the world are undergoing fundamental transitions to achieve long-term sustainability, reliability and affordability. The ability to move electricity around the globe rather than only within isolated networks holds the possibility of vast savings on infrastructure and energy consumption.
Starting around 10:30 a.m., researchers from Idaho Falls to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Columbia, South Carolina, to Aachen, Germany, and Turin, Italy, began linking their grid research systems. Numerous partners contributed real-time simulators that simulate how large-scale electricity systems act in the real world. Contributions also included simulated diverse set of energy sources and components such as wind energy, solar energy, storage systems, microgrids, and dozens of electric vehicles. Then, the team ran a simulated disruption based on a natural disaster such as hurricane to assess how the power grid can be stabilized.
"We hit a home run today," said Rob Hovsapian, manager for INL's Energy Systems & Technologies Division. "This gives us global credibility." In addition to having DOE officials for an audience, the demonstration was seen in Torino by participants at IEEE's Innovative Smart Grid Technologies conference (ISGT-Europe).
The demonstration was the culmination of four years of work that dates back to joint research between INL and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and five universities joined INL to explore the idea that electrons can be sent around the world to prevent large-scale blackouts that could be caused by natural and man-made disasters. Participants contributed specific capabilities:
Sandia National Laboratories: Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory
Colorado State University: High-performance computer-based energy management system
Washington State University: Smart Grid and Microgrid Laboratory
University of South Carolina: Integrated Grids Laboratory (InteGraL)
RWTH Aachen University: Co-simulation framework
Polytechnic University of Turin: High-performance computer-based Energy Management System
NREL: Energy Systems Integration Facility
INL: Power and Energy Real-Time Laboratory
Beyond the obvious benefits of connecting technology, the project brings people from across the country and around the globe onto the same team. In addition to the several papers they have published, Marija Stevic, a graduate student at RWTH Aachen, is using the project to support her doctoral dissertation. Stevic benefited from a "12-month Ph.D. internship" program that allowed her to spend more than a year at INL contributing to the research program. The RT Super Lab will provide a platform for other participants to pursue similar long-term exchange activities.
"We are hoping this is a game-changer," said INL's Manish Mohanpurkar, group lead of the energy systems research group. Each lab that participated in the demonstration funded its own participation, and INL's portion was part of an internally funded Lab-Directed Research & Development project. With connections firmly established between the participants, the continued sharing of information and resources will allow researchers to learn more about such issues as data latency and instability.
Building on what was learned at the first RT-Super Lab demonstration, Hovsapian said he is hopeful that partnering laboratories in Asia, South America and Australia may eventually opt in.
On Tuesday, November 14, Idaho National Laboratory (INL) achieved an important step towards restoring U.S. nuclear energy transient testing capability with the resumption of operations at the Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility. The TREAT facility has been shut down and maintained in standby status since 1994.
TREAT is designed specifically to test nuclear reactor fuels and materials under extreme conditions. It can produce sudden bursts of energy that are more than five times more powerful than a commercial power plant—allowing scientists to examine fuel performance. This capability is an important asset to nuclear scientists and engineers as they work to increase the safety and performance of current and future nuclear reactors.
"The Department of Energy's decision to restore transient testing capability at INL is part of our efforts to revitalize the nation's nuclear energy capacity," said Ed McGinnis, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. "By investing in innovative fuel cycle infrastructure, we can advance nuclear as a key source of clean, resilient power and maintain U.S. leadership in developing advanced nuclear technologies."
INL restored the TREAT reactor to operational status after the successful completion of extensive inspection and refurbishment activities over the last few years, thorough evaluation and assessment of reactor systems, and the low-power run conducted today.
"The successful resumption of TREAT operations was the result of the effort of many people within INL and DOE," said INL Laboratory Director Mark Peters. "This teamwork resulted in resumption of operations being accomplished 12 months ahead of schedule and for nearly $20 million less than originally estimated."
Over the next several months, INL will prepare for reactor transient operations and performance of the first new transient experiments in 2018.
By: Leslie Wright
Idaho National Laboratory researchers are racking up accolades for the new technology they develop. This summer, two more honors were added to the list.
First, INL received honors at the Idaho Genius Awards, ranking in the top five Idaho companies by number of patents issued. Battelle Energy Alliance, which operates INL on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, ranked fourth in the state for over two dozen issued patents. Joining BEA in the top five were Micron, Hewlett-Packard Development, Semiconductor Components and the Intel Corporation.
Since BEA's contract to manage INL began, applications have been filed for over 472 patents, with more than 450 issued. In the 2016 fiscal year alone, 30 patents were issued to both INL and DOE based on the inventions of INL employees. Products, processes and innovations protected by INL patents and copyrights generate tens of millions of dollars annually in revenue for U.S. businesses.
One such new technology is the General Line Ampacity State Solver (GLASS), which was selected as a 2017 R&D 100 Award finalist. The R&D 100 Awards recognize the top 100 inventions each year, as judged by a panel of independent experts. The annual conference also celebrates innovation and revolutionary ideas in science and technology.
GLASS is a software package designed to help power line operators manage transmission for maximum efficiency and savings by calculating weather effects on lines. The java-based software incorporates wind and other weather data from remote sensors and then calculates the cooling effect of this phenomena on individual sections of line. This information, based on real-time data, enables dynamic control going beyond typical Static Line Ratings, which use a fixed set of environmental conditions. GLASS allows system planners and grid operators to better direct current over lines without the risk of overheating and enables utility companies to adjust power production and manage fluctuations in load more effectively.INL nominates technologies to the R&D 100 Award competition nearly every year, and the lab has collectively won 18 awards since 2005.
This year's R&D 100 winners will be announced at an awards dinner in November. Congratulations to the GLASS team and power systems engineer Jake Gentle, who led development of the software package funded by DOE's Wind Energy Technologies Office.These honors also follow on the heels of three INL wins of Far West Regional Awards granted by the Federal Laboratory Consortium.
Effective October 1, Dr. John Wagner is the new associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science & Technology (NS&T). Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, former NS&T Director, has accepted a new position at INL as executive director of the Versatile Fast Neutron Source Research & Development Initiative.
Before his new position, Wagner was the director of Domestic Programs for INL's NS&T directorate and director of the Technical Integration Office for the DOE-NE Light Water Reactor Sustainability (LWRS) Program. In these roles, he has provided strategic coordination at INL for the major DOE-NE programs, led the Advanced Nuclear Energy area of INL's LDRD program, and transitioned the LWRS Program from an emphasis on Subsequent License Renewal to reduced operating costs and modernization of the LWR fleet.
Wagner previously served at INL as chief scientist for the Materials and Fuels Complex, where he was responsible for implementing strategies to modernize the MFC research and development capabilities. His contributions helped to transform MFC to a more effective nuclear energy R&D organization, fostered collaborations with nuclear universities and laboratories, and facilitated delivery of outcomes for industrial partnerships to meet fuels and materials research and development needs.
He has more than 20 years of experience performing research, and managing and leading research and development projects, programs, and organizations. Prior to joining INL nearly two years ago, he worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for nearly 17 years, where he held a number of research and leadership roles in reactor and fuel cycle technologies.
John received a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and master's and doctorate degrees from the Pennsylvania State University. He is a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society and recipient of the 2013 E. O. Lawrence Award. He has also authored or co-authored more than 170 refereed journal and conference articles, technical reports, and conference summaries.
Congratulations to the National University Consortium (NUC) research teams who won Consolidated Innovative Nuclear Research awards beginning in FY 2018.
NUC faculty members and Idaho National Laboratory scientists will also be collaborating on the following projects.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry spoke Tuesday afternoon to Idaho National Laboratory employees in a packed hall at the lab's Idaho Falls campus.
The speech capped Perry's two-day tour of INL facilities, which included briefings on nuclear power and its effects on energy, national security and the environment.
During his speech Perry touted the U.S. Department of Energy; he said that although the governorship of Texas has been his favorite position thus far, the "coolest" job of his career has been that of energy secretary.
It was Perry's first visit to INL. This week's visit is the first of several planned lab visits for Perry. While addressing INL employees, he discussed the importance of national labs in science, economics and domestic security.
"I cannot tell you how honored I am to be associated with men and women who do what you do, who truly have the potential to change the world on any given day," Perry said. "We have the national labs that are going out there and scientifically experimenting and finding the next big thing, and you all are at the heart of that."
After his speech, Perry threw his support behind INL as a flagship lab within the DOE complex, particularly in nuclear research.
"What Idaho does is at the top of the list from my perspective, and I'll say that tomorrow when I go to (Los Alamos National Laboratory) as well," Perry said, reiterating that INL is "going to be one of the lead players, if not the lead player, as we develop and are developing the nuclear energy portfolio."
He specifically mentioned nuclear within weapons, security and energy contexts.
Many in the nuclear field believe the U.S. is trailing other countries, particularly China and Russia, in the development of next-generation advanced nuclear reactor technologies.
Perry mentioned the importance of catching up.
"Because in the last 30 years, the fact is we got behind in this country," he said. "And you and young people you're going to recruit to come in here over the course of the next decade or so have the potential to change that trajectory in a very powerful and positive way."
Part of that, Perry said, involves making nuclear attractive to the next generation — "making nuclear energy cool again" — and part of it involves embracing new technology.
Perry specifically referenced fast reactor technology.
The DOE is undergoing a three-year research and development process regarding a potential fast-neutron test reactor at INL's desert site.
The research follows DOE and Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee reports published late last year and early this year, respectively, that both recommend developing a fast reactor in the U.S.
"The U.S., I think, would be wise to use the resources we have here to commit to having the ability to participate in that fast reactor technology and the potential it has for the future," Perry said.
He also spoke of the importance of modernizing decades-old INL infrastructure.
A spending package signed into law last week by President Donald Trump includes $238 million for INL infrastructure maintenance and improvement.
Though nuclear has been and remain's INL's primary mission, Perry also discussed the importance of embracing other research areas, including cybersecurity and supercomputing.
The state Legislature approved a resolution this year allowing $90 million in state bonds to be used in the construction of two INL buildings in Idaho Falls.
One of them, the Cybercore Integration Center, will play a key role in cybersecurity research, which is one of INL's fastest-growing departments. The other, the Collaborative Computing Center, will house a new supercomputer to be used for scientific simulation and modeling.
"I think it's an opportunity for the state of Idaho to be world-leading," INL Director Mark Peters told the House Education Committee in March.
Cybersecurity research and supercomputing capabilities are national security focal points for the Trump administration, Perry said.
"We're not where we need to be from a cybersecurity standpoint; we're no longer number one in supercomputing. And that is of great concern to me. It should of great concern to the people of this country. I certainly am confident the president shares this concern," he said. "Exascale computing," an upcoming major step in computer engineering, "the next generation of supercomputers — both of those are growth areas, and I'd suggest to you the future of both of those will be prioritized."
Perry also referenced the importance of other INL ventures — everything from biofuel research to M1 Abrams tank armor manufacturing — and how such work affects lives in the U.S. and abroad every day.
"You get to do some stuff that waters people's eyes," Perry said. "When you leave here and go home, and you look in the mirror at night, you don't have to worry nor wonder whether you make a difference. You do, and I'm proud to be on your team."
By: Kevin Trevellyan with the Post Register
The American Nuclear Society recently recognized the Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) Complex as a Nuclear Historic Landmark at the 2016 ANS Winter meeting in Las Vegas. On May 18, ANS President Andy Klein presented the award during a visit to the ATR Complex.
The designation recognizes not only the contributions of the ATR, but also its predecessor reactors: the Materials Testing Reactor (MTR), Engineering Test Reactor (ETR), Engineering Test Reactor Critical, Advanced Test Reactor Critical, and Advanced Reactivity Measurements Facility I and II, as well as the hot cells, Radiation Measurements Laboratory and other research capabilities that have resided at ATR Complex throughout the years.
MTR began the legacy of materials testing at the ATR Complex when it achieved criticality, or in more simple terms began operating, in March 1952. It was a 30-megawatt (Mw) reactor that, after operating experience, was increased to operate at up to 40 Mw, with irradiation positions outside of the core. These positions allowed scientists to expose experiments to both neutron and gamma radiation at an accelerated rate. It began testing fuels and structural materials for other reactors, but was limited by the ability to only expose one side of an experiment to the nuclear environment. Changes were made and experiments were safely inserted into the core of MTR for a better irradiation environment. MTR also has the distinction of being the first light-water reactor to operate using plutonium fuel.
The Engineering Test Reactor, rated at 175 Mw, achieved criticality in September 1957. Learning from experiences at MTR, ETR was built with regular, in-core experiment positions and was able to more efficiently and quickly irradiate experiments for customers. In the latter stages of ETR’s life, it had a sodium-cooled loop passing through the core to support liquid-metal-cooled reactor designs.
The ATR took over a bulk of the materials testing being done at the ATR Complex when it achieved full-power operations in 1969 after initial criticality in July 1967. ATR is capable of 250 Mw operations. Building on what was learned in MTR and ETR, ATR made use of a revolutionary core design in which the fuel was arranged in a “serpentine” fashion. The new design allowed five in-core experiment positions surrounded by fuel and four out-of-core positions with fuel around half of the experiment area. A number of other test positions throughout the beryllium reflector exist for experiments of varying sizes and needs. In total, 77 test locations are available in ATR.
Other improvements made when ATR was designed and constructed include nine pressurized water loops passing through the core; these positions provide a physical environment to match power plant temperature, pressure and chemistry while ATR accelerates the nuclear conditions. As missions have changed over the years, three of the pressurized water loops have been removed, and six are now available. ETR had similar capabilities, but not nearly to the extent built into ATR. The designers also understood the need to replace structural material in their own test reactor, and ATR has undergone regular Core Internal Changeouts (CICs). There have been five CICs so far, with the next being planned for early 2020. ATR has the capability to operate regions of the reactor at different power levels, meeting the specific needs of different customers all at the same time.
MTR operated until April 1970, and ETR until December 1981. During a short period, all three reactors were irradiating fuels and materials for a number of customers. Since 1981, ATR has been utilized as the irradiation choice for Naval Nuclear Propulsion, commercial and test reactor designers, next-generation nuclear designers and other countries. In 2007, it was designated a National Scientific User Facility, since renamed the Nuclear Science User Facilities, attracting university and industry experiments from across the nation.
On Thursday, June 29, an anniversary celebration will be held at ATR Complex to mark 50 years of safe operations. ATR is currently completing a number of replacements and upgrades throughout the plant in anticipation of many more years of irradiation service to nuclear researchers from around the U.S. and the world.
By: Don Miley
By Tiffany Adams
Picture a single grain of sand. Now split that into 50 pieces. Something that small is difficult to imagine and impossible to see with the naked eye. But that fragment, roughly 10 microns or one one-hundredth of a millimeter, is the width of the sample Lingfeng He, an instrument scientist and senior research scientist at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), is analyzing in the hopes that it will aid in the advancement of generation IV molten salt reactors.
Molten salt reactors were developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the 1950s; however, molten salt reactor research was not restarted nationally until the early 2000s. The microscopic sample He received from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Nuclear Reactor Laboratory is made of Hastelloy-N, a nickel-based alloy, also developed at ORNL in the midcentury. This material appears to be a good candidate for structural materials for the current prototype of molten salt reactors; however, little research has been done on the corrosion resistance of Hastelloy-N while in a reactor.
That's where He steps in.
Receiving the sample from MIT after it had been exposed to molten FLiBe salt for 1000 hours in the test reactor, He analyzed the sample using a transmission electron microscope (TEM) located in the Irradiated Materials Characterization Laboratory at INL's Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC). TEMs work by beaming electrons through a specimen to determine the material's structure and elemental makeup and thereby displaying how the material withstood exposure to extreme environments. Other TEMs with only a single energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy detector, the mechanism that collects the number of X-rays emitted from a specimen after electrons have been beamed through the sample, can take up to an hour to determine the elemental makeup of the material and don't always produce accurate results, He said. But MFC's TEM with four detectors delivers results in minutes. "The efficiency of this microscope is 10 times greater than others," He said. "You can measure for a lot of elements even if the concentration is very low."
In the upper left quadrant, molybdenum-rich precipitates are shown near the surface and at the grain boundaries of the sample. The other sections of the image display the concentrations of other elements such as nickel, chromium, iron and platinum.
More specifically for this initial research, He was looking at how grain boundaries affect the corrosion behavior of Hastelloy-N. A grain boundary is the interface between two grains or crystallites. If the grain boundary is weakened in structure materials, this could affect the material's performance, and therefore the safety, efficiency and life span of a reactor. By analyzing the chemical structure of the sample, researchers have a better idea of where weaknesses may arise and can determine solutions to prevent them. During his examination of the material, He was able to see microstructural changes that may degrade the efficacy of the material; however, more research is needed to determine if this affects the ability of Hastelloy-N to be used in molten salt reactors.
Because of this, He hopes this research is only the beginning. He, along with MIT collaborators Guiqiu Zheng and David Carpenter, plan to submit a proposal to continue this work at the INL Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF), enabling further analysis of the entire sample, which comes in at a whopping two millimeters wide.
Through a peer-reviewed proposal process, NSUF provides external research teams cost-free access to reactor, post-irradiation examination and beamline capabilities at INL and a diverse mix of affiliated partner institutions at universities, national laboratories and industry facilities located across the country.
By Nicole Stricker
In a world that's hungry for energy and showing no sign of slowing down, there is no industrial process more voracious than petrochemical manufacturing. Since the early 20th century, everything from gasoline and diesel fuel to plastics has been made by cracking complex hydrocarbon molecules found in oil, coal and natural gas with tremendous amounts of heat and pressure.
A team of Idaho National Laboratory researchers has now pioneered an electrochemical process that could eliminate the need for high-energy steam cracking. In an article published last week in the scientific journal Energy and Environmental Science, the researchers report they've hit upon a process for creating synthetic fuels and plastics that uses 65 percent less energy and produces up to 98 percent less carbon dioxide.
Ethane, a major component of natural gas liquids, offers a simpler hydrocarbon to refine than oil. Once ethane is converted to ethylene, it can be used to make polymers for everything from cellphone cases to disposable diapers.
This conversion can be done thermally, the same way as it is with oil, at temperatures of up to 850 C. But the new process involves feeding ethane to the anode in an electrochemical membrane reactor. Electricity separates protons (hydrogen ions) from the molecules, leaving ethylene, an unsaturated hydrocarbon. Meanwhile the protons migrate through a dense electrolyte to the cathode, where they combine with electrons to form hydrogen gas.
Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD) funding supported INL's initial research, which is now being conducted in conjunction with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Wyoming. The project is one of 24 being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The EERE Advanced Manufacturing Office announced Feb. 5 that the project would receive funding as part of $35 million awarded to 24 projects developing early-stage innovative technology for advanced manufacturing.
Several factors are driving the project, said INL researcher Dr. Dong Ding. First, the shale gas revolution has provided a plentiful supply of natural gas at historically low prices. Second, the declining cost of electricity makes electrochemical refining more economically feasible.
Theoretically, if the process was to be powered by a renewable source and the captured hydrogen was incorporated into fuel cells, there is net gain in process energy. From a CO2 standpoint, using a noncarbon source of electricity — nuclear, hydro, wind or solar — could cut the carbon footprint down to 2 percent of traditional production methods.
Next, the INL team will focus on how to convert methane into ethylene. Methane is also found in natural gas — more plentifully than ethane, in fact — but its carbon-hydrogen bond is much harder to break, Ding said.
Peer reviewers for the Energy & Environmental Science article called the work convincing, timely, original and highly interesting.
By: Tiffany Adams
Aimed at fulfilling the Nuclear Energy University Program's (NEUP) mission of engaging the U.S. academic community and building world-class nuclear energy and workforce capability, the Consolidated Innovative Nuclear Research (CINR) awards provide funding to research and develop creative solutions for problems facing nuclear energy. A part of the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE), NEUP has funded over $267.5 million in research and development projects at 80 universities since 2009.
Currently, the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) has not been released for 2019-2020 work. However, as university researchers wait for this to be released, here are several tips to keep in mind when writing NEUP proposals.
"Contact the TPOC (technical point of contact) and the program manager responsible for the work scope," Greg Bala, program manager for the NEUP Integration Office, said. Drew Thomas, deputy program manager for the NEUP Integration Office, emphasized the importance of this, commenting that by working with the TPOC, applicants can better understand DOE's programmatic needs.
Youho Lee, an assistant professor from the University of New Mexico, echoed this. "More demand is placed on achieving a high level of technical and programmatic relevance," Lee said, making it fundamentally different from other funding opportunities.
Bala also mentioned it's important to be relevant to the work scope, meaning it is essential not to be a "hammer looking for a nail." It's important not to attempt to redefine a work scope to fit a researcher's interests or expertise, Bala continued.
Greg Bala said that while there isn't a rigid definition that determines if a research team will successfully earn an award, it is important to build a group that has a diverse range of expertise and is well-versed with DOE programmatic goals.
"You not only have to have the right people on the application, but they have to be performing meaningful work," Bala said. "Name dropping doesn't work."
Bala also mentioned the importance of demonstrating access to facilities where the research can be performed. "It doesn't just mean you say, 'I know where the equipment is, and I'll go try and use it if I win.'" Instead, applicants need to indicate that they can access those facilities through a member of the research team.
Prior to submitting his proposal, Lee utilized his university's proposal editing services to ensure clarity, coherence, and flow. Lee won two out of the three proposals he submitted for the 2018-2019 awards as the primary investigator.
Greg Bala, program manager of the NEUP Integration Office echoed the importance of using these types of services. "It's always important to have someone proof your application," Bala said. Errors like grammar and spelling mistakes may seem like small errors, but they often make the applications difficult to understand, he said.
"It never hurts to submit an application early," Bala said. He continued saying that because the FOA changes yearly, by giving themselves extra time, applicants ensure that if they missed a newly required document, there still is time to amend their application.
In addition, depending on university policies applicants may need to submit their applications through their institution's Office of Sponsored Research. Thomas said that researchers need to make sure they allow enough time for all approvals to take place.
Finally, Thomas emphasized the importance of being involved in the NEUP community, explaining that this doesn't just mean attending networking events. "A lot of individuals who have starting reviewing [NEUP applications] beginning to understand what the expectations are, what the rules are, and the layout that DOE has from a program perspective," Thomas said. He continued saying that all of these things can help better an applicant's understanding of how to best put together a proposal. He also noted that being a reviewer does not disqualify a researcher from submitting applications; the NEUP Integration Office manages potential conflicts of interest, meaning reviewers can review applications from one work scope, but submit proposals for another.
Idaho National Laboratory recently expanded its library of MOOSE-based, open-source modeling and simulation software with the MASTODON code. This code helps scientists and engineers design buildings and other structures to better withstand seismic events.
MASTODON is the short name for the Multi-hazard Analysis for STOchastic time-DOmaiN phenomena. It is a finite element application that calculates the realistic response of soil and structures to earthquakes in three dimensions. With capabilities to simulate "source-to-site" earthquake energy release, the software tool enables detailed analyses of earthquake fault rupture, nonlinear seismic wave propagation, and nonlinear soil-structure interactions.
"The MASTODON code gives facility designers and engineers an effective 3-D tool for designing earthquake-resistant structures that meet the strictest standards put forth by both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and this is just the beginning," said Justin Coleman, lead seismic scientist in INL's Nuclear Systems Design and Analysis division. "We'll be continually developing the code as a platform to improve its performance-based seismic risk assessment."
MASTODON can be found via INL's site on the open-source software hosting service GitHub.
The Energy Department is announcing that The Ohio State has taken home first place in the final year of EcoCAR 3, an Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Co. This is the fourth consecutive win for the Buckeyes.
To read the complete press release, visit the DOE website.
Established in 1977, the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology focuses on research related to energy and environmental policy. According to its website, "research at CEEPR is driven by its affiliated faculty and research staff," with projects and research outputs covering a wide range of research areas such as grids and infrastructure, carbon pricing, and energy efficiency.
In addition, CEEPR has two specific focus projects: Evidence for Action on Energy Efficiency (E2e) and Utility of the Future.
E2e is a joint project with CEEPR and the Energy Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. This goal of this project is to address the "energy efficiency gap," or the difference between predicted and actual energy savings when energy efficiency is implemented, with the overall objective of understanding "the difference between what is technically possible and what is practically achievable for energy efficiency," according to the project's website.
The second project's, Utility of the Future, objective is evaluating how a complex network of factors, such as policy and technology, impact the delivery of electricity services. The goal of the project is to supply decision makers, from regulators to business owners, with the current state of power system drivers in order to allow them to make informed decisions.
For more information about CEEPR and their research, visit their website at ceepr.mit.edu.
By: Jens Odegaard
Tommy Holschuh earned his doctorate in nuclear engineering from the Oregon State School of Nuclear Science and Engineering in June 2017. In August, he, along with Abdalla Abou Jaoude from the Georgia Institute of Technology, was named one of two inaugural recipients of the Idaho National Laboratory's (INL) Deslonde de Boisblanc distinguished postdoctoral appointment. While at INL, Holschuh will be using a novel method he developed at Oregon State to support the modeling of its Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility.
The namesake of the postdoctoral appointment, Deslonde de Boisblanc, was an early influential scientist at INL and designed the unique serpentine core of INL's Advanced Test Reactor. To honor his legacy, this appointment is "competitively awarded to early career researchers who embody the spirit of ingenuity of de Boisblanc and who have leadership potential."
A Nuclear Energy University Partnership Fellow during his doctoral studies at Oregon State, Holschuh developed a methodology and a detection system to quantify the Cherenkov radiation, or light, emitted by a reactor to determine reactor kinetics parameters. He calls it the Cherenkov Radiation Assay for Nuclear Kinetics (CRANK) system, which he describes in his dissertation. Holschuh used the Oregon State TRIGA Reactor for his research.
"The overall goal is that this might be used as an inspection tool by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors," Holschuh said. "During an official inspection of a reactor facility under IAEA safeguards, the inspectors could utilize the CRANK system to measure a reactor pulse and be able to obtain information about that reactor to verify the facility's activities."
Holschuh's detection system fits in a briefcase-size hard case and consists of a photodiode connected to the end of a fiber optics cable, which connects to signal processing software. The photodiode is lowered into a reactor and measures the Cherenkov light. The software and components are off the shelf and altogether cost about $15,000. Other systems used by the IAEA for similar purposes cost $250,000 just for the cameras they utilize, according to Holschuh.
To interpret the data from the Cherenkov light and determine the reactor's parameters, Holschuh developed a mathematical formula to put into the software. "The most difficult part was determining how to interpret the pulses. Reactor pulses, or large power changes over a short period of time, are inherently different for every reactor. Every aspect of the reactor alters the shape of the pulse—the changing reactivity with temperature, the heat capacity of the reactor, the facility design," he said. "I was able to obtain a method that combined many of those aspects into a single variable that scaled between two unique reactor pulses."
This means that his method and system can be used for virtually any reactor that has the capability to perform a large power transient.
At INL, Holschuh will utilize this method for reactor safety rather than standard reactor safeguards. "As part of the deBoisblanc postdoctoral appointment, I will attempt to use that methodology and measure reactor pulses at the TREAT Facility," he said. Shut down since 1994, TREAT is in the process of being restarted—an effort involving Oregon State. It will be used to test nuclear fuel assemblies for power-generating reactors.
"The last time its reactor parameters were measured, experimentally, was in 1960," said Holschuh. "By obtaining more accurate experimental results for reactor kinetics parameters, it provides more representative values for the INL staff members who perform modeling and simulation for the TREAT facility. The pulse shape, and subsequent energy deposition into the fuel types being tested, are greatly influenced by the reactor kinetics parameters, so by knowing them more accurately you can more accurately determine the effects on the fuel being tested."
Holschuh completed two internships at INL during his graduate studies and will be working under the supervision of Dan Wachs, who earned his master's in both nuclear and mechanical engineering at Oregon State before earning his doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho.
"We've been working with Tommy for several years and are looking forward to his return to INL," said Dr. David Chichester. Chichester is an INL directorate fellow and was Holschuh's graduate intern mentor at INL. "With key skills in reactor physics and radiation science, he's going to be making important contributions to our nuclear energy and nuclear nonproliferation research programs."
By: Julie Ulrich
INL has collaborated with several universities to develop the new INL Graduate Fellowship Program. The first call for the program closed earlier this year and 11 fellows were selected in August. During this pilot call, INL targeted candidates from Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) and National University Consortium (NUC) schools.
The recipients of these competitive fellowships have their tuition and fees covered by their university during their first years of graduate school (years one to three) and their tuition and fees plus a $60,000 annual salary paid by INL during the last two years of their doctoral research performed at the lab.
In the first years of their Ph.D. program, graduate fellows will spend most of their time taking classes at their university. That balance will shift in the last years of their Ph.D. program, where graduate fellows will spend the majority of their time at INL conducting research. The typical graduate fellow program runs between three and five years.
There are mutual benefits for the graduate fellows, universities and the lab. Throughout the program, the graduate fellows will interact and collaborate with both their INL mentor and their university thesis adviser.
The program allows INL to integrate students into the laboratory and provides graduate fellows with work on significant projects that will help them fulfill their thesis research requirements. INL gains access to skilled staff, along with the opportunity to build long-term collaborations with universities, increase recruiting opportunities, and interact with a continuous pipeline of students interning and conducting research at the lab. Both the university and INL have the opportunity for joint publications and intellectual property.
"This program presents an excellent opportunity for everyone involved," said Dr. Kelly Beierschmitt, INL's deputy laboratory director for science and technology and chief research officer. "Students receive quality education and an invaluable research experience. Additionally, INL strengthens its partnerships with universities while continuing to develop the next generation of engineers, researchers, scientists, and leaders."
Graduate fellows were selected in degree fields that closely tie to INL's three mission areas of innovative nuclear energy solutions, other clean energy options and critical infrastructure.
Congratulations to the following students from NUC schools who were selected as the first INL Graduate Fellows:
The Oregon State University High Temperature Test Facility (HTTF) has started its first test data collection campaign.
The HTTF is an integral test facility scaled one fourth in length and diameter to the Modular High Temperature Gas Reactor. Its purpose is to obtain high-quality data on thermal fluid behavior in high temperature gas reactors.
The HTTF consists of a primary loop containing the reactor vessel with an electrically heated ceramic core, a steam generator, gas circulator and associated piping. The maximum core power output at the HTTF is 2.2MW. The primary loop is capable of operating at prototypical temperatures at a pressure of 8 bar.
A reactor cavity cooling system (RCCS) is also present at the HTTF. This consists of forced water-cooled panels that surround the reactor vessel. This RCCS is not a scaled version of an actual HTGR design, but rather is used to specify the boundary conditions to control radiation heat transfer from the vessel wall.
Shakedown testing at the HTTF has been ongoing since the spring of 2016. In the winter of 2107, the HTTF completed its first official matrix test—a crossover duct exchange flow test.
Since that time, two additional duct exchange flow tests have been completed. During the remainder of 2017, it is anticipated that the HTTF will complete additional tests, including depressurized conduction cooldown and pressurized conduction cooldown transients.
By: Brian Woods