Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

InTheNews

  
  
  
Description
  
  
  
1. Headlinehttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20September/Dave-Petti_sized-1-575x383.jpg
By Corey Taule
 
History is rife with stories about unexpected opportunities:

Teddy Roosevelt’s reformation presidency came about after an anarchist assassinated President William McKinley.

Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 game streak resulted from a poor start to the season by the New York Yankees and the benching of first baseman Wally Pipp.

And the Indiana Jones movies would have looked far different had Tom Selleck, the first choice, accepted the lead role.

Though their ascensions could be considered accidental, Roosevelt, Gehrig and Harrison Ford were prepared when their moment arrived. They were the right men, in the right place, at the right time. As H. Jackson Brown Jr. wrote, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.”

INL’s Dr. David Petti has spent nearly 40 years on the dance floor.

Petti’s notable career began with an internship at INEL in 1980. Today, he finds himself at the center of the nuclear energy world – as the executive director on a high-profile Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study: “The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World.”

Petti earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. from MIT. Following a long career at Idaho National Laboratory, opportunity arrived unexpectedly. Petti returned to his alma mater two years ago on a joint appointment, splitting his time between INL and MIT so he could lead the report.

The MIT report

In 2003, MIT, led by Ernest Moniz, who would later become U.S. Secretary of Energy under President Obama, released “The Future of Nuclear Power.” It was the first of MIT’s renowned “Future of” studies aimed at addressing complex issues involving energy and the environment.

Future MIT studies addressed geothermal energy (2006), coal (2007), an update on nuclear power (2009), natural gas (2011), the nuclear fuel cycle (2011), the electric grid (2011), and solar energy (2015).

Petti became involved in MIT’s ninth study after one of the original co-chairs died and another was promoted. When MIT’s Energy Initiative looked around, it discovered the right man, in the right place, at the right time.

MIT released the report this month and Petti and his colleagues will discuss their findings at events in London, Paris, Brussels and Washington, D.C.  An event in Tokyo will follow on Oct. 9.

In the nuclear energy world, this is a big deal.

“I can’t overstate the importance of the MIT reports in advancing the dialogue on nuclear energy,” said INL Director Mark Peters, who served as one of seven reviewers of the study. “INL is proud to have been a part of the process that resulted in this study, and we’re also very proud of Dave Petti’s work and distinguished career.”

Past, present, future

Thirty-eight years ago, INL was INEL, Mount St. Helens erupted, CNN launched, John Lennon was murdered, the U.S. defeated the Soviet Union in the “Miracle on Ice,” the Reagan era was soon to begin, and Dave Petti began what would become his life’s work.

Petti interned at INL for several summers before joining full time in 1986, embarking upon a professional journey that would see him become expert in many aspects of nuclear energy research and development, and leave him well prepared for his unexpected assignment at MIT.

Petti studied severe accidents, focusing on Three Mile Island not long after it took place, gas reactors, fusion safety and nuclear fuel. He was co-National Technical Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Program.

It all added up to Petti becoming one of the few people to begin their careers at INL as an intern and earn the status of INL Laboratory Fellow.

“He is a very big figure in all this,” said John Wagner, Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear Science and Technology. “Think about his contributions, what a force he’s been. He’s one of those guys, when he talks, people stop and listen.”

Like everyone involved in nuclear energy, Petti has experienced highs and lows –  the inevitable recession lurking behind the anticipated renaissance.

The MIT study, and the work involved in making it possible, offered Petti an opportunity to impact the future, address issues impeding an expansion of low-carbon nuclear energy, and offer recommendations to policymakers and industry.

The bottom line, Petti said, is the need for greater awareness that demand for energy will increase an estimated 40 percent by 2050, and the only way to meet it and reduce carbon emissions is to build thousands of advanced nuclear reactors around the world.

“To decarbonize, we’re going to need a lot of reactors,” Petti said. “One of the big reasons to do nuclear is decarbonization.”

Petti said recent bankruptcies and shuttering of nuclear power plant projects in Georgia and South Carolina caused the MIT group to focus even more on cost, and deliver recommendations centered upon reducing them.

Those include two of potential interest to INL: establishment of reactor sites “where companies can deploy prototype reactors for testing and operations orientated to regulatory licensing;” and establishment of funding programs “around prototype testing and commercial deployment of advanced reactor designs …”

One of the most enlightening aspects of the study looked at decarbonization models, and the belief that the world can meet future energy demands and carbon-reduction goals using a combination of solar, wind and battery storage.

Petti and his colleagues looked at models centered in Texas and New England, factoring in anticipated weather conditions for an entire year.

What did they find? “The answer is ‘maybe,”’ Petti said about the wind, solar and storage question, “but the cost would be astronomical. Bring nuclear into the mix and the costs go down.”

Petti said he is proud of the nearly 300-page document he and his team produced, and hopes it will inspire serious discussions at statehouses around the country and on Capitol Hill.

“I see it as a capstone,” Petti said. “What an opportunity to effect the nuclear debate on the international level.”
9/30/2018October 2018
  
1. HeadlineAaron Epiney and Carlo Parisi

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.

6/4/2018June 2018
  
1. Headlinehttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20June/C3_EXT_05_500px.jpg

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."

6/4/2018June 2018
  
1. HeadlineOregon State Logo
​For most working in the field of nuclear energy, the American Nuclear Society conferences are frequently attended to learn about the latest innovations, present their newest research, and spark new hypotheses. But the best ideas aren't always found in the lecture halls. In the case of the latest collaboration between Idaho National Laboratory and Oregon State University, lunchtime was the breeding ground for innovation.

"Like many good things, I recall that this idea was hatched over lunch at an ANS conference a few years ago," said Mitch Meyer, the Characterization and Advanced Post-Irradiation Examination director. The course entitled "Nuclear Fuel Qualification – Post Irradiation Examination" was taught by Meyer and 11 other INL researchers with Wade Marcum, an associate professor at Oregon State University, facilitating the course. This inaugural class had 16 students, but faculty members also sat in during many lectures. "There was a lot of curiosity about the topics we were presenting," Meyer said.
Mitch Meyer
 
The unique course covered topics such as fission gas measurement, electron beam characterization and fuel performance codes. "The faculty and university very much appreciated this exchange and opportunity as it fills a gap in the present teaching curriculum and connects us with a premier research institute in a way that we have not before," Marcum said.

Finding volunteers at INL to teach the course wasn't difficult for Meyer, and he ended up with more volunteers than sections to teach. Aaron Craft, who taught the lectures on neutron radiography, attributes this to the passion scientists have for their work. "Scientists like talking about what they do. Since they're the subject matter experts, they can talk about it in more detail and in more breadth," Craft said. To continue to fulfill INL's mission of demonstrating nuclear energy as the cleanest and most reliable form of energy, Craft believes this sort of interaction is key to inspiring the future wave of nuclear engineers. "We have to be advocates for our science in the public as well, which includes classrooms teaching the next generation of students."

After building the curriculum through a series of conference calls with Marcum, discussions with INL researchers, several hours of work on nights and weekends, and approval of the Oregon State nuclear engineering faculty, the class was taught by INL researchers both in person and via video conferencing. Overall, the class was well received by the students. "The comments that I personally received were that they enjoyed the course subject matter," Marcum said. "But mostly they appreciated the insightful topical delivery that could only be provided by a national or international topical expert on that subject matter."

"No other university provides this type of course," Craft said. "When we get bright nuclear engineers or materials scientists in here, they haven't had an education on post-irradiation examination or nuclear fuel qualification anywhere. It doesn't exist, so we end up teaching them from scratch."

Although the idea for the course began over a meal, the collaboration is one of the many that have occurred as part of INL's longstanding partnership with the university through its National University Consortium. Established in 2005, the NUC is a partnership between INL and five prominent research universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, the Ohio State University, the University of New Mexico and Oregon State University.

The lasting impact of the most recent collaboration between INL and Oregon State University is already being felt. Meyer plans to host a few interns from the university this summer; Craft has already been contacted by graduate students to run experiments at the Neutron Radiography Reactor that he works with; Craft also plans to host a faculty seminar at INL and assist Oregon State with their camera-based imaging system at their nuclear reactor; and Meyer is hoping this course will be the first of many: "I'm already thinking about the next one."

3/5/2018March 2018
  
1. Headlinehttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20March/P-9540-23_500px.jpg
In September 2017, Idaho National Laboratory announced its first group of 11 INL graduate fellows. Three months later, the first two students, Casey Icenhour and Konor Frick, were accepted to Ph.D. candidacy and arrived in Idaho Falls to begin their work with INL.

A collaboration between INL and universities, INL's Graduate Fellowship program is aimed at identifying exceptional talent to continue INL's mission of demonstrating nuclear energy as the cleanest and most reliable energy source. The program is also built to offer mentoring and financial support to students beginning or currently enrolled in Ph.D. programs. During the first years of their doctoral programs, students spend their time at their universities completing coursework while collaborating with their INL mentor and Ph.D. adviser to develop a research plan. Once coursework is completed, graduate fellows spend the last years of their Ph.D. program at INL conducting research as outlined in their research plan.

Frick and Icenhour, both from North Carolina State University, began the second portion of their fellowship earlier this year, relocating full-time to Idaho Falls to complete their doctoral research. Frick finished his Ph.D. program shortly after arriving in Idaho, successfully defending his dissertation in nuclear hybrid energy systems at the end of January.

Icenhour is still currently pursuing a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering and spent the last year-and-a-half at Oak Ridge National Laboratory through the Office of Science's Graduate Student Research Program. Before hearing about its INL Graduate Fellowship program, outside of INL's general mission, Icenhour wasn't very familiar with INL. However, through another NCSU student, Alex Lindsey, who had worked with INL previously and is now an employee, Icenhour and his Ph.D. adviser, Steve Shannon, saw a valuable connection between his thesis topic and the modeling and simulation work—i.e., Multiphysics Object Oriented Simulation Environment (MOOSE)—being done at INL. Currently, Icenhour is working on expanding the MOOSE framework to include his work on electromagnetic wave propagation. "It's been a boon to my work because instead of just focusing on that and only that, I'm starting to think more about the applications of my research," he said.

Rich Martineau, Icenhour's INL mentor, sees the benefits for everyone involved. For the students, Martineau gives "top-flight mentoring during the graduate research phase" to make sure that that they get the maximum benefit out of "a couple of their best years of research." Martineau recognizes the level of responsibility INL mentors have in order to make sure this is a positive experience for the incoming students. His advice to INL mentors? Challenge the students. "The only thing that matters here is that Casey is successful."

Although his time at INL has been short, Icenhour also has advice for other INL graduate fellows who will be arriving in Idaho Falls in the months and years ahead. "You need to be willing to step outside your group and be willing to engage with other researchers."

He noted that being at a national laboratory is very different from academia. "The folks around here are working on a broader class of problems," Icenhour said. As a Ph.D. student studying a very specific area, he said it can be a "culture shock." But he thinks this ultimately benefits students. "It makes you, as a grad student, a better researcher."

Frick also has advice for students once they get to INL: Have a detailed research plan. "The goal of this program is to have students earn their Ph.D.," Frick said. "Create a well-outlined research plan with your INL mentor and Ph.D. adviser to make sure all parties agree the research done at INL enables that to happen."

As the program continues to grow, Michelle Bingham, University Partnerships director, sees the INL Graduate Fellowship program filling the talent pipeline and continuing to bring in qualified employees already familiar with the work being done at INL. She also envisions this already-competitive program becoming even more familiar across the country. "Over time, the INL Graduate Fellowship will become a well-known, prestigious program that students vigorously pursue in order to differentiate them from their peers," Bingham said.

For more information about the INL Graduate Fellowship program and other student opportunities at INL, contact internships@inl.gov or visit inl.gov/gradfellows.

3/5/2018March 2018
  
1. Headlinehttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2017%20December/Global-simulation-landscape-2_500px.jpg

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.

12/4/2017December 2017
  
1. Headlinehttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2017%20December/TREAT-building_500px.jpg

​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.

12/4/2017December 2017
  
1. Headlinehttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2017%20October/INL-logo_400px.jpg

​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.

10/9/2017October 2017
  
1. Headlinehttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2017%20October/John-Wagner.jpg

​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.

10/9/2017October 2017
  
1. Headlinehttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2017%20October/NEUP-logo_400px.png

​Congratulations to the National University Consortium (NUC) research teams who won Consolidated Innovative Nuclear Research awards beginning in FY 2018.

  • An Experimental and Analytical Investigation into Critical Heat Flux (CHF) Implications for Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) Concepts: Researchers will develop a holistic best estimate assessment of the potential impact of different ATF cladding materials with regards to heat transfer characteristics, the boiling curve, critical heat flux, fuel mass/volume/specific power density, and neutronics effects due to changes in the lattice design or parasitic neutron absorption during design basis accident conditions in light water reactors.
    • Collaborators:
      • PI: Youho Lee (University of New Mexico)
      • Edward Blandford (University of New Mexico)
      • Nicholas R. Brown (Pennsylvania State University)
      • Wade Marcum (Oregon State University)
      • Simon Walker, Geoffrey Hewitt, Radd Issa (Imperial College London)
      • Colby Jensen (Idaho National Laboratory)
      • John Strumpell (Areva)
      • Raul Rebak (General Electric Global Research)
  • Combined modeling and experiments to predict corrosion and embrittlement in dual-phase stainless steels within the MARMOT framework: Researchers will enhance MARMOT to predict mechanical and corrosion properties of dual-phase stainless steels as a function of composition, aging time and temperature by using combined experimental data and lower length scale models.
    • Collaborators:
      • PI: Julie Tucker (Oregon State University)
      • Dr. Liney Arnadottir, Dr. Burkan Isgor (Oregon State University)
      • Dr. Yongfeng Zhang (Idaho National Laboratory)
  • Integrating Static PRA Information with RISMC Simulation Methods: Researchers will develop a computationally feasible and user friendly process to augment the traditional probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) results with improved representation of epistemic uncertainties and process/hardware/software/human interactions at plant level applications.
    • Collaborators
      • PI: Tunc Aldemir (The Ohio State University)
      • Dr. Yassin Hassan (Texas A&M University)
      • Dr. Andrea Alfonsi (Idaho National Laboratory)
      • Dr. Askin Yigitoglu (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

NUC faculty members and Idaho National Laboratory scientists will also be collaborating on the following projects.

  • Development of Information Trustworthiness and Integrity Algorithms for Cybersecurity Defenses of Nuclear Power Plants: Researchers will develop a first-of-a-kind physics-based defense-in-depth strategy to defend against false data injection attacks which attempt to change the information used by the I/C network to set reactor state. The approach employs a new design philosophy to check for information trustworthiness/integrity in order to determine whether the information is genuinely generated during the actual operation of the nuclear unit under either normal or off-normal conditions
    • Collaborators:
      • PI: Hany S. Abdel-Khalik (Purdue University)
      • Dr. Elisa Bertino (Purdue University)
      • Dr. Ayman Hawari (North Carolina State University)
      • Dr. Katrina Groth (Sandia National Laboratory)
      • Dr. Virginia Wright (Idaho National Laboratory)
  • Modeling of Spent Fuel Cladding in Storage and Transportation Environments: Researchers will advance the technical state of compact heat exchangers and lay the foundation to get these types of heat exchangers certified for use in nuclear service. The team will advance the understanding of the performance, integrity and lifetime of the CHXs for use in any industrial application. This will be done by developing qualification and inspection procedures that utilize non-destructive evaluation (NDE) and advanced in-service inspection techniques, with insight from EPRI.
    • Collaborators:
      • PI: Arthur Motta
      • Nicholas Brown, Long Quing Chen, Daniel Koss, Robert Kuz, Michael Tonk (Pennsylvania State University)
      • Mohammed Zikry (North Carolina State University)
      • Thomas Downar, Annalisa Manera, Victor Petrov, Volkan Seker (University of Michigan)
      • Brian Wirth (University of Tennessee)
      • Giovanni Pastore (Idaho National Laboratory)
      • Kurt Terrani, Mahmut Nedim, Cinbiz (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
      • Carlos Tome (Los Alamos National Laboratory)
      • Zeses Karoutas, David Mitchell, Javier Romero (Westinghouse Electric Corporation)
      • Mark Kaymond (Queens University)
10/9/2017October 2017
  
1. HeadlineRick Perry, Mark Peters, Heather Chichester

​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

6/5/2017June 2017
  
1. HeadlineOn May 18, INL Laboratory Director Mark Peters (left), ANS President Andy Klein (center) and Advanced Test Reactor Associate Laboratory Director Sean O’Kelly (right) unveiled the Nuclear Historic Landmark plaque.

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

6/5/2017June 2017
  
2. Researchhttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20September/TREAT_P-9807-81_500px.jpg
By Kortny Rolston-Duce
On September 18 at 5:05 p.m., the Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) pulsed for a few seconds, subjecting a small capsule of light water reactor fuel to radiation and heat. The test marked the return of a capability that is critical to the United States’ role in the development of nuclear fuels, for both the existing fleet and a new generation of advanced reactors under design.

“Restoring this capability in the U.S. keeps our nation in a leading role to develop advanced nuclear fuels and reactor technologies,” said INL Laboratory Director Mark Peters. “Because of that, INL’s TREAT facility will once again enable systems that serve the U.S. economy, environment and national security.”
While other transient test reactors exist in other countries, the United States had been without the capability since 1994, when TREAT was placed on operational standby. Many of the nuclear fuel types currently used in reactors operating in the United States and around the world were tested in TREAT.

The goal of transient testing of nuclear fuels is similar to high-impact car crash testing, which has helped the automobile industry make crucial advancements in safety technologies. Exposing fuels to extreme conditions in TREAT helps the nuclear industry develop more resilient and longer lasting fuels.

The experiment performed today is part of a series that will culminate in testing of new fuels being developed by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s Accident Tolerant Fuels (ATF) program for use in light water reactors.

Data gathered from the experiment will be compared to tests previously conducted at TREAT and other historic research facilities to verify modern experiment protocols and demonstrate performance of instrumentation. This experiment commissioned TREAT’s fuel safety research capabilities and paved the way for upcoming tests over the next few weeks in which fuel samples will be exposed to increasing energy levels ramping up to sample melting point.

Finally, today’s experiment will enable an enhanced understanding and lay the foundation for the next ATF experimental campaign in 2019 that will focus on water-environment testing.

TREAT came back online in November when the reactor went critical at low power. INL workers have been making final preparation for the first fuel experiment in the months since.

“We weren’t going to claim TREAT restart success until we ran the first experiment,” said INL’s Dan Wachs, who serves as DOE’s national technical lead for fuel safety research.

INL is one of the U.S. DOE’s national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.
9/30/2018October 2018
  
2. Researchhttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20September/Hydrogen-Manufacturing_P-9623-18_500px.jpg
​By Nicole Stricker
 
Industrial hydrogen is closer to being produced more efficiently, thanks to findings outlined in a new paper published by Idaho National Laboratory researchers. In the paper, Dr. Dong Ding and his colleagues detailed advances in the production of hydrogen, which is used in oil refining, petrochemical manufacturing and as an eco-friendly fuel for transportation.

The researchers demonstrated high-performance electrochemical hydrogen production at a lower temperature than had been possible before. This was due to a key advance: a ceramic steam electrode that self-assembles from a woven mat.

“We invented a 3D self-assembled steam electrode which can be scalable,” said Ding. “The ultrahigh porosity and the 3D structure can make the mass/charge transfer much better, so the performance was better.”

In a paper published by the journal Advanced Science (DOI: 10.1002/advs.201800360), the researchers reported on the design, fabrication and characterization of highly efficient proton-conducting solid oxide electrolysis cells (P-SOECs) with a novel 3D self-assembled steam electrode. The cells operated below 600o C. They produced hydrogen at a high sustained rate continuously for days during testing.

Hydrogen is an eco-friendly fuel in part because when it burns, the result is water. However, there are no convenient suitable natural sources for pure hydrogen. Today, hydrogen is obtained by steam reforming (or “cracking”) hydrocarbons, such as natural gas. This process, though, requires fossil fuels and creates carbon byproducts, which makes it less suited for sustainable production.

Steam electrolysis, by contrast, needs only water and electricity to split water molecules, thereby generating hydrogen and oxygen. The electricity can come from any source, including wind, solar, nuclear and other emission-free sources. Being able to do electrolysis efficiently at as low a temperature as possible minimizes the energy needed.

A P-SOEC has a porous steam electrode, a hydrogen electrode and a proton-conducting electrolyte. When voltage is applied, steam travels through the porous steam electrode and turns into oxygen and hydrogen at the electrolyte boundary. Due to differing charges, the two gases separate and are collected at their respective electrodes.

So, the construction of the porous steam electrode is critical, which is why the researchers used an innovative way to make it. They started with a woven textile template, put it into a precursor solution containing elements they wanted to use, and then fired it to remove the fabric and leave behind the ceramic. The result was a ceramic version of the original textile.

They put the ceramic textile in the electrode and noticed that in operation, bridging occurred between strands. This should improve both mass and charge transfer and the stability of the electrode, according to Dr. Wei Wu, the primary contributor to this work.

The electrode and the use of proton conduction enabled high hydrogen production below 600o C. That is cooler by hundreds of degrees than is the case with conventional high-temperature steam electrolysis methods. The lower temperature makes the hydrogen production process more durable, and also requires fewer costly, heat-resistant materials in the electrolysis cell.

Although hydrogen is already used to power vehicles, for energy storage and as portable energy, this approach could offer a more efficient alternative for high-volume production.

Idaho National Laboratory is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.
9/30/2018October 2018
  
2. ResearchLingfeng He works at the transmission electron microscope.

​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.

6/4/2018June 2018
  
2. Research

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.

6/4/2018June 2018
  
2. Researchhttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20March/REE_P-9263-02_500px.jpg
​By Paul Menser
 
As the United States seeks a stable domestic supply of rare-earth elementsessential to high-tech instruments and electronicsresearchers at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) are looking to the salvage yard to see what might be lurking under the hoods and in the doors of light-duty cars and trucks.

Rare-earth elements (REEs) are not scarce but scattered, meaning they typically can’t be found in economically exploitable concentrations. They have become increasingly sought after, however, since they are used in high-strength magnets, electric motors, and consumer goods like laptops, tablets and cellphones. A single smartphone can contain nine rare-earth elements alone.

Ruby Nguyen and Devin Imholte both specialize in supply chain analysis for INL and the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), an Energy Innovation Hub funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. In CMI’s first five years, there was a focused effort on computer hard disk drives to quantify what REEs could be recovered from the magnets inside them. Working with counterparts within INL and at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the research indicated that recovering REEs from hard drives would meet less than 1 percent of global magnet demand.

With rising sales of plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles, the focus has shifted to the automotive industry. Nguyen and Imholte proposed to study rare-earth metals in autos after reading a Frost & Sullivan market analysis of transportation and industrial motors.

They contacted a number of salvage yards, eventually coming to an arrangement with James Boone of Intermountain Auto Recycling in nearby Rigby, Idaho. He also operates a business in Idaho Falls called iPull, specializing in parts. Intermountain buys about five vehicles a day at auctions and from insurance companies and repair shops.

Working with Imholte and Nguyen, Boone will find the vehicle they want to examine and strip it down to parts, which he sells at cost to INL. These are sent to the INL Research Center (IRC) to be disassembled. The disassembled magnets are sent to the Center for Advanced Energy Studies for analysis.

Determining the actual amount of REEs in vehicles is a challenge because REEs are used in small quantities across different types of components. Alternators, which supply a steady charge to a vehicle’s electrical system, are not a main source of REEs, Imholte said. In fact, none of the alternators in any of the disassembled vehicles have contained magnets.

Magnets in conventional cars and trucks are generally used in devices that require high torque and back-and-forth motion. These include the motors that power windshield wipers, air-conditioning blower motors, engine cooling fans, seat motors, and power steering motors. And the speakers use neodymium in their magnets.

Inventorying the components taken from a 2010 Ford F-150 truck, Nguyen and Imholte found 120 grams of magnet alloy containing 30 grams of neodymium in the front-door speakers. Neodymium magnets were also found in front-door speakers of a 2011 Chevy Silverado at a smaller amount: 16 grams with 4 grams of neodymium. In the 22 components across 17 different applications, the researchers found lower amounts of REEs than the literature indicated they should expect.

Considering the time involved — removing the components took iPull two-and-a-half hours, getting the magnets out of them took 11 hours at IRC — cost will be an issue in any recovery efforts. Nguyen and Imholte have since turned their attention to a 2009 Toyota Corolla. “We’re eager to learn if the results from a sedan are different from a truck,” Nguyen said. After that, they have lined up a 2012 Honda Accord.

“Nobody is doing this nuts-and-bolts disassembly on U.S. automobiles like we are,” Imholte said. “We’re really just starting to look at REE consumption in this way.”

Several factors could change the game as the study progresses. After a sharp drop in 2012, some REEs experienced a steady price rebound due to the expansion of electric vehicles and the renewable energy industry. Prices for neodymium and praseodymium soared more than 50 percent in 2017.

Analysts at Argonaut Ltd. estimate that use of magnets in electric vehicles and wind turbines will cause demand for neodymium and praseodymium to increase almost 250 percent over the next 10 years. Electric vehicles use roughly 1 kilogram more rare-earth oxides than conventional internal combustion cars, according to their research. Adamas Intelligence sees demand for magnet-oriented rare-earth oxides increasing to $6.07 billion by 2025, representing a compound annual growth rate of 17.4 percent from $1.44 billion in 2016.

“The use of permanent magnet motors in new electric vehicle designs released in 2018 will be an interesting area to watch,” David Merriman, deputy manager for Roskill Information Services’ minor metals division, told Rare Earth Investing News in December 2017. “If more and more manufacturers switch to rare earth permanent magnet designs, demand will undoubtedly follow.”

3/5/2018March 2018
  
2. ResearchPower poles
​By Cory Hatch
 
In the aftermath of natural disasters, damage to an electrical grid can slow the recovery effort and prolong human suffering.

Last fall, Idaho National Laboratory researchers assembled a coalition of partners to design a system of microgrids that would enhance grid resilience by maintaining and restoring power after a catastrophic event or a cyberattack.

During the coming months, the partners will demonstrate this technology in the small fishing village of Cordova, Alaska.

When the microgrid system is finished, Cordova’s electrical grid will automatically reroute power to ensure that critical public services — hospitals, emergency shelters and other vital services — have electricity if part of the grid is damaged or disabled.

The Cordova system will include switches that can isolate one part of a microgrid in case of an emergency. This “islanding” allows undamaged and critical parts of the grid to remain functional.

In a sense, the system is smart enough to reconfigure itself. The project — Resilient Alaskan Distribution System Improvements using Automation, Network Analysis, Control and Energy Storage (RADIANCE) — could help get the lights back on in minutes instead of months.

Idaho National Laboratory research scientist Rob Hovsapian said Cordova, because of its challenges, is an ideal location to build and test a next-generation system of microgrids.

Cordova is in a far-flung nook of Prince William Sound. There are no roads connecting Cordova with the rest of the world. The only way to get there is by plane or boat.

The city’s electrical grid is also isolated; there’s no physical connection to the outside world. The situation is compounded by harsh weather and a mix of hydroelectric, diesel and solar power generation, with a seasonal consumer demand that changes significantly throughout the year.

In the event of a major natural disaster, such as the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964, Cordova might be completely cut off. The city would need a power system that is smart and flexible enough to continue providing electricity for essential public services such as fire stations, hospitals and police departments.

In September, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Grid Modernization Initiative announced funding of up to $6.2 million for RADIANCE to the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC). As part of the GMLC, INL researchers will lead a team that includes scientists and engineers from Sandia National Laboratories and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Partners include the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the City of Cordova, the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) and the Cordova Electrical Cooperative. The GMLC is part of the Grid Modernization Initiative, a comprehensive DOE-wide focus to help shape the future of the nation’s grid.

Hovsapian’s power and energy systems group at INL recently assisted with the installation of a microgrid for Native American trust lands at Blue Lake Rancheria in Northern California. The microgrid provides power for an American Red Cross Emergency Shelter, among other services.

The Cordova project builds on lessons learned at Blue Lake Rancheria, Hovsapian said. “We expanded our research from a microgrid to smart reconfiguration of a microgrid,” he said.

When combined with next-generation grid sensors, hydroelectric storage, battery storage and wind energy, Cordova’s system of microgrids should remain partly functional even under extreme circumstances such as natural disasters or cyberattacks.

INL is leading efforts to design a system of microgrids that enhance grid resilience.
The eyes and the ears of Cordova’s microgrid system will be state-of-the-art micro-phasor measurement units (PMUs), equipment that monitors changes in the grid in real time.

The micro-PMU takes measurements of power quality, harmonics and instability at a very fast rate.

Based on highly detailed information from the micro-PMU, devices called microgrid controllers can make automated decisions about where to send the power by simultaneously coordinating loads, generation and storage.

“The controllers work in coordination with the existing system to reduce fossil fuel consumption, improve power quality and enhance resiliency,” said Mayank Panwar, INL’s principal researcher on RADIANCE.

Before the equipment ever reaches Cordova, the group will simulate the microgrid system in a 26,000-square-foot high bay at INL’s Energy Systems Laboratory.

There, real-time digital simulators allow the researchers to model how a power grid will perform before assembling the equipment in the field. The team can incorporate actual hardware into the simulation to learn how it will perform.

For instance, Cordova recently experienced a mudslide that took out one of its underground power lines.

“Let’s repeat that scenario and see how we recover from that,” Hovsapian said. “We take some of the risk away by developing these systems here, and we’re growing the science of microgrids in the process.”

By simulating those kinds of disruptions in the lab, researchers can help make Cordova’s grid more resilient in real life.

Another part of the project will establish data connections between Cordova and the 58 dispersed village communities under the AVEC. Electrical grids in the villages would then operate as a system of loosely networked microgrids in coordination with larger utilities in cities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks.

If one village experiences a damaged electrical grid, engineers can call upon the expertise and capabilities of other utilities in the network.

“How can you make those microgrids more resilient?” Hovsapian said. “You can leverage each other’s resources.”

The Power and Energy Systems group at INL hopes the technologies developed and the lessons learned at Cordova and Blue Lake Rancheria can help make grids more resilient across the United States.

3/5/2018March 2018
  
2. Researchhttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2017%20October/CINR-tips_400px.jpg

​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.

Make sure you understand the work scope.

"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.

Build your network and submit proposals with a diverse research team.

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.

Have someone proof your application.

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.

Give yourself enough time to submit your proposal.

"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.

Be involved in the NEUP research community.

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.

10/9/2017October 2017
  
2. Research
​In the aftermath of natural disasters, damage to an electrical grid can slow the recovery effort and prolong human suffering.

Last fall, Idaho National Laboratory researchers assembled a coalition of partners to design a system of microgrids that would enhance grid resilience by maintaining and restoring power after a catastrophic event or a cyberattack.

During the coming months, the partners will demonstrate this technology in the small fishing village of Cordova, Alaska.

When the microgrid system is finished, Cordova’s electrical grid will automatically reroute power to ensure that critical public services — hospitals, emergency shelters and other vital services — have electricity if part of the grid is damaged or disabled.

The Cordova system will include switches that can isolate one part of a microgrid in case of an emergency. This “islanding” allows undamaged and critical parts of the grid to remain functional.

In a sense, the system is smart enough to reconfigure itself. The project — Resilient Alaskan Distribution System Improvements using Automation, Network Analysis, Control and Energy Storage (RADIANCE) — could help get the lights back on in minutes instead of months.

Idaho National Laboratory research scientist Rob Hovsapian said Cordova, because of its challenges, is an ideal location to build and test a next-generation system of microgrids.

Cordova is in a far-flung nook of Prince William Sound. There are no roads connecting Cordova with the rest of the world. The only way to get there is by plane or boat.

The city’s electrical grid is also isolated; there’s no physical connection to the outside world. The situation is compounded by harsh weather and a mix of hydroelectric, diesel and solar power generation, with a seasonal consumer demand that changes significantly throughout the year.

In the event of a major natural disaster, such as the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964, Cordova might be completely cut off. The city would need a power system that is smart and flexible enough to continue providing electricity for essential public services such as fire stations, hospitals and police departments.

In September, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Grid Modernization Initiative announced funding of up to $6.2 million for RADIANCE to the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC). As part of the GMLC, INL researchers will lead a team that includes scientists and engineers from Sandia National Laboratories and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Partners include the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the City of Cordova, the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) and the Cordova Electrical Cooperative. The GMLC is part of the Grid Modernization Initiative, a comprehensive DOE-wide focus to help shape the future of the nation’s grid.

Hovsapian’s power and energy systems group at INL recently assisted with the installation of a microgrid for Native American trust lands at Blue Lake Rancheria in Northern California. The microgrid provides power for an American Red Cross Emergency Shelter, among other services.

The Cordova project builds on lessons learned at Blue Lake Rancheria, Hovsapian said. “We expanded our research from a microgrid to smart reconfiguration of a microgrid,” he said.

When combined with next-generation grid sensors, hydroelectric storage, battery storage and wind energy, Cordova’s system of microgrids should remain partly functional even under extreme circumstances such as natural disasters or cyberattacks.

The eyes and the ears of Cordova’s microgrid system will be state-of-the-art micro-phasor measurement units (PMUs), equipment that monitors changes in the grid in real time.

The micro-PMU takes measurements of power quality, harmonics and instability at a very fast rate.

Based on highly detailed information from the micro-PMU, devices called microgrid controllers can make automated decisions about where to send the power by simultaneously coordinating loads, generation and storage.

“The controllers work in coordination with the existing system to reduce fossil fuel consumption, improve power quality and enhance resiliency,” said Mayank Panwar, INL’s principal researcher on RADIANCE.

Before the equipment ever reaches Cordova, the group will simulate the microgrid system in a 26,000-square-foot high bay at INL’s Energy Systems Laboratory.

There, real-time digital simulators allow the researchers to model how a power grid will perform before assembling the equipment in the field. The team can incorporate actual hardware into the simulation to learn how it will perform.

For instance, Cordova recently experienced a mudslide that took out one of its underground power lines.

“Let’s repeat that scenario and see how we recover from that,” Hovsapian said. “We take some of the risk away by developing these systems here, and we’re growing the science of microgrids in the process.”

By simulating those kinds of disruptions in the lab, researchers can help make Cordova’s grid more resilient in real life.

Another part of the project will establish data connections between Cordova and the 58 dispersed village communities under the AVEC. Electrical grids in the villages would then operate as a system of loosely networked microgrids in coordination with larger utilities in cities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks.

If one village experiences a damaged electrical grid, engineers can call upon the expertise and capabilities of other utilities in the network.

“How can you make those microgrids more resilient?” Hovsapian said. “You can leverage each other’s resources.”

The Power and Energy Systems group at INL hopes the technologies developed and the lessons learned at Cordova and Blue Lake Rancheria can help make grids more resilient across the United States.

Marsh 2018
  
3. Projecthttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20March/P-9012-44_Fuel-Cell-Technology_500px.jpg
​Advancements in a fuel cell technology powered by solid carbon could make electricity generation from resources such as coal and biomass cleaner and more efficient, according to a new paper published by Idaho National Laboratory researchers.

The fuel cell design incorporates innovations in three components: the anode, the electrolyte and the fuel. Together, these advancements allow the fuel cell to utilize about three times as much carbon as earlier direct carbon fuel cell (DCFC) designs.

The fuel cells also operate at lower temperatures and showed higher maximum power densities than earlier DCFCs, according to INL materials engineer Dong Ding. The results appear in the Jan. 25 edition of the journal Advanced Materials and are featured on its inside front cover.

Whereas hydrogen fuel cells (e.g., proton exchange membrane (PEM) and other fuel cells) generate electricity from the chemical reaction between pure hydrogen and oxygen, DCFCs can use any number of carbon-based resources for fuel, including coal, coke, tar, biomass and organic waste.

Because DCFCs make use of readily available fuels, they are potentially more efficient than conventional hydrogen fuel cells. “You can skip the energy-intensive step of producing hydrogen,” Ding said.

But earlier DCFC designs have several drawbacks: They require high temperatures — 700 to 900 degrees Celsius — which makes them less efficient and less durable. Further, as a consequence of those high temperatures, they’re typically constructed of expensive materials that can handle the heat.

Also, early DCFC designs aren’t able to effectively utilize the carbon fuel.

Ding and his colleagues addressed these challenges by designing a true direct carbon fuel cell that’s capable of operating at lower temperatures — below 600 degrees Celsius. The fuel cell makes use of solid carbon, which is finely ground and injected via an airstream into the cell.

The researchers tackled the need for high temperatures by developing an electrolyte using highly conductive materials — doped cerium oxide and carbonate. These materials maintain their performance under lower temperatures.

Next, they increased carbon utilization by developing a 3-D ceramic textile anode design that interlaces bundles of fibers together like a piece of cloth. The fibers themselves are hollow and porous. All of these features combine to maximize the amount of surface area that’s available for a chemical reaction with the carbon fuel.

Finally, the researchers developed a composite fuel made from solid carbon and carbonate. “At the operating temperature, that composite is fluidlike,” Ding said. “It can easily flow into the interface.”

The molten carbonate carries the solid carbon into the hollow fibers and the pinholes of the anode, increasing the power density of the fuel cell.

The resulting fuel cell looks like a green, ceramic watch battery that’s about as thick as a piece of construction paper. A larger square is 10 centimeters on each side. The fuel cells can be stacked on top of one another depending on the application. The Advanced Materials journal posted a video abstract here: https://youtu.be/M_wOsvze2qI.

The technology has the potential for improved utilization of carbon fuels, such as coal and biomass, because direct carbon fuel cells produce carbon dioxide without the mixture of other gases and particulates found in smoke from coal-fired power plants, for example. This makes it easier to implement carbon capture technologies, Ding said.

The advanced DCFC design has already attracted notice from industry. Ding and his colleagues are partnering with Salt Lake City-based Storagenergy, Inc., to apply for a Department of Energy Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)-Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Funding Opportunity. The results will be announced in February 2018. A Canadian energy-related company has also shown interest in these DCFC technologies.

3/5/2018March 2018
  
3. ProjectINL logo

​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.

December 2017
  
4. University Highlighthttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20September/Jackson-Harter_P-9749-045_500px.jpg
From cooking to phonons, Jackson Harter found his new passion studying materials.

​By Tiffany Adams

The passion Jackson Harter has for his research is evident within minutes of talking to him. However, Harter's entry into the world of research was unconventional.

Originally working in the culinary industry, including teaching at the Western Culinary Institute for two years, Harter began his undergraduate degree at 25 at Oregon State University (OSU). Although he knew going to school would be better for his health (Harter has Type 1 diabetes and had difficulty managing his health while working long hours in the kitchen), the transition from working in kitchens to learning in a classroom was not always smooth. "I had a particularly hard time the first two years of undergrad," Harter said. "I think I retook three classes."

Now almost nine years later, Harter finished the third year of his nuclear engineering Ph.D. at OSU and is an intern in the Reactor Physics Design and Analysis group at Idaho National Laboratory. As part of his doctoral research, Harter is adapting Rattlesnake, a neutron transport code, to simulate phonon behavior. As Harter explains it, phonons are "a collection of quantum acoustic waves in crystalline solids," analogous to sound waves, and are the dominant carriers of energy in solid, insulating materials. By simulating phonon transport, researchers can use these models to predict temperature gradients and thermal conductivity in oxide nuclear fuels, and characterize phonon scattering in and around defects generated during fission.

"Phonon transport is a very difficult phenomenon to model correctly, and there are many different approaches to doing so," Harter said. One of the most popular methods is Monte Carlo. Although Monte Carlo provides reliable solutions, it is generally prohibitively slow to use. Using Rattlesnake with the alterations Harter has made, researchers are able to get results for similar problems that match very closely with Monte Carlo solutions, but do so in a fraction of the time. "The advantage to our approach is that we maintain a high degree of accuracy, while increasing efficiency," Harter said.

The application of this research is wide and varied. From the processors in cellphones to the fuel in light water reactors, understanding how phonons behave in materials is key to continuing to improve efficiency and strength of materials. In addition to his work at INL and with OSU, Harter also works with the Computational Materials Group at the University of California, Riverside, led by assistant professor Alex Greaney. This research group provides material property data that Harter then uses to improve and refine his code. In turn, Harter supports their work by performing phonon transport simulations of new thermoelectric materials they are investigating to be used in the radioisotope thermal generators that power deep space probes such as the Mars Curiosity rover.

Although quite different from coding or theory development, Harter values the lessons he learned during his time working in restaurants and teaching culinary school. From people skills to his strong work ethic, Harter thinks a lot of what he learned is particularly applicable to his current life as a doctorate student. "Sometimes in our research you follow a rabbit down a hole for two or three months, and then it turns out there wasn't a rabbit in the first place," Harter said. "Working in the culinary industry, as well as having a chronic illness, both helped me to develop an attitude of not giving up."

While he still enjoys cooking for family and friends, Harter transitioned his enthusiasm for food to nuclear energy. "It turns out I'm even more passionate about nuclear engineering," Harter said
9/30/2018October 2018
  
4. University Highlighthttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20September/Seaborg.PNG
​By Julie Ulrich

University Partnerships and INL’s Glenn T. Seaborg Institute are excited to announce Dr. Yi Xie (pronounced first name “E” like the letter and last name “say”) as INL’s inaugural Glenn T. Seaborg Distinguished Postdoctoral Associate. She will conduct research at INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Benson.

Candidates selected for this competitively awarded position are outstanding early career scientists who have experience and interest in solid state chemistry, nuclear physics, solution chemistry, materials science, radiation chemistry and other related fields applied to actinides.

Xie earned her doctorate in nuclear engineering at the Ohio State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering at University of Science and Technology China. Prior to joining INL, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

INL established the Glenn T. Seaborg Distinguished Postdoctoral Appointment to develop early career researchers and support the advancement of actinide chemistry and physics – a fundamental part of the laboratory’s mission. Actinides are the periodic table elements with atomic numbers 89-103. Seaborg’s research on lanthanides and actinides (also known as f-block elements) has had a huge impact on modern society. He is known as the father of the modern Periodic Table of Elements for his recommendation to place elements 89-103 in a series below lanthanides. Seaborg discovered several new elements, including atomic number 106, seaborgium, which bears his name.

INL’s Glenn T. Seaborg Institute (GTSI) is the newest of the four GTSIs in the Department of Energy Complex. “We’re excited to welcome Dr. Xie as the first Seaborg Distinguished postdoc,” said Dr. Terry Todd, director of INL’s GTSI. “Her insight into the fundamentals of stress corrosion in nuclear fuels will provide great value to the laboratory and will advance the science of fuel design.” Learn more about GTSI at gtsi.inl.gov.

INL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.
9/30/2018October 2018
  
4. University Highlight

​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.

6/4/2018June 2018
  
4. University Highlighthttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2018%20March/Mike-Short-DPA-Story_500px.jpg
​In science as in life, the seeds of good ideas can lie fallow. Michael Short found one such seed in the form of a neglected memo from more than 70 years ago that led him to the scientific question that now drives most of his work.

Short, the Norman C. Rasmussen Career Development Professor in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering whose lab is part of the MIT International Design Center, is fascinated by the fundamental definition of material damage at the atomic level. “We don’t have a way to measure radiation damage right now,” he says. “That makes it awfully hard to quantify.” Put a piece of metal into a nuclear reactor, he says, and despite any existing tests you might run on the material afterward, “you can’t tell me how much damage is left behind.”

To read the rest of story, go to MIT's Spectrum's website.

3/5/2018March 2018
  
4. University Highlighthttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2017%20December/CEEPR-logo.png

​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.

12/4/2017December 2017
  
4. University Highlighthttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2017%20October/Deslonde-post-doc_400px.jpg

​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."

10/9/2017October 2017
  
4. University Highlighthttps://nuc1.inl.gov/SiteAssets/2017%20October/grad-fellow_400px.jpg

​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:

Graduate FellowUniversityMajorINL MenotrUniversity Thesis Advisor
William ChuirazziThe Ohio State University Nuclear EngineeringAaron CraftLei Raymond Cao
Ariana FoleyOregon State UniversityNuclear EngineeringMatt KinlawHaori Yang
Konor FrickNorth Carolina State UniversityNuclear EngineeringShannon Bragg-SittonMichael Doster
Casey IcenhourNorth Carolina State UniversityNuclear EngineeringRichard MartineauSteven Christopher Shannon
Kelly McCaryThe Ohio State UniversityNuclear EngineeringJoshua DawThomas Blue
Musa MoussaouiOregon State UniversityNuclear EngineeringDan WachsWade Marcum
The next call for graduate fellows will open in fall 2017 and will be available to all universities. An announcement of recipients for the second round of INL Graduate Fellows is expected in spring 2018. For more information about the program, contact Ali Josephson (208-526-0940) or Michelle Thiel Bingham (208-526-7830).

10/9/2017October 2017
  
4. University HighlightHeadshot of Brian Woods

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


6/5/2017June 2017
1 - 30Next