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INL National University Consortium

1. Headline

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. Headline

​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
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 Highlight

​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

12/4/2017December 2017
5. INL Highlight

​By: Tiffany Adams

Paul Talbot's history with Idaho National Laboratory is substantial. Now a postdoctoral researcher, Talbot was first introduced to the work being done at INL after attending a research seminar given by former INL researcher, Michael Tonks.

It was this encounter that led to Talbot's first internship with INL working with Tonks on MARMOT, an application that models microscopic fuel changes during irradiation. Through this work Talbot discovered his interest in modeling and simulation something he says he finds "very fascinating." This fascination led to two additional degrees in nuclear engineering, a master's degree from Oregon State University and a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico.

As a graduate student, Talbot completed additional internships with INL as well as Los Alamos National Laboratory. While at INL, Talbot was introduced to more of INL's modeling and simulation group, working on the MOOSE and RAVEN applications, part of which was done through an INL Laboratory-directed Research and Development (LDRD) project led by Cristian Rabiti. Talbot's work centered on developing a new feature being added to RAVEN, one that was well-suited for student work. "It was pushing the boundaries of [the application], but [the development team] didn't have enough people to do all the work," Talbot said. "It didn't have to be done super fast, so it was something easy to collaborate with a student on." Spending summers in Idaho and the rest of the year in Albuquerque, Talbot credits this experience with preparing him for his current postdoctoral research position. "I was able to learn a lot hands on, in an intern capacity, where there wasn't a lot of pressure, but Cristian got a lot of great work out of me."

During all of his internships with INL, Talbot values the meaningful work he was able to be a part of saying, "It was a partnership where I was able to produce something that had value. They treated me more like one of the team than an add-on who was just here for a while."

Of his current work, still with Rabiti working on RAVEN, he is proud to be a part of a team making a lasting impact in the field of nuclear energy: "We're not just grinding out the same product over and over again. We're changing the workplace."

12/4/2017December 2017
6. Administrative

​Idaho National Laboratory's Graduate Fellowship program is accepting applications through February 1, 2018. The INL Graduate Fellowship Program, a collaboration between INL and universities, is designed to identify exceptional talent in research areas aligned with INL's strategic agenda to enable the current and future mission of the Department of Energy (DOE) and INL.

This arrangement is a triad between the student, the university thesis advisor, and INL technical advisor to provide meaningful research and mentorship throughout the entire program.

INL Graduate Fellows will receive a commitment from both INL and their university with agreements to pay tuition and compensation and to provide the student the opportunity to conduct research while earning their degree. For the first years of the Ph.D. program, students will spend the majority of their time at their university taking classes while also beginning to collaborate with an INL technical advisor and possibly participating in paid INL internships. During the last years of their Ph.D. program, students will spend the majority of time at INL conducting research as outlined in their research plan. During this time, students will be receiving a salary of $60,000 and receiving financial support from INL for tuition.

To qualify, students must be enrolled in a Ph.D. program or have applied to a Ph.D. program in a science or engineering discipline closely related to INL's mission; students pursuing a master's degree in cybersecurity will also be considered. In addition, students must have the support of their university during the required coursework portion of the PhD. as well as have and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5.

Those wanting more information should visit or contact Ali Josephson (208-526-0940, To apply, please visit the INL careers page.

12/4/2017December 2017
6. Administrative

​Four postdoctoral research appointments are currently open on Idaho National Laboratory's career website. Postdoctoral appointments provide a mentored research experience that enables a hands-on research and development experience.

Power Systems Postdoctoral Research Associate (closes: December 12, 2017)

Applied Visualization Postdoctoral Research Associate (closes: January 2, 2018)

Russell L. Heath Distinguished Postdoctoral Research Associate (closes: January 7, 2018)

Cyber-Physical Systems Postdoctoral Research Associate (closes: January 15, 2018)

If you have additional questions not answered by the job postings, contact Jessica Dixon (

12/4/2017December 2017
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