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
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
4. University Highlight

​Dr. Carol Smidts took a long route to Columbus, Ohio. Her journey began in her native Belgium, a western European nation of 11 million people known, in this country at least, for producing a stunning variety of beers, and chocolates.

Smidts studied at the University of Brussels (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium), was a consultant for the European Commission Joint Research Center of Ispra in Italy, a post-doc and then joined as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. From there it was on to Columbus, where she now lives and works as a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at The Ohio State University (TOSU).

One of Smidts’ duties is to serve as TOSU’s lead on the National University Consortium (NUC), a partnership with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) that also includes Oregon State University, MIT, the University of New Mexico and North Carolina State University.

Serving as her university’s NUC lead consists of “facilitating collaborations,” Smidts said. “Putting students in contact with resources. Putting faculty in contact with resources. Putting research staff in contact with faculty and students.”

Certainly, resources abound at the nation’s lead nuclear research and development laboratory. Smidts experienced those firsthand last fall when she travelled to Idaho for the annual NUC Conference at INL’s Center for Advanced Energy Studies. So did several of the university’s students, who interned at the Laboratory last summer. 

Smidts said she sees an opportunity for more TOSU students to intern at INL, as well as increased numbers of joint appointments between the laboratory and the university.

Continuing to build this relationship, Smidts said, will require stability – slow and steady progress in pursuit of tangible goals. And Smidts said she can see these collaborative efforts opening doors down the road for her students, so long as they understand that while Idaho is many things, it is not Columbus.

“It will depend on the type of person,” Smidts said. “Are they an outdoor person, or do they like cities?”

Choices are nice to have, and the relationship with one of America’s largest and most respected universities has been a great asset to INL, said Marsha Bala, the laboratory’s deputy director for NUC.

“We really appreciate what Carol has brought to the NUC,” Bala said. “And we anticipate bigger and better things from this relationship in the future.”

By: Corey Taule

6/5/2017June 2017
5. INL HighlightNoel Bakhtian and Todd Combs

Two new directors have joined the Idaho National Laboratory, Dr. Noël Bakhtian with the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) and Todd Combs for INL's Energy and Environment Science & Technology directorate.

Dr. Noël Bakhtian (CAES)

Dr. Noël Bakhtian has been named as the new director of CAES and began her new role on May 15, 2017. Bakhtian most recently served as senior policy advisor for environment and energy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

“Dr. Bakhtian’s energy policy and technical experiences span the programmatic portfolio of CAES,” said Idaho National Laboratory director Mark Peters. “She will help forward the CAES mission of conducting advanced energy research, educating the next generation of scientists and engineers, and partnering with industry to advance our regional competitiveness.”

Prior to OSTP, Bakhtian served as the inaugural Energy-Water Nexus lead at the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of International Affairs, worked as technical lead on numerous innovative grant programs for DOE’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, consulted on energy R&D and investment for DARPA, served as an energy and environment fellow in the U.S. Senate, and worked as a graduate researcher at NASA Ames Research Center.

She also serves as a trustee of the Summer Science Program, a science education nonprofit organization, and is the energy and environment associate editor for the Science & Diplomacy Journal.

Bakhtian earned a doctorate in engineering at Stanford University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics; holds master’s degrees from Stanford University and the University of Cambridge, where she was a Churchill Scholar; and completed a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Duke University, where she was a Pratt Fellow.

Bakhtian succeeds Mike Hagood, who has been serving as acting director of CAES.

CAES is a research and education consortium between Boise State University, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho State University, University of Idaho and University of Wyoming.

Todd Combs (Energy and Environment Science & Technology)

Idaho National Laboratory has a new associate laboratory director for Energy and Environment Science & Technology (EES&T). Todd Combs began his role as the EES&T ALD on May 1. Prior to joining INL, Combs was the director of the Global Security Sciences Division at Argonne National Laboratory. In this position, he led a multidisciplinary research team of over 200 employees finding solutions to protect against, mitigate, and respond to, and recover from a wide spectrum of national and global security threats. 

Prior to this role, Combs served nearly 14 months as ANL’s interim associate laboratory director for Energy and Global Security, where he led an applied R&D organization of over 800 that addressed domestic and global sustainable energy and security issues. In this role he oversaw research and operational activities of the energy systems, nuclear engineering, and global security sciences divisions. 

He has also managed ANL’s advanced grid modeling program for DOE, and ANL’s relationship with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he was an operations research scientist and served as group leader of the Transportation Planning and Decision Science group.

Combs’ research has included energy systems modeling and analysis for DOE, most recently related to critical materials supply chains; as well as the application of modeling and simulation to national and homeland security issues for DHS and the Department of Defense.

Todd earned his doctorate in operations research and master’s degree in operations analysis from the Air Force Institute of Technology and is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

6/5/2017June 2017
5. INL HighlightNSUF 10th anniversary graphic

​The Nuclear Science User Facilities marked its 10th anniverary on April 13. NSUF was created April 13, 2007, when the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy designated INL's Advanced Test Reactor as a national scientific user facility. NSUF is DOE-NE's first—and only—user facility. ATR is celebrating its 50th anniversary later this year.

NSUF has grown over the past 10 years to include 12 partner facilities and 42 participating institutions. Researchers around the world access extensive state-of-the-art nuclear research capabilities through NSUF's open and competitive review process. NSUF projects include major irradiation (neutron and ion), post-irradiation examinations and beamline experiments.

Visit the NSUF team at CAES or online at

6/5/2017June 2017
5. INL HighlightTAP Reactor being demonstrated

​What is a TAP reactor?

The Temporal Analysis of Products (TAP) provides a totally different way of looking at catalysis and materials science problems. It does this by using a probe molecule pulse response to analyze complex reaction kinetics. Fewer than 20 TAP systems exist in the world, and only three, including the system at INL, reside in the U.S.

Why the TAP reactor?

TAP tackles the most challenging catalysis and material science challenges by providing a precise methodology for evaluating complex industrial materials (direct from an operating environment) with a detailed intrinsic kinetic characterization of individual reaction steps.

Why partner with INL?

In addition to having the only TAP "user program" in the country, INL has world-class TAP expertise for solving realworld problems and scale up challenges, with commercial success as the goal.

How is the TAP accessed?

The TAP reactor system is located in the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, a public research facility that can be accessed by researchers at other national laboratories, academia and industry.

More information can be found at

6/5/2017June 2017
6. Administrative

​A reminder about the National University Consortium website:

The National University Consortium website was built to continue to broaden knowledge about the consortium, a collaborative partnership between the Idaho National Laboratory and five of the nation's leading research universities.

At the website, visitors will find the program's mission statement, projects, collaborating university participants, current and past newsletters, links to the universities, and relevant news and notes. Newly added is a calendar of events that houses all upcoming NUC activities. For more information, contact program director Marsha Bala at or 526-1336.

The website can be viewed at

6/5/2017June 2017
6. Administrative

​Save the Date for the annual National University Consoritum meeting on August 14-16, 2017. Tours of INL facilities will take place on Monday, August 14. The meeting and break-out sessions will take place on August 15 and 16.

More information is forthcoming. Please contact Marsha Bala ( or 208-526-1336) if you have any questions or suggestions. 

6/5/2017June 2017