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UW-Madison engineers receive $3.6M in DOE nuclear research awards

Written By: Ascedia

The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded more than $48.8 million through its Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) to support university-led nuclear energy research and development projects, including a total of about $3.6 million awarded for projects led by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers.

Hwasung Yeom

NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities. UW-Madison engineers are principal investigators on five NEUP projects.

Engineering Physics Associate Scientist Hwasung Yeom (PI) received $800,000 for his proposal, “Post-DNB thermo-mechanical behavior of near-term ATF designs in simulated transient conditions.” The researchers will conduct coupled experimental and modeling investigations of thermo-mechanical performance of coated accident tolerant zirconium alloy claddings with simulated burnup doped fuels under thermal transients to predict complex thermal and mass transport phenomena of near-term Accident Tolerant Fuel designs in accident conditions. The team will perform experiments and modeling for understanding both cladding-coolant and fuel-coolant interactions. Wisconsin Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Engineering Physics Michael Corradini and Kumar Sridharan, a UW-Madison professor of engineering physics and materials science and engineering, are collaborators on the project.

Dane Morgan

Dane Morgan (PI), Harvey D. Spangler Professor in the UW-Madison Department of Materials Science and Engineering, received $399,477 for his proposal, “Machine-learning-accelerated molecular dynamics approaches for molten salts.” The researchers will develop new machine learning potential (MLP) approaches and new MLPs to enable rapid prediction of molten salt properties with near ab initio quantum mechanical accuracy. This work will support dramatically increased simulation speeds and associated data generation and understanding for molten salts. Izabela Szlufarska, Harvey D. Spangler Professor and chair of the UW-Madison Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is a collaborator on the project.

Morgan (PI) also received $799,717 for his proposal, “Advanced high-fluence low-flux RPV mechanical property models for extended life.” This project will further develop accurate models of the mechanical property changes under life-extension conditions in reactor pressure vessel (RPV) steels using reduced order Avrami models, cluster dynamics, and atomistic methods combined with massive comprehensive databases on irradiated steels. The work will provide models critical to extending the life of U.S. pressurized water reactors, as well as new fundamental insights into flux and fluence effects and sink and precipitate evolution in reactor pressure vessels and related steels.

 Mark Anderson
Mark Anderson

Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Mark Anderson (PI) received $800,000 for his proposal, “High temperature molten salt reactor pump component development and testing.” This project will provide relevant key information on the tribology of bearing material and components (such as magnets, couplers, ceramic coated wire, and coatings) in high temperature molten salts that will be required in the design of reactor pumps. The researchers will also study the potential for reduced or simplified inspection requirements and long-term failure free operations of key components such as pumps and valves and heat exchangers in an effort to reduce down time and operation and maintenance costs.

Gregory Nellis, William A. and Irene Ouweneel-Bascom Professor of mechanical engineering, received $799,713 for his proposal, “Cost reduction of advanced integration heat exchanger technology for micro-reactors.” Heat exchanger technology is a high-cost component of a micro-reactor system that is also critical to the overall reliability and performance. This project will develop the underlying advanced heat exchanger technology necessary to integrate a micro-reactor with any end-user application, as well as providing internal heat exchange. The researchers will perform economic optimization of the heat exchanger and experimentally demonstrate the technology. Professors Mark Anderson and Michael Corradini are collaborators on the project.

Gregory Nellis

UW-Madison also received one of the 24 awards for research reactor and infrastructure improvements under the NEUP infrastructure program. UW Nuclear Reactor Director Robert Agasie (PI) received $222,294 for the project, “Development of neutron tomography at the UWNR.” This project will enhance nuclear energy-related research and development at the University of Wisconsin Nuclear Reactor (UWNR) and associated Characterization Laboratory for Irradiated Materials (CLIM). The researchers aim to enhance the neutron radiography capabilities at the reactor by acquiring a high-resolution detector, rotation stage, visualization software and a high-performance computer. Assistant Faculty Associate Andrea Strzelec, program director for UW-Madison’s Master of Engineering in Engine Systems, is a collaborator on the project.

In addition, UW-Madison engineers are collaborators on three projects led by other universities. Assistant Professor Mark Anderson is a collaborator on an MIT-led project; Engineering Physics Assistant Professor Ben Lindley is a collaborator on a Georgia Institute of Technology-led project; and Engineering Physics Assistant Professor Adrien Couet and Professor Kumar Sridharan are collaborators on a project led by the University of Florida.