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Three MIT-led research teams win 2014 Department of Energy NEUP awards

MIT Nuclear Science & Engineering October 14, 2014 MIT News

Three MIT-led research teams have won awards from the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) initiative to support research and development on the next generation of nuclear technologies.

A group of universities led by Charles Forsberg of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) has been awarded $5 million as part of the NEUP initiative. The award extends funding for the integrated research project (IRP) between MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison to develop a test reactor and, ultimately, a commercial high-temperature salt-cooled reactor, also called a Fluoride-salt High-Temperature Reactor [FHR]. The FHR is a new reactor concept that combines high-temperature graphite-matrix-coated particle fuel developed for high-temperature gas-cooled reactors; liquid salt coolant developed for molten salt reactors; and safety systems originating with sodium fast reactors. The other project collaborators are Lin-wen Hu of the MIT Nuclear Reactor Lab; Professor Per Peterson of the University of California at Berkeley; and Professor Todd Allen of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Clockwise from top left: Charles Forsberg, NSE research scientist and executive director of the MIT Nuclear Fuel Cycle Project; Benoit Forget, associate professor of nuclear science and engineering; Alexander Slocum, the Neil and Jane Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering and a MacVicar Faculty Fellow; and Kord Smith, the Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO) Professor of the Practice of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Photos (clockwise from top left): Despoina Chatzikyriakou, Justin Knight, David Sella, Justin Knight

In a separate NEUP Research and Development Award, NSE professors Benoit Forget and Kord Smith received a $400,000 grant to introduce BEAVRS (Benchmark for Evaluation and Validation of Reactor Simulations), a new multi-cycle full-core Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) depletion benchmark based on two operational cycles of a commercial nuclear power plant. This project focuses on uncertainty quantification of measured data with the goal of making the BEAVRS benchmark a true non-proprietary international benchmark for the validation of high-fidelity multi-physics computational tools.

Finally, the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Professor Alexander Slocum was awarded a $400,000 NEUP grant to develop a seawater uranium extraction system that will work symbiotically with an offshore windmill by utilizing the structure, mooring, and power of the windmill, while increasing the uranium harvested by the installation. In this system, uranium will be extracted by an adsorbent polymer belt, which will be cycled through the seawater and an elution plant located at the base of the windmill tower. Increasing the frequency of harvesting could overcome current economic barriers to seawater uranium extraction.

The NEUP Integrated Research Projects and Research and Development Awards were established by the Department of Energy to help ensure that the country maintains a leading role in nuclear energy research. Five IRP awards and 44 Research and Development awards were announced for fiscal year 2014.


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