The world's most dynamic and flexible transient test reactor is available for research and demonstration activities. The Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility provides a transformational research platform that links science and engineering capabilities for the advancement of fundamental science and nuclear technology. TREAT will directly couple the response of material systems to complex environments experienced under a variety of operational and off-normal transient events anticipated in nuclear reactors. From scientific discovery to technology development and deployment, TREAT will enable the advancement of nuclear material science and engineering required to optimize operation of the existing light water reactor fleet, as well as the advanced reactors of the future.
TREAT is a highly capable test reactor; its unique design offers real-time monitoring of the fuel or materials behavior under postulated reactor accident conditions. This allows scientists to determine the appropriate safe limits for the fuels and materials in nuclear power reactors. TREAT's simple, self-limiting, air-cooled design can safely accommodate multi-pin test assemblies, fostering the study of fuel melting, metal-liquid reactions, and overheated fuel and coolant interactions, as well as the transient behavior of fuels for high-temperature system applications. It also allows for the detailed monitoring of the specimens during a test via the hodoscope, a system that detects fast neutrons and enables real-time evaluation of the fuel behavior within a test sample.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
INL Graduate Fellow Ari Foley adjusting the tungsten bremsstrahlung radiator at the end of the 0 degree port of the 25 MeV accelerator at the Idaho Accelerator Center. Photo credit: INL Nuclear Physicist Matt Kinlaw.
Idaho National Laboratory is the premier nuclear research lab in the country and maintains close ties with Oregon State. The selection of Oregon State graduate students Ari Foley and Musa Moussaoui as two of the inaugural class of INL Graduate Fellows promises to continue strengthening the partnership. They will be contributing to nuclear nonproliferation and security programs as well as next-generation nuclear power technology.
Foley and Moussaoui are both graduates of the Oregon State College of Engineering's School of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE), receiving their bachelor's degrees in nuclear engineering in 2016 and 2017 respectively. As INL Graduate Fellows, they will pursue their doctoral degrees at NSE while conducting research at INL.
"The graduate fellowship is mutually beneficial for the student, their university, and INL," said Foley's mentor at INL, Nuclear Physicist Matt Kinlaw. "The fellowship gives the student an opportunity to access unique national laboratory facilities and capabilities to conduct their graduate research, while also providing the university and INL an opportunity to develop and strengthen ongoing collaborative efforts."
Oregon State is one of five universities partnered with INL under the National University Consortium (NUC). The NUC's goal is to further "the nation's strategic nuclear energy objectives, clean energy initiatives, and critical infrastructure security goals," according to the NUC website. Students from NUC schools, like Moussaoui and Foley, were targeted as candidates for the INL Graduate Fellowship Program.
"Over the years, the mutual benefits of the NUC has been demonstrated through the alignment of research interests among Oregon State faculty and INL staff, numerous patents, a vein of well-qualified staff to the lab resulting from recent Oregon State graduates, named national laboratory fellows, joint faculty appointments, and the most recently added benefit is the creation of this INL Graduate Fellowship program," said Wade Marcum, associate professor of nuclear engineering and NUC program lead at Oregon State.
Foley interned at INL in the Nuclear Nonproliferation division in both the summers of 2016 and 2017. She plans on pursuing nonproliferation and security related research as a graduate fellow. "The research focuses on the determination of short-lived fission product yields through the precise measurement and analysis of delayed gamma-ray signatures immediately following photon-induced fission (photofission)," she said. "This is motivated by a need for improved nuclear data and novel isotope production methods to support the nonproliferation and nuclear forensics communities."
According to Kinlaw, "her research is anticipated to have a significant, direct impact on several ongoing nonproliferation and homeland security programs at INL."
Moussaoui, on the other hand, will be tackling research related to next-generation nuclear power at INL's recently reactivated Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT). "TREAT will now be the foundation for studying the performance of advanced nuclear fuel designs under simulated accident conditions," said Moussaoui's mentor at INL, Dan Wachs. He is INL's National Technical Lead for Fuel Safety Testing and an Oregon State alumnus in both nuclear and mechanical engineering. "In particular, new 'accident tolerant nuclear fuel' technology is being collaboratively developed by the U.S. national laboratories and commercial nuclear fuel vendors to mitigate the consequences of low probability accidents like those experienced at the Fukushimi-Daichi nuclear plants after they were struck by the Great Tohoko earthquake and tsunami."
Moussaoui will be helping develop experimental devices needed to conduct these accident simulations at TREAT. "It's really a terrific opportunity," said Wachs. "Musa is at the forefront of a new generation of scientists and engineers that will apply modern experimental methods coupled with state-of-the-art modeling and simulation tools to lead this critical area of study. He'll be working with some of the world's premier experts in the field."
Both Moussaoui and Foley plan to pursue careers at national labs after completing their doctoral degrees. "I endeavor for my career to directly support the development of novel and robust nuclear power technology," said Moussaoui. "Much of the most impactful research is produced by Department of Energy national labs; thus, after graduation, I see myself at INL conducting applied research."
— 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. INL is the nation’s preeminent nuclear energy lab, and Holschuh will be using a novel method he developed at Oregon State to support the modeling of its Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT).
Deslonde de Boisblanc was an early influential scientist at INL and designed the unique serpentine core of INL’s Advanced Test Reactor. According to INL’s press release, the 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.” (See video of the Cherenkov light emitted during a pulse at the Oregon State Triga Reactor.)
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, according to the press release. 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.”
— Jens Odegaard.
On Aug. 8, John Bumgardner was honored with the Energy Innovator Award by the Partnership for Science and Technology (PST) for his innovative efforts in driving the TREAT restart effort and work on the new Fast Reactor program. The award ceremony was part of the Intermountain Energy Summit.
Each year the PST Board and Executive Board nominate and down select nominees for Energy Advocate Awards in various categories: National, Regional, Innovator and Educator. The PST was created, in part, by INL to advocate for nuclear energy both in Idaho and at the national level. The significant membership between businesses and individuals locally is able to take advantage of the Energy Communities Alliance and other groups to interact with DOE-HQ, the LINE Commission, and elected officials.
The MIT Nuclear Reactor Lab’s Lin-wen Hu, David Carpenter, and Kaichao Sun are part of the team led by Oregon State University to work on “Computational and Experimental Benchmarking for Transient Fuel Testing”. Researchers will perform a benchmark of the Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT). TREAT is an air-cooled, graphite-moderated, thermal-spectrum test reactor which previously operated from 1959 until 1994. The TREAT was built to conduct transient reactor tests where materials are subjected to neutron pulses that can simulate conditions ranging from mild transients to severe reactor accidents. In 2014 The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) decided to restart the TREAT facility in order to resume a program of transient testing. One of the planned uses for TREAT is to test new accident tolerant fuels for nuclear reactors. The MIT team will benchmark two steady state neutronic problems and two transient problems. Their work will include the design, construction and utilization of a full-scale representation of an in-pile flow loop prototype for TREAT, and numerical benchmarking against the experimental data gained from the experiment.