From refugee in Bangladesh to top nuclear engineer at Idaho National Laboratory, ANS member Yasir Arafat has led quite an interesting life, as described in a recent online profile written by Donna Kemp Spangler for the INL website. Arafat is leading the development of the Department of Energy’s Microreactor Applications Research Validation and EvaLuation (MARVEL) project at INL. The profile notes that MARVEL, which Arafat envisioned soon after joining INL in 2019, is scheduled to be “built and demonstrated at INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility and connected to the world’s first nuclear microgrid within two years.”
Emigration and education: Spangler writes that Arafat grew up as a refugee in Bangladesh. He discovered his aptitude for science, technology, and engineering in school. After graduating from high school in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, Arafat emigrated with his brother to the United States. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and his master’s and Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from North Carolina State University.
Arafat keeps his roots in mind when explaining his work. He says that he chose to pursue a career in nuclear energy because of his concerns regarding climate change. “I know Bangladesh is one of the countries most affected by climate change. Every year you see land being washed away by the rising sea level. Literally, the country’s footprint is shrinking with time. We debate about climate change in the U.S., but in Bangladesh, it was an undeniable reality because people live through it every day.”
Leader at INL: Arafat’s first position at INL, starting in November 2019, was as microreactor technical lead. After convincing INL and DOE officials to fund his concept for MARVEL, he became the project’s technical and project lead in June 2020. Spangler notes that in this position, Arafat is leading the development of one of the first advanced nuclear reactors in over five decades.
MARVEL on microgrid: Once MARVEL is up and running, the 100-kW thermal fission reactor is expected to provide the nuclear industry with knowledge on how microreactors can be built and integrated with other clean energy sources on a net-zero microgrid. In Spangler’s profile, Arafat summarizes the importance of the project: “The dynamics of an on-site nuclear and renewable net-zero microgrid have been studied on paper, but they have not been validated by demonstration in an integrated way. It’s never been done before. This would be the first nuclear microgrid in the world.”