Abilene Christian’s NEXT Lab reaches milestone in molten salt reactor research

November 14, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
Research engineers take a sample of molten salt for the NEXT Lab. (Photo: Jeremy Enlow/Steelshutter)

The Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Laboratory at Abilene Christian University in Texas created quite a bit of buzz within the nuclear community in August when it submitted the first application for a new U.S. research reactor in more than 30 years. The construction permit application submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is for a molten salt research reactor (MSRR)—the first-ever university application for an advanced research reactor. Assuming NRC acceptance of the application, which could happen this year, a formal technical review of the lab’s MSRR plan will then begin, and construction of the MSRR could be completed by 2025. The Abilene campus’s new Science and Engineering Research Center—a 28,000-square-foot multiuse facility for chemistry, physics, and engineering research and education—is expected to be completed by July 2023 and will house the advanced reactor. The final step is to obtain the NRC operating license for the MSRR and commence operation.

University of Tennessee hosts inaugural NEDHO Diversity Panel

November 3, 2022, 6:47AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The University of Tennessee–Knoxville Department of Nuclear Engineering hosted the inaugural Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) Diversity Panel on October 27. The panel featured three African American speakers who discussed overcoming challenges in their engineering education and careers to find success. A common theme that emerged from the conversation was that, in addition to their own determination to succeed, all the panelists benefited from caring adult guidance during their youth, as well as from strong support from friends, family, and colleagues as they pursued their goals.

NEDHO urges Congress to provide funding for university nuclear programs

May 4, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

With the federal government’s fiscal year 2023 budget process under way, the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) has reached out to congressional appropriators with a letter urging support for the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s research programs.

DOE seeks input on FY 2023 funding opportunity announcement for university research

May 2, 2022, 7:09AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy has issued a request for information regarding the funding of university research for fiscal year 2023. The RFI, issued on April 20, is seeking input from the nuclear energy community, including technical and community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions, on its competitive Research and Development Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for universities.

University programs: The many areas of research

April 21, 2022, 4:09PMUpdated April 22, 2022, 10:03AMNuclear News

Nuclear News reached out to the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) to ask for assistance in connecting with nuclear engineering programs at U.S. universities. Our request to the universities was to provide us with updates on their programs and to detail their areas of special interest.

University profile: Abilene Christian University

April 21, 2022, 4:55PMNuclear News
The new Science and Engineering Research Center at Abilene Christian University (Photo: Abilene Christian University)

Nuclear News reached out to the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) to ask for assistance in connecting with nuclear engineering programs at U.S. universities. Our request to universities was to provide us with updates on their programs and to detail their areas of special interest.

NEDHO came through big time. As a result, 20 nuclear engineering programs answered the call. In this series of articles, we will take a close look at university programs around the United States. This time, the focus is on Abilene Christian University, in Abilene, Texas.

The crucial role that universities play in our nuclear future

April 19, 2022, 12:09PMNuclear NewsBill Foster

Foster

New and existing nuclear reactors are among our most powerful tools if we hope to make a meaningful contribution to climate change before 2050. We don’t have a lot of time to reduce emissions to avoid catastrophic warming. It is our responsibility to develop a comprehensive response to address our dependence on fossil fuels, promote sustainable energy use, and invest in new energy technologies.

Science and engineering continue to make great strides in energy-­related technologies such as advanced nuclear reactors, long-­term energy storage, fusion energy, and the safe and secure handling of spent nuclear fuel. Using every viable tool to combat climate change will help ensure a safer world for us and for generations to come.

Universities—Providing more than just education

April 18, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit
president@ans.org

The April issue of Nuclear News focuses on university programs and the key roles they play in the nuclear technology field. The topic led me to do some reminiscing.

Like many Nuclear News readers, I studied nuclear engineering in college, departing the University of Virginia in 1982 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field. Most of us have fond memories of our college years, for reasons that may or may not relate to academic pursuits. I left the school with many such memories, but also with respect for the knowledge and accomplishments of my professors and an appreciation of the research they conducted. Also, UVA had two reactors, including a 2-megawatt pool reactor that was in use around the clock, five days a week. I had the opportunity to obtain a reactor operating license and work shifts as an operator, which was quite rewarding monetarily and provided practical, hands-on experience with nuclear technology.

Oregon State and NuScale: From university to start-up

April 15, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear NewsBrian Woods
Rendition of a VOYGR plant layout. (Image: NuScale)

Universities are places where professionals, experts, and students come together to teach and learn, to conduct and disseminate research, and to dream and explore. Universities have a long history of technological innovation and development. It should therefore come as no surprise that institutes of higher education have been an integral part of the recent explosion of innovation within the advanced nuclear reactor community. Universities have not only powered workforce and technology development, but in a number of cases, they have served as the actual birthplaces of today’s advanced reactor designs.

The public face of nuclear

April 15, 2022, 9:30AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

This month’s issue of Nuclear News highlights the contributions of university-based programs in advancing nuclear science and technology and preparing the next-generation nuclear workforce.

In addition to the scholarly work they do, our university programs increasingly serve as an important public-facing component of the U.S. nuclear enterprise.

When you think about it, a lot of what goes on with nuclear happens within a security perimeter—“behind the fence,” if you will. Obviously, this is by necessity, as the technology involved is inherently sensitive. However, because the “magic” of nuclear remains out of view, something will always get lost in translation to the public. Yes, tours of commercial nuclear plants are still available to the interested and enterprising, but there is nothing quite like staring down into the core of a university TRIGA reactor and seeing the Cherenkov glow to stoke a person’s imagination.

John Gilligan: NEUP in support of university nuclear R&D

December 30, 2020, 7:07AMNuclear NewsRick Michal

John Gilligan has been the director of the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) since its creation in 2009 by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE). NEUP consolidates DOE-NE’s university support under one program and engages colleges and universities in the United States to conduct research and development in nuclear technology. The two main R&D areas for NEUP funding are fuel cycle projects, which include evolving sustainable technologies that improve energy generation to enhance safety, limit proliferation risk, and reduce waste generation and resource consumption; and reactor projects, which strive to preserve the existing commercial light-water reactors as well as improve emerging advanced designs, such as small modular reactors, liquid-metal-cooled fast reactors, and gas- or liquid-salt-cooled high-temperature reactors.

Nuclear Education and COVID-19

December 29, 2020, 7:07AMNuclear News

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States on a wide basis in March of this year, and life as we knew it changed. “Social distancing” and “essential workers” entered the jargon and working from home for many became the norm.

The number of remote meetings skyrocketed, and various companies have seen that business can be conducted without having employees in the office.

For universities, distance learning has been common for a while now, but with COVID it has become essential.

Nuclear News asked some nuclear engineering professors about how their programs have been dealing with the pandemic. We posed three questions and asked for responses to any or all of them:

How has COVID affected your NE program, and what have you learned from the experience?

Has your NE program been able to contribute to your university’s broader COVID response (e.g., through research or volunteer programs)?

What opportunities or challenges do you foresee in the next year for your program and your students?

The following are responses received by NN.

Nuclear engineering programs: Building the new nuclear workforce

December 28, 2020, 7:01AMNuclear News

In order to deliver the next generation of nuclear power plants, the nuclear community needs to overcome a number of challenges identified in 2017 as part of the ANS Nuclear Grand Challenges presidential initiative. Knowledge transfer is one of the nine challenges identified. The goal of the challenge is to “expedite updates to the higher education Nuclear Engineering curriculum to better match today’s needs.”

The Nuclear Grand Challenges report noted that “effective means to transfer that knowledge to the newest group of scientists and engineers needs to be developed and implemented. With the advent of new reactor designs and the challenges within materials science to meet the needs of these new designs, the curriculum structure must be reviewed and updated to better meet the needs of industry, suppliers, and research organizations.”

Nuclear engineering programs at universities around the country are integral to training and developing the workforce to implement the next generation of nuclear energy. Nuclear News reached out to several such nuclear engineering departments, asking them to provide our readers with an update on how their unique programs are helping meet this important challenge.

NEDHO: A nuclear education alliance

December 11, 2020, 12:04PMNuclear NewsKostadin Ivanov, Todd Allen

The Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) is an alliance of the heads (chairs) of about 30 nuclear engineering schools, departments, and programs in the United States. NEDHO is managed by an executive committee consisting of the chair, the chair-elect, and the three most immediate past-chairs. NEDHO meetings are normally held in conjunction with the American Nuclear Society’s national meetings. The NEDHO meetings are open to anyone, but on matters that require a vote, each institution is limited to a single official representative (i.e., one vote).