Ben Campbell, a graduate research assistant and master’s degree student in aerospace systems engineering, works on the Bubbling Liquid Experiment Navigating Driven Extreme Rotation, or BLENDER, device at UAH’s Johnson Research Center. (Photo: UAH/Michael Mercier)
With three commercial teams under contract to produce reactor designs for nuclear thermal propulsion rockets that would use solid high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel to heat hydrogen propellant, NASA’s investment in nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) has increased in recent years. But just as there is more than one way to fuel a terrestrial reactor, other fuels are under consideration for future NTP rocket engines.
[CLICK TO VIEW FULL IMAGE] The diagram at left illustrates the experimental setup and the resulting zirconium oxide layer of varying thickness. The second diagram shows the circular zirconium alloy sample that is affected by the band of nickel alloy and radiation. Finally, the electron image at right shows a band of oxidation on the zirconium alloy sample. (Images: Peng Wang, Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory)
A longstanding issue in boiling water reactors—shadow corrosion on zirconium alloy fuel rods and fuel channels—has been reproduced in the Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory as part of an effort to understand and prevent the phenomenon. Research led by Peng Wang, a University of Michigan assistant research scientist in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, was published in the January 2022 issue of the Journal of Nuclear Materials and described in a recent university news article.
A rendering of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s micro modular reactor as proposed for construction on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. (Graphic: USNC)
A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill to invest in university nuclear science and engineering infrastructure, establish regional consortia to promote collaboration with industry and national laboratories, and support the development of advanced reactor technology. The National Nuclear University Research Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2021 (H.R. 4819) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R., Ohio), Sean Casten (D., Ill.), Peter Meijer (R., Mich.), and Bill Foster (D., Ill).