US Department of Energy awards UC Berkeley nuclear engineering department $2M

Nuclear Reactor
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Through its Nuclear Energy University Program, or NEUP, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy awarded researchers from UC Berkeley’s nuclear engineering department $2 million June 18.

This year, the Office of Nuclear Energy awarded a total of $65 million to universities and laboratories for nuclear research and development, according to a DOE press release. These awards are administered by the DOE’s nuclear energy programs: the NEUP, the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies and the Nuclear Science User Facilities.

Of the $65 million awarded, the NEUP managed $55 million, with $38.6 million going to nuclear energy research and development, $5.7 million to research reactor and infrastructure improvements and $10.8 million to integrated research projects, which tackle complex technical issues, according to the press release.

Campus researchers received four awards as lead organization and three awards as a partnering organization, according to nuclear engineering department chair Peter Hosemann.

“Each of the winning project has a different work scope but all scopes are geared towards advancing the state of knowledge or advancing the technology of nuclear power related topics,” Hosemann said in an email.

Among the campus-led projects is research pursuing new chemical separation approaches for fuel treatment and recycling to reduce radioactive waste from nuclear reactors, according to lead researcher and campus assistant professor Rebecca Abergel. According to the NEUP website, a second research project is focused on improving molten salt reactor design, and is led by campus adjunct professor Lee Bernstein and campus assistant professor Massimiliano Fratoni.

Two projects, according to the NEUP website, were awarded about $1 million total and are led by Hosemann: a proposal to develop a laser ablation tool that would allow sample fabrication and elemental analysis in hot cell environments through glass windows, and the installation of a new scanning electron microscope to better observe and understand nuclear materials.

Three awards were also given to proposals led by universities in partnership with campus researchers.

The first, a project to build a molten salt reactor test bed to help understand how radionuclides operate in salt environments, is led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to the NEUP website. A project led by the University of Tennessee in Knoxville looking to develop accurate models for nuclear fuel used in reactors received the second award. The last award was given to a project testing corrosion on unirradiated alloys to determine the possibility of controlling nuclear reactors’ pH levels, led by North Carolina State University.

The benefits of this award program extend beyond just the nuclear engineering department, Hosemann added.

“This particular program has been extremely helpful to our department,” Hosemann said. “This program allowed us to upgrade equipment because multiple departments can benefit from the new equipment we’re buying.”

Not including this year, UC Berkeley has won 42 awards and received $16 million over the past 10 years, according to Hosemann.

Contact Blake Evans at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Blake_J_Evans.