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U of I Researchers Awarded $2.6 Million to Develop Nuclear Technologies

October 22, 2018

MOSCOW, Idaho — October 18, 2018 — University of Idaho researchers have received funding for five nuclear engineering research and development projects aimed at making nuclear reactors safer, more resilient to stressors, compatible with renewable energy systems, and capable of producing synthetic fuels and other beneficial byproducts.

This $2.6 million from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) will help maintain U of I’s efforts to develop nuclear energy innovations that suit the world’s changing energy needs. U of I will be joined on these projects by partners including the Idaho National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the Missouri University of Science and Technology. In addition to the funds received by U of I, more than $1.4 million in DOE-NEUP funds will be shared by university partners.

“The success of our nuclear engineering faculty in Idaho Falls and Moscow has been demonstrated by these awards,” said Larry Stauffer, dean of the College of Engineering. “The research will not only advance nuclear technology but provide valuable experience to our graduate students.”

The awards include:

  • Professor and associate dean for research and economic development in the College of Engineering, Vivek Utgikar, leads two of the NEUP-funded projects. Through the first project, he and Associate Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering Krishnan Raja received $640,000 over three years to develop techniques for capturing and isolating harmful radioactive contaminants.
  • Utgikar’s second project, also funded at $640,000 over three years, is a collaboration with Oregon State University and the Idaho National Laboratory to develop chemical heat pumps for nuclear hybrid energy systems. These heat pumps could boost the quality of the thermal energy and enable production of synthetic fuels and beneficial chemicals in nuclear power plants.
  • Professor and director of U of I’s nuclear engineering program in Idaho Falls, Richard Christensen, was awarded $611,640 over three years to focus efforts on developing new thermal energy storage models that integrate with hybrid nuclear-renewable energy systems that can incorporate nuclear, hydro and natural gas power. His work will help researchers and the industry better understand the economic potential and advantages of these new process designs. Christensen will work with researchers at Brigham Young University and the Idaho National Laboratory on this modeling and experimental effort.
  • Associate Professor Indrajit Charit and Krishnan Raja in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at Moscow received $640,000 over three years for work with researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to contribute to the development of a crack repair/mitigation strategy for spent nuclear fuel stainless steel dry storage canisters in an attempt to enhance safety and reliability of spent nuclear fuel storage systems.
  • Haiyan Zhao, assistant professor of chemical and materials engineering at U of I in Idaho Falls, will receive $91,000 to collaborate with the Missouri University of Science and Technology and the Idaho National Laboratory on their three-year $800,000 award to provide a more comprehensive understanding of oxidation behavior of materials used to secure high-temperature gas reactors. Zhao will also analyze oxidation behavior under air and moisture conditions.

“DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program enhances the systems that keep nuclear power a safe, reliable and critical component of our nation’s energy mix,” said Janet E. Nelson, vice president for Research and Economic Development at U of I. “We are proud of these five projects to develop innovative technologies and new solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.”

Utgikar and Raja’s project, titled “Novel Processes for Capture of Radioactive Iodine Species from Vessel Off-Gas Streams” was funded through DOE-NEUP grant no. 18-14998. The total amount of federal funds for this project is $800,000, which represents 100 percent of the project’s total cost. Of this $800,000, $640,000 was awarded to U of I and the remaining amount of $160,000 was awarded by DOE directly to the Idaho National Laboratory for collaboration on this project.

Utgikar’s project, titled “Development of Nuclear Hybrid Energy Systems: Temperature Amplification through Chemical Heat Pumps for Industrial Applications,” was funded through DOE-NEUP grant no. 18-14963. The total amount of federal funds for this projects is $800,000, which represents 100 percent of the project’s total cost. Of this $800,000, $640,000 was awarded to U of I and the remaining amount of $160,000 was awarded by DOE directly to the Idaho National Laboratory for collaboration. 

Christensen’s project, titled “Modeling and Experimental Verification of Thermal Energy Storage Systems to Enable Load Following Capability for Nuclear Reactors” was funded through DOE-NEUP Project No. 18-15602. The total amount of federal funds for this project is $761,640, which represents 100 percent of the project’s total cost. Of this $761,640, $611,640 was awarded to U of I and the remaining amount of $150,000 was awarded by DOE directly to the Idaho National Laboratory for collaboration on this project. 

Charit and Raja’s project, titled “Friction Stir Based Repair Welding of Dry Storage Canisters and Mitigation Strategies: Effect of Engineered Barrier Layer on Environmental Degradation” was funded through DOE-NEUP Project No. 18-15261. The total amount of federal funds for this project is $800,000, which represents 100 percent of the project’s total cost. Of this $800,000, $640,000 was awarded to U of I and the remaining amount of $160,000 was awarded by DOE directly to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for collaboration on this project.

Media Contact

Phillip Bogdan
Marketing and Communications Manager
Office of Research and Economic Development
208-885-4155
pbogdan@uidaho.edu

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu


Contact

University Communications and Marketing

Phone: 208-885-6291

Fax: 208-885-5841

Email: uinews@uidaho.edu

Web: Communications and Marketing

U of I Media Contacts