Researchers receive $3M Department of Energy award to advance nuclear technology

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- An interdisciplinary team that includes five Penn State researchers has received a three-year $3 million Integrated Research Project (IRP) award from the Department of Energy (DOE).

Their project is titled "Multi-Sensor Inspection and Robotic Systems for Dry Storage Casks."

Cliff Lissenden, professor of engineering science and mechanics, is principal investigator (PI) and Arthur Motta, professor and chair of nuclear engineering, is co-PI.

Motta said their research aims to develop methods for assessing the potential for environmental degradation of containers of used nuclear fuel kept in dry storage. "The monitoring of possible degradation of the metal canister and the concrete overpack is necessary to ensure the continued health of these systems over the longer periods of time that may be needed, given the unavailability of a permanent repository. However, many of the locations inside the storage cask that are of greatest interest for monitoring are difficult to access, making detailed inspection a challenge."

The team will develop advanced sensors and robotic delivery devices that will enable the inspection of the sensitive regions of the canister for the presence of deposited salts, dust and reaction products by surface sampling, and of cracks and corrosion by non-destructive inspection using advanced ultrasonics.

Environmental conditions such as radiation field and temperature will also be assessed to help benchmark models.

Motta explained that the devices will first be designed in a laboratory and then field tested in collaboration with the team's industry partners from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute and Holtec International.

The team also includes Penn State's Igor Jovanovic, the Bashore Faculty Development Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering; Sean Brennan, associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Karl Reichard, research associate at the Applied Research Laboratory; as well as John Popovics, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois; Travis Knight, associate professor and director of the nuclear engineering program at the University of South Carolina; and Huidong Gao of Innerspec.

Motta said, "In all, the program involves seven professors and eight graduate students at three different universities, and it will provide opportunities for undergraduate research."

Penn State's project is part of a larger commitment by the DOE to award $20 million for five IRPs that will deliver solutions to high priority nuclear energy research challenges.

The IRP awards are part of the DOE's Nuclear Energy University Programs, which engages U.S. colleges and universities to conduct research and development, enhance infrastructure and support student education thereby helping to sustain a world-class nuclear energy and workforce capability.

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Last Updated August 27, 2014