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Areas of Study

Studies in this area are concerned with the low-energy physics of importance in nuclear technology. The reactions of neutrons with nuclei, activation analysis, and fission product studies are among the topics included. Radiation detection and use of modern electronics are covered. Emphasis is on applications in the biomedical and radiological sciences and homeland security. Morse, VujicNormanVetter

This program is concerned with the biological effects of radiation, dosimetry, radiation shielding, radiation protection, and the development of methods for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease. Research is focused on medical imaging, boron neutron capture therapy, and radioactive tracers, computerized tomography, positron emission tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. VujicGreenspanVetter

This area of study is devoted to the various materials problems associated with nuclear technology. The behavior of fuel materials in a radiation environment and radiation damage and corrosion in nuclear fission and fusion power plants are among the topics treated. The Nuclear Materials Laboratory uses mass spectometry for the study of gas-solid reactions. Thermogravimetric techniques with microbalances are applied to investigations of hydrideny and oxidation of nuclear reactor core materials. OlanderHosemann

Study in this area focuses on computational neutral particle transport applied to nuclear reactors, radiation shielding, and nuclear security and non-proliferation challenges. There is ongoing research in methods and algorithms for solving the Boltzmann transport equation more effectively. These methods are often inspired by the physics of the problem at hand, developments in computer hardware, or both. Ongoing work involves

  • deterministic solution methods,
  • Monte Carlo methods, and
  • hybrid methods in which deterministic solutions are used to accelerate Monte Carlo solutions.

This group of researchers often works with the Fission Reactor Design area. SlaybaughVujic

This program is concerned primarily with the behavior of neutrons in thermal and fast fission reactors and includes such topics as neutron diffusion and slowing down, criticality, numerical methods, and transport theory. A wide range of research activity is carried out in this area. It includes conception, design and analysis of advanced reactors such as novel concepts of power reactors (see paper), reactors for the transmutation of nuclear waste (see paper) and reactors for space exploration (see paper); conception and analysis of advanced nuclear fuel cycles (see paper), including proliferation resistant multi-recycling of the nuclear fuel; Investigation of possibilities for improving the design and performance of Light-Water Reactors (see paper); Development of improved computational methods for core design and analysis (see paper); development of intelligent methods for the optimization of the design of nuclear systems (see paper); criticality safety analysis (see paper); as well as radiation shielding design optimization (see paper) and design of facilities for medical applications of nuclear radiation (see paper). We are actively involved in the Generation-IV, Nuclear Energy Research Initiative, Nuclear Engineering Education Research and Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative programs of DOE as well as in the NASA space nuclear power program. We have research collaboration with National Laboratories including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory and Oak-Ridge National Laboratory. VujicGreenspan

Because of the rapidly changing nature of technology, new and complex ethical issues are emerging which bring into question the ability of society to address, and hopefully resolve them. These new issues are arising in such areas as biotechnology, information technology, nanotechnology and nuclear technology and range from protecting the health and welfare of the public and the environment, to patenting living organisms and labeling products containing genetically modified organisms, to concerns regarding the alteration of the ecology of life. This program focuses on the nature of these emerging technical issues, their ethical, legal and social ramifications, and what individuals and our society value in relation to these issues. The program examines what philosophy, religion and art, and natural and social science have to say about these issues, and about the relationship between individual and societal values regarding these issues. Kastenberg

Graduate study encompasses the synthesis of the basic components of nuclear technology in the engineering and design of nuclear reactors. Problems of passive safety systems, heat removal, stress analysis, reactor dynamics and control, and nuclear reactor safety are considered. PetersonGreenspanVujic

This specialty deals with current approaches to the design of a fusion power plants. For both the magnetic and the inertial confinement schemes, problems of particle confinement, plasma heating, ICF chamber dynamics, fusion materials, fusion neutronics, safety and environmental impacts are analyzed. Experimental facilities for plasma research include a Spheromak plasma experiment, plasma-surface interaction experiments, and ICF chamber liquid protection experiment. MorsePetersonLeung

Graduate Fusion Engineering Curriculum

The radioactive waste and materials management program includes development of chemical and nuclear processes for better waste treatment, development of waste disposal technologies, long-term performance assessment for disposed wastes, and institutional and international-political analysis.

The most significant milestone in this field occurred with the opening of WIPP, the world's first geologic repository. Located 1/2 mile underground in a 250-million-year-old salt formation in New Mexico, WIPP began emplacing waste contaminated with radioactive transuranic elements in 1999. While the U.S. Department of Energy submitted the license application for the Yucca Mountain Project in 2008 to develop a repository for commercial spent fuel and high level waste from early U.S. military activities, the current Obama administration decided not to continue its development, and established the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future to explore alternatives for the back-end of the nuclear Fuel cycle. Per Peterson and Senator Pete Domenici co-chair the Reactor and Fuel Cycle Technology Subcommittee of the Commission.

Thus, needs for systems models to assess, compare, and optimize the integrated system of the fuel cycle and geological disposal have been increasing. International collaborations in this field have also been expanding, with active participation by the U.C. Berkeley, Nuclear Research LaboratoryAhnGreenspanPeterson

This area of study is devoted to the development of methods and models and the acquisition of empirical data for assessing the impacts of emerging technological systems on public health and safety, and the environment. Basic research includes: (a) the development of deterministic models and the acquisition of experimental data for understanding severe accidents in nuclear power reactors, (b) probabilistic methods and models for assessing nuclear power plant risk, (c) and optimization methods that integrate mechanistic and probabilistic considerations. Historically, these methods and models focused on complicated systems or machines composed of pumps, valves, invertors, switches, piping, electronic control systems, instrumentation, etc. These systems are amenable to reductionism because second-order effects are small (can be treated in a linear fashion) and the boundaries are well defined. Safety considerations involved standard mechanistic models for heat transfer, fluid dynamics and material behavior, as well as accepted reliability methods such as fault and event trees. These complicated systems have now given way to very large-scale complex systems, in which second order or nonlinear effects become important, and the boundaries are less well defined. By large-scale, we mean systems with large dimensionality (or very many variables), and not necessarily large spatially. Such complex systems may exhibit chaotic behavior, may be tightly coupled and exhibit emergent properties, and may exhibit properties that can only be described subjectively.

An initial focus for applying this new avenue of research is on Generation IV nuclear energy systems, which integrates the nuclear fuel cycle in terms of high-level radioactive waste disposal, nuclear reactor safety, overall fuel cycle analysis and economics, and safeguards and security. Other complex large-scale systems considered in this program include biological systems, environmental and ecological systems, information systems and electric power distribution systems.  KastenbergKammenPeterson

This area of research involves studies of different alternatives for the transmutation of the potentially hazardous long-lived isotopes produced in the nuclear fuel in the process of generation of nuclear energy. By “transmutation” we mean conversion of the hazardous long-lived isotopes to non-radioactive or to short-lived isotopes. Two general types of reactors are being considered: critical reactors and accelerator-driven sub-critical reactors. The latter use a combination of a high-energy proton accelerator and a sub-critical core that is “driven” by accelerator-generated neutrons. The accelerator generates a beam of protons that have hundreds of MeV of energy. These very high-energy protons impinge on a heavy target such as lead and generate, via spallation reactions, several dozens of fission-like neutrons per proton. The thrust of our research is to search for reactor core (either critical or accelerator-driven sub-critical) design and fuel cycle that will maximize the benefit from the transmutation. The impact of the transmutation on the expected performance of the Yucca Mountain Repository (YMR) is being assessed as well. The ultimate goal is to minimize the nuclear waste to such an extent that will eliminate the need for repositories other than the YMR. AhnGreenspanVujic