Nuclear engineering graduate students win DOE fellowships

Three graduate students in the Department of Nuclear Engineering have received fellowships through the U.S. Department of Energy.

Josh Hansel, William Sames and Charles Stratton received the three-year fellowships through the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP).

Hansel is studying multiphysics simulations in nuclear science and engineering with Dr. Jean Ragusa at Texas A&M. He is working on a subchannel thermal hydraulics code to be integrated into the Advanced Multi-Physics (AMP) Nuclear Fuel Performance Code. The importance of adding the subchannel solver to AMP is to couple heat transport in fuel elements with the coolant flow conditions, which gives more accurate estimates of heat transfer. AMP will yield more accurate fuel performance simulations, which will enhance safety in nuclear reactors.

Sames is studying delayed hydride cracking (DHC) in used nuclear fuel with Dr. Sean McDeavitt in the Fuel Cycles and Materials Laboratory at Texas A&M. DHC occurs due to the presence of hydrogen in zirconium metal fuel cladding. As the used fuel ages, stresses cause cracks to grow. Quantifying the effect of hydride formation on the cracking process and rate will allow the prediction of the lifetime of used nuclear fuel in dry storage. This work will inform decisions regarding the storage of used nuclear fuel in the United States and abroad.

Stratton is working with Dr. Pavel Tsvetkov and graduate student Jesse Johns to investigate the survivability of fiber optics in this application by simulating the very high temperature reactor conditions in the Nuclear Science Center’s nuclear reactor. Stratton said he hopes to demonstrate the ability of the fiber optic sensors to provide a reliable measurement of the in-core conditions distributed throughout the core. Fiber optics would give a more complete picture of the conditions inside the core and would be an improvement over measurement technology at current reactors as well as overcome challenges to realizing reactor designs of the future.

The DOE awarded $5 million for 39 undergraduate scholarships and 31 graduate fellowships to students in nuclear energy-related engineering and science programs at universities across the country. Through this program, undergraduates receive a $5,000 scholarship and fellowship winners will receive $50,000 annually through the next three years. The graduate fellowships will also include $5,000 towards a summer internship at a national laboratory to support U.S. students’ involvement in the DOE’s applied research programs. The selected students will study a breadth of critical nuclear energy issues, from fuel cycle sustainability to reactor efficiency and design.

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