FY 2013 Research and Development Awards

The Department of Energy is awarding $42 million in support of the Nuclear Energy University Programs for 61 nuclear energy research and development projects focused on developing innovative solutions in the following fields: Fuel Cycle Technologies; Reactor Concepts Research; Development & Demonstration; and Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling & Simulation.

These projects, selected for negotiation of award, are led by 38 American universities and colleges in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Other universities, industry leaders and National Laboratories will serve as collaborators and research partners.

A complete list of R&D projects with their associated abstracts is available below.


2013 NEUP R&D Award Abstracts




Award Description

Fuel Cycle Research and Development
Mechanical Behavior of UO2 at Sub-grain Length Scales: Quantification of Elastic, Plastic and Creep Properties via Microscale Testing Arizona State University $800,000 Researchers will develop techniques to measure properties at sub-grain scales using depleted Uranium Oxide samples. The project will provide a framework to measure sub-grain scale mechanical properties, as well as provide experimental data to improve the understanding of advanced oxide fuels.
The Impacts of Pore-Scale Physical and Chemical Heterogeneities on the Transport of Radionuclide-Carrying Colloids Colorado School of Mines $800,000 Researchers will identify the dominant transport mechanisms to develop models that predict radionuclide distribution in porous materials. Experimental and computational models will be created that couple pore-scale geometric and interfacial structures. Simulators such as these are a necessary step towards fully predictive models for field-scale applications in the future.
Recovery of Uranium from Seawater: Polymer-Supported Aminophosphinates as Selective Extractants Hunter College $399,999 Researchers will prepare a polymer-supported extractant for the recovery of uranium from seawater. The project will focus on primary amines that could provide a 3-fold increase in uranium capture capacity than current methods.
In-pile Thermal Conductivity Characterization with Single-laser Heating/Time Resolved Raman Iowa State University $800,000 Researchers will develop a time-resolved Raman-based thermal conductivity measurement system to improve remote in-pile thermal conductivity measurement. These measurements will provide new insights into the behavior of materials exposed to extreme radiation and temperature environments. Understanding the behavior of materials at the microstructural level will support optimized fuel designs.
Safeguards in Pyroprocessing: an Integrated Model Development and Measurement Data Analysis The Ohio State University $626,151 Researchers will develop a comprehensive and effective safeguards approach for a pyroprocessing facility to support safeguards for future fuel cycles in the United States. The new approach and design will focus directly on the special nuclear materials in the electrorefiner where actinides are separated from fission products through electrochemical process.
Organic Speciation and Interactions in ALSEP - One Step Partitioning Process of Minor Actinides, Lanthanides, and Fission Products Oregon State University $600,000 Researchers will investigate the Actinide-Lanthanide Separation (ALSEP) process organic phase prior to aqueous phase separation and after aqueous separation phases of bare and metal-loaded acids. Quantifying these effects can be used to determine how an engineering scale process will perform and generate an accurate chemical model for the system.
Glass Composition and Solution Speciation Effects on Stage III Dissolution Pennsylvania State University $700,000 Researchers will study the chemical and structural triggers of long-term vitrified nuclear waste form behavior. They will study a range of waste glass compositions in corrosive environments. The study will improve understanding of the long-term residual rate and may provide new options for environmental control of glass dissolution rates.
Correlating Thermal, Mechanical, and Electrical Coupling Based Multiphysics Behavior of Nuclear Materials Through In-Situ Measurements Purdue University $800,000 Researchers will use in-situ experimental techniques to monitor the influence of extreme conditions on fuel cladding. The project will establish an in-situ experimental setup that can predict change in thermal properties and their correlation with mechanical properties and correlate such changes to changes in microstructural and chemical features.
Creation of a Geant4 Muon Tomography Package for Imaging of Nuclear Fuel in Dry Cask Storage Purdue University $440,000 Researchers will develop a simulation and analysis package to aid in the non-destructive assessment of sealed used nuclear fuel dry casks using cosmic ray muons. Cosmic ray muon tomography allows for non-destructive assessment that can independently verify and identify weapons grade material sealed within dense dry casks.
Development of Fuel Cycle Data Packages for Two-stage Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Options for Optimum Resource Utilization and Waste Management Purdue University $400,000 Researchers will evaluate the two different two-stage fast reactor fuel cycle options that will offer efficient use of uranium resources and the ability to burn actinides and long-live fission products. Evaluation of these fast fuel cycle options will serve as a useful complement to the options currently being considered in the Fuel Cycle Options Campaign.
Mixed Metal Phosphonate-Phosphate Resins for Separation of Lanthanides from Actinides Texas A&M University $650,000 Researchers will use ion exchangers to cleanly separate lanthanides and curium from reusable actinides. The study will assist in the development of an inexpensive, simple way in which to separate lanthanides from actinides found in used nuclear fuel rods and to recover a large portion of the usable fuel.
Using Ionic Liquids for the Development of Renewable Biopolymer-Based Adsorbents for the Extraction of Uranium from Seawater and Testing Under Marine Conditions University of Alabama $400,000 Researchers will explore the fundamental engineering parameters for a renewable high-performance adsorbent for the extraction of uranium from sweater based on a recently proven ionic liquid (IL)-chitin platform. The project will use the platform to develop a versatile, modifiable adsorbent and characterize its performance and degradation in marine conditions.
Developing Ultra-Small Scale Mechanical Testing Methods and Microstructural Investigation Procedures for Irradiated Materials. University of California, Berkeley $800,000 Researchers will develop new small-scale mechanical testing techniques to allow for the estimation or direct measurement of bulk properties. The combined experiments and modeling will significantly enhance the statistics and information that can be obtained on small radioactive archived samples, as well as new ion beam irradiated specimens.
Improved Delayed-Neutron Spectroscopy Using Trapped Ions University of California, Berkeley $400,000 Researchers will develop innovative spectroscopy techniques to measure the decay of fission fragments. The resulting data from these new techniques will be used to better understand reactor kinetics under accident conditions and failure scenarios.
Thermally and Chemically Responsive Nanoporous Materials for Efficient Capture of Fission Product Gases University of California, Davis $750,000 Researchers will create new nanoporous materials that will be highly effective at capturing fission product gases. These materials would be relevant to both reactor fuels applications and reprocessing operations. Tests will be performed in carbon based and nitride based nanostructures, with the most promising materials from the modeling perspective undergoing further testing.
Multiphase Nanocrystalline Ceramic Concept for Nuclear Fuel University of California, Irvine $800,000 Researchers will study the use of nanoparticles and nanostructured ceramics to create new materials that can extend the service life and increase efficiency for nuclear fuel. Multiphase nanocrystalline ceramics will be used to design simulated nuclear fuel that can provide added plasticity, better radiation tolerance and improved thermal conductivity.
Development of Novel Porous Sorbents for Extraction of Uranium from Seawater University of Chicago $400,000 Researchers will develop a highly porous sorbent for the extraction of uranium from seawater. Previous research has established sorbent performance. This project will use past foundational studies to design and investigate a new nanocomposites that will be processed into tacks or braids for field tests in seawater tests. The technology may also be used for other metals.
Microwave Readout Techniques for Very Large Arrays of Nuclear Sensors University of Colorado, Boulder $799,937 Researchers will develop a powerful readout technique based on microwave transmission and reflection. The technique will enable very large arrays of diverse sensor types for nuclear materials quantification and tracking. It will provide more accurate data on material composition and quantity.
BiI3 Gamma-Ray Spectrometers for Reliable Room-Temperature Nuclear Materials Safeguarding University of Florida $799,999 Researchers will develop gamma-ray spectrometers based on BiI3 single crystals for MPACT applications such as burnup validation quantification, improved assay of plutonium, determination of uranium enrichment and overall monitoring spent fuel within the fuel cycle. The project will improve energy resolution, efficiency and environmental performance with this new gamma-ray detector.
Innovative Coating of Nanostructured Vanadium Carbide on the F/M Cladding Tube Inner Surface for Mitigating the Fuel Cladding Chemical Interactions University of Florida $760,276 Researchers will develop barrier coatings on the inner surface of fuel cladding tubes to improve performance of materials at elevated temperatures and high neutron exposures in fast reactors. The project will develop and test a low temperature coating process of nanostructured vanadium carbide that will provide a benchmark for use in future studies.
Doubling the Life of Concrete Structures University of Idaho $800,000 Researchers will use nanoscale techniques to develop methods for doubling the service life of concrete structures. They will study the effect of temperature load and temperature cycling (freezing and thawing) on the durability of concrete with nanoscale viscosity modifiers. The project will benefit from non-destructive evaluation of concrete performance through electrochemical techniques.
Off-Gas Treatment: Evaluation of Nano-structured Sorbents for Selective Removal of Contaminants University of Idaho $785,910 Researchers will evaluate nanostructured sorbent materials for their effectiveness in removing and immobilizing radionuclides for the off-gas treatment from used nuclear fuel recycling operations. The project aims at achieving near-zero emissions of radionuclides by capturing them from the off-gas of recycling operations, allowing for the development of advanced fuel cycles.
Innovative Elution Processes for Recovering Uranium and Transition Metals from Amidoxime-Based Sorbents University of Idaho $399,864 Researchers will develop a new two-step elution process to achieve total recovery of uranium and effective recycling of the sorbent. The extraction process would selectively remove uranium from the sorbent with little or no damage. The process would then remove transition metals and regenerate the sorbent for repeated use, making uranium extraction from seawater economically viable.
Performance of a Steel/Oxide Composite Waste Form for Combined Waste Streams from Advanced Electrochemical Processes over Geologic Time Scales University of Illinois, Chicago $700,000 Researchers will develop and validate a mechanistically-based corrosion model for cermet-type waste forms, creating a testing protocol and modeling approach for predicting long-term performance. The study will apply novel electrochemical testing and modeling methods to the behavior of metal/oxide phase boundaries to evaluate waste form performance.
Enhancement of the Extraction of Uranium from Seawater University of Maryland, College Park $400,000 Researchers will develop and optimize novel adsorbents for uranium recovery from seawater. The team will use radiation-induced grafting of organic phosphates onto polymers. The experiments will use ocean water, with mechanistic analysis, to provide a solid basis for large-scale demonstration of the performance of the new adsorbents in ocean environments.
Improving the Understanding of the Coupled Thermal-Mechanical-Hydrologic Behavior of Consolidating Granular Salt University of New Mexico $800,000 Researchers will increase the understanding of granular salt seal materials for shafts, drifts and boreholes. By coupling thermal, mechanical and hydrological responses, the study will result in greater confidence in granular salt consolidation as a principal strategy for closure and isolation of long-term waste repositories.
Fission Product Yield Data in Support of Advanced Reactor Technology University of New Mexico $399,816 Researchers will produce a highly accurate data set for thermal fission. These precision data are necessary for high-accuracy simulations of nuclear criticality, transmutation rates, radiation effects and heating as well as for nuclear fuel, material accounting and identification needs.
Molecular dynamics-based simulations of bulk/interfacial structures and diffusion behaviors in nuclear waste glasses University of North Texas $700,000 Researchers will generate accurate atomic structural models for use in Monte Carlo simulations of the dissolution of nuclear waste glasses. Large-scale molecular dynamics-based computer simulations will be used to investigate self-diffusion behaviors, interfacial structure, and other structures formed during dissolution of these glasses.
U3Si2 Fabrication and Testing for Implementation into the BISON Fuel Performance Code University of South Carolina $800,000 Researchers will fabricate, test and model a high uranium density, advanced nuclear fuel that operates at a much lower temperature and stores less energy. The work will deliver key research data on creep and grain growth, improving economics, through possible power uprates, and advancing accident tolerant fuels research.
Structural Health Monitoring of Nuclear Spent Fuel Storage Facilities University of South Carolina $738,618 Researchers will develop a nuclear structural health monitoring system based on a sensing technology that monitors material degradation and aging for dry cask storage systems. The low-cost, low-profile sensors will perform on-demand monitoring of the structural integrity of individual components as well as the entire system.
ORIGEN-based Nuclear Fuel Depletion Module for Fuel Cycle Assessment University of Tennessee at Knoxville $755,181 Researchers will develop a flexible reactor analysis module for the CYCLUS fuel cycle simulator based on established tools for reactor fuel depletion and decay. They will use ORIGEN, a mature and experimentally validated code, affording greater flexibility and allowing for accurate evaluations of impacts of both present and future fuel cycle options.
Cost and System Analysis of Innovative Fuel Resources Concepts University of Texas at Austin $295,960 This project will develop and test braided polymer fiber adsorbents that surpass the sorption capacity, selectivity and durability of the best existing technology to recover uranium from seawater.
Risk Assessment of Structural Integrity of Transportation Casks University of Utah $789,296 Researchers will assess the loss of structural integrity of transportation casks and fuel cladding after extended storage. This risk assessment will conduct experimental tests and simulations to evaluate the structural performance of fuel, fuel assemblies and cask components when subjected to vibration and impact loads during transport.
Market-Based and System-Wide Fuel Cycle Optimization University of Wisconsin, Madison $612,731 Researchers will create market and economic optimizers to improve calculations for the CYCLUS fuel cycle simulator. The team will leverage existing optimization software frameworks within the simulator to resolve top level policy questions. The optimizations will allow CYCLUS to move beyond static material compositions, providing a holistic view of the fuel cycle system.
Optical Fiber Based System for Multiple Thermophysical Properties for Glove Box, Hot Cell and In-Pile Applications Utah State University $799,975 Researchers will use a small pressure vessel to develop a robust technique for the measurement of multiple thermophysical properties at very high temperatures. The technique will lead to a system design moving toward the eventual measurement of irradiated fuels in a glovebox and/or hot cell with all sensors and electronics outside of the glovebox and/or hot cell.
Development of a Nano-Modified Concrete for Next Generation of Storage Systems Vanderbilt University $796,268 Researchers will use nano-sized and nano-structured particles based on enhanced reactivity to develop a superior concrete for the long-term storage of used nuclear fuel. The project will use state-of-the-art experimental chemical and mechanical characterizations and computation analysis to assess the performance of nano-modified concretes.
Development of Fuel Cycle Data Packages for Thorium Fuel Cycle Options Vanderbilt University $797,995 Researchers will develop six fuel cycle data packages for multi-stage, thermal fuel cycles which incorporate thorium. These new fuel cycle data packages will provide the opportunity to examine fuel cycle options beyond those which have traditionally been considered. A thorium fuel cycle database will also be assembled as a basis for thorium literature for future evaluations of the thorium fuel cycle.
Enhanced Shielding Performance of HLW Storage Packages via Multi-Component Coatings Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University $796,947 Researchers will develop a multi-layer composite that will enhance long-term storage and facilitate safe transport of storage packages. This novel multi-layer, multi-component coating would create an outer shield material that is resistant to the corrosion, radiation, diffusion and thermal cycling processes that affect fuel packages during long term storage.
Managing Zirconium Chemistry and Phase Compatibility in Combined Process Separations for Minor Actinide Partitioning Washington State University $700,000 Researchers will address unique challenges for combining TRUEX and TALSPEAK processes for partitioning of lanthanides and minor actinides. The project will develop improved information on the thermodynamics of fission product zirconium and develop a framework for an organic phase solvation model. Combined process development could streamline separations processes.
Advances in the Recovery of Uranium from Seawater: Studies Under Real Ocean Conditions Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution $398,882 Researchers will provide infrastructure and expertise for marine testing of currently available adsorbents in real ocean conditions. The team will move adsorbent research from the lab to field testing in order to quantify sorptive properties and uranium uptake. The project will provide valuable field data that will show the potential of large scale applications of these technologies.
  Total FCR&D $26,193,805  
Reactor Concepts Research Development and Demonstration (RCRD&D)
Multi-Resolution In-Situ Testing and Mutliscale Simulation for Creep Damage Fatigue Damage Analysis of Alloy 617 Arizona State University $800,000 This project will develop novel testing and experimentally validated prediction methodologies for micro-structural damage mechanisms of structural materials for advanced reactor systems. The investigations will focus on the characterization and testing of specific metal alloys, but the proposed testing and life-prediction methodologies are applicable to other structural materials as well.
Novel High Temperature and Radiation Resistant Infrared Glasses and Optical Fibers for Sensing in Advanced Small Modular Reactors Clemson University $800,000 Clemson University, in partnership with the Iowa State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will develop novel optical materials with improved heat and radiation exposure resistance in order to enable in-vessel fiber optic sensing for advanced Small Modular Reactors.
Validation Data Acquisition in HTTF during PCC Events George Washington University $800,000 Researchers at the George Washington University and Oregon State University will collaborate with NASA Langley Research Center to measure flow velocities in a high temperature test facility. This work supports the development of very-high temperature reactors with passive safety systems.
Advanced High Temperature Inspection Capabilities for Small Modular Reactors Iowa State University $790,822 The objective of this project is to develop non-destructive evaluation techniques for advanced small modular reactors. The research will provide key enabling inspection technologies needed to support the design and the reactor component performance validation process for advanced small modular reactors.
Experimental and Computational Investigations of Plenum-to-Plenum Heat Transfer under Natural Circulation in a Prismatic Very High Temperature Reactor Missouri University of Science and Technology $799,999 Researchers will perform experimental and computational investigations to study heat transfer and natural circulation phenomena in very-high temperature reactors. The study will assist in the ability to predict and analyze passive safety systems.
Compact Heat Exchanger Design and Testing for Advanced Nuclear Reactors and Advanced Power Cycles The Ohio State University $800,000 The goal of this project is to investigate optimal heat exchanger designs for advanced reactors. The research will study the optimization of printed circuit heat exchangers for specific fluids under a variety of conditions as well as perform numerical modeling. Experiments will focus on thermal performance and heat stress during extreme conditions.
Fundamental Understanding of Creep-Fatigue Interactions in 9Cr-1MoV Steel Welds The Ohio State University $798,000 This project will advance the state of knowledge and fundamental understanding of deforming materials and welds under loading conditions. Specifically, new integrated testing procedures will be evaluated and applied for conditions that are most detrimental to material stability leading to improved predictions of life expectancy for reactor steels and welds.
Advanced Mechanistic 3D Spatial Modeling and Analysis Methods to Accurately Represent Nuclear Facility External Event Scenarios The Ohio State University $800,000 Researchers will develop three-dimensional characterization uncertainty analysis for commercial power plants. The project will involve combining experts from the fields of seismic structural modeling and advanced methods of risk assessment. This effort is expected to result in next generation tools that can be used for assessment of seismic risks.
Tritium Mitigation/Control for Advanced Reactor Systems The Ohio State University $400,000 Researchers will develop a fluoride salt cooled high-temperature reactor featuring a specialized system to control tritium production. If successful, this will result in a significant reduction in size and cost in comparison to other reactor designs.
New Mechanistic Models of Creep-Fatigue Crack Growth Interactions for Advanced High Temperature Reactor Components Oregon State University $790,790 Researchers will create and validate a robust, multi-scale, numerical model to predict material degradation in nickel-based reactor alloys. If successful, this project will provide better numerical tools for reactor designers and greatly improve their capability to design against material failures for reactor alloys in the long term.
Self-Powered Wireless Dual-mode Langasite Sensor for Pressure/Temperature Monitoring of Nuclear Reactors State University of New York, Stony Brook $800,000 This research will develop a novel self-powered wireless hybrid sensor that can accurately monitor both pressure and temperature using a single device without requiring external electricity, even in extreme harsh environments.
A Pebble-Bed Breed and Burn Reactor University of California, Berkeley $400,000 Researchers will assess the feasibility of designing a type of metal cooled reactor able to establish and maintain operation when fueled with depleted uranium. If successful, this reactor will offer at least a 30-fold increase in the uranium ore utilization versus that achieved in contemporary light water reactors without the need for fuel reprocessing and recycling.
Investigation of Thermal Aging Effects on the Evolution of Microstructure and Mechanical Properties of Cast Duplex Stainless Steels University of Maryland, College Park $799,966 This research will provide a better understanding of the microstructural evolution and simultaneous change in mechanical response during aging. The results of the research will provide data that can be used to estimate degraded mechanical properties for an 80-year service life of light water reactors.
Model validation using CFD-grade experimental database for NGNP Reactor Cavity Cooling Systems with water and air University of Michigan $799,348 Researchers will use advanced innovative instrumentation to build a high-resolution experimental database and to use the novel experimental data to assess and further develop the predictive capabilities of computer codes for thermal hydraulics and computational fluid dynamics. The improved models developed by this project will also have the direct benefit of improving the predictive capability of the passive systems of third generation light water reactors and small modular reactor systems.
Long-Term Prediction of Emissivity of Structural Material for High Temperature Reactor Systems University of Missouri $799,117 Researchers will study specific types of emissivity driven cooling from a variety of materials that are relevant to nuclear reactors. The research will provide a basis for numerical modeling to support reactor development.
Advanced I&C for Fault-Tolerant Supervisory Control of Small Modular Reactors University of Pittsburgh $800,000 The purpose of this research is to develop advanced instrumentation and control techniques for supervisory control of advanced small modular reactors. This research supports the operational goals of small modular reactor concepts through the development of improved oversight and surveillance techniques.
Corrosion of Structural Materials for Advanced Supercritical Carbon-Dioxide Brayton Cycle University of Wisconsin-Madison $798,672 Researchers will study a variety of materials for corrosion resistance under conditions that improve power conversion. In addition to studying the corrosion resistance of the materials, researchers will study the effect of additives to mitigate corrosion. Development of corrosion theories and modeling aimed at prediction of long-term corrosion will be the underlying theme throughout the project.
Component and Technology Development for Advanced Liquid Metal Reactors University of Wisconsin-Madison $798,920 In support of liquid metal cooled reactors, the University of Wisconsin, Madison will evaluate advanced alloys and ceramics that come in contact with liquid metals. Additionally, a robust oxygen sensor and for use in liquid metals will be developed in order to better evaluate corrosion profiles in support of diagnostic testing.
  Total RCRD&D $13,575,634  
Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation (NEAMS)
Lower Length Scale Characterization and Validation of Formation and Stability of Helium Bubbles in Nano-structured Ferritic Alloys under Irradiation Clemson University $399,870 Researchers will provide a fundamental knowledge about the formation and stability of ultra-fine helium bubbles within 14YWT after neutron/ion irradiation for further design of new advanced structural materials with a characteristic high density nanoparticles feature which can increase the mechanical strength, hardness, irradiation resistance and the operational temperature range of materials.
Three-Dimensional Fuel Pin Model Validation by Prediction of Hydrogen Distribution in Cladding and Comparison with Experiment Pennsylvania State University $800,000 Researchers will validate important three-dimensional aspects of the fuel pin modeling by using specialized numerical modeling techniques coupled with laboratory experiments to validate existing models for predicting fuel performance in light water reactors.
Collocation-Based Surrogate Models for Uncertainty Quantification and Validation of Coupled, Multiphysics Fuel Performance Simulation Tools University of Michigan $596,835 Researchers will provide the necessary high fidelity, coupled, multiphysics fuel performance simulator for computational modeling and develop surrogates which will accelerate and focus the validation of the coupled codes. This will be achieved by utilizing the high fidelity coupled fuel performance, thermal-hydraulics and neutronics codes BISON/STAR-CCM+/MPACT and an innovative collocation-based surrogate methodology.
  Total NEAMS $1,796,705  
  Total Awards $41,566,144  

FCR&D – Fuel Cycle Research and Development
RCRD&D – Reactor Concepts Research, Development and Demonstration
NEAMS – Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation

*Actual project funding will be established during the award negotiation phase.