FY 2014 Research and Development Awards

The Department of Energy is awarding $30 million in support of the Nuclear Energy University Programs for 44 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 30 American universities and colleges in 29 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.


NEUP 2014 R&D Award Abstracts




Award Description

Fuel Cycle Research and Development
A New Paradigm for Understanding Multi-phase Ceramic Waste Form Performance Clemson University $800,000 Researchers will use advanced characterization tools to develop 3-D microstructural data that can be incorporated into computer-based simulations in order to predict the performance of waste forms. Materials system modeling will incorporate elemental release and the interconnected microstructural network of phases to better understand performance and degradation, which will accelerate waste form acceptance in repository settings.
Controlling Hexavalent Americium: A Centerpiece to a Compact Nuclear Fuel Cycle Colorado School of Mines $800,000 Researchers will develop and exploit the fundamental chemistry of Americium to enable an industrially viable means to co-recover the major and minor actinide elements from used nuclear fuel. The results would be a significant step forward in the development of aqueous separations approaches designed to recover the U-Am actinides based on the availability of the hexavalent oxidation state.
Zeolite Membranes for Krypton/Xenon Separation from Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Off-Gas Georgia Institute of Technology $400,000 Researchers will develop a high-performance, lower-cost zeolitic membrane process for Kr/Xe separations during spent nuclear fuel processing. Current separation methods are not considered economical and a membrane process would have relatively lower cost, equipment size, and ambient operating temperature. The process would form a sound basis for further development of this transformative separation technology for the nuclear fuel cycle.
Optimizing Polymer-Grafted Amidoxime-based Adsorbents for Uranium Uptake from Seawater Georgia Institute of Technology $399,999 Researchers will work to increase the adsorbent capacity and selectivity toward uranium by optimizing the adsorbent morphology, synthesis variables, and conditioning parameters and by investigating the rate-limiting variables through transport and reaction modeling. A novel adsorption/partition concept that has the potential to substantially increase the adsorbent capacity will be tested, making uranium from seawater extraction more economically viable.
Extraction of Uranium from Seawater: Design and Testing of a Symbiotic System Massachusetts Institute of Technology $400,000 Researchers will develop a seawater uranium extraction system that will work symbiotically with an offshore windmill by utilizing the structure, mooring and power of the windmill, while increasing the energy harvested by the installation. Uranium will be extracted by an adsorbent polymer belt, which will be cycled through the seawater and an elution plant located at the base of the windmill tower. Increasing the frequency of harvesting could overcome current economic barriers to seawater uranium extraction.
Rare Earth Electrochemical Property Measurements and Phase Diagram Development in a Complex Molten Salt Mixture for Molten Salt Recycle The Ohio State University $800,000 Researchers will investigate rare earth (RE) properties in complex molten salt mixtures. In a molten salt recycle approach, the RE drawdown by electrolysis is a key step in which REs are separated from salt containing other fission products. Investigation of RE electrolysis must consider the electrochemical properties of the REs. We propose to conduct studies of detailed experiments and corresponding models to provide the physical properties and phase diagrams required to predict the performance of RE drawdown for processing complex molten salts.
Studies of Lanthanide Transport in Metallic Nuclear Fuels The Ohio State University $800,000 Researchers will study the redistribution of lanthanides and migration of lanthanides to the fuel surface. The mechanisms of lanthanide transport in metallic fuel based on the novel discovery of a ‘liquid-like’ transport mechanism will be studied analytically and experimentally. The project will develop a fundamental understanding of lanthanide fission product migration and redistribution in advanced metallic nuclear fuels, and theory and data to mitigate fuel-cladding chemical interactions.
Imaging a Dry Storage Cask with Cosmic Ray Muons Oregon State University $799,871 Researchers will develop an imaging system to monitor the content of a dry storage cask with cosmic ray muons. A very large amount of plutonium under nuclear safeguards is contained in used fuel assemblies stored in dry storage casks. Muon imaging will allow a cost effective and reliable way to evaluate dry storage cask content and integrity before transport. .
Apatite and sodalite based glass-bonded waste forms for immobilization of 129I and mixed halide radioactive wastes Rutgers University $800,000 Researchers will develop advanced and chemically durable waste forms for immobilizing 129I (aqueous based reprocessing of fuel) and mixed-halide wastes (molten-salt processing of fuel) by low temperature synthesis. Halide-containing sodalite and calcium phosphate-based apatite minerals will be synthesized, consolidated and tested for chemical durability. The project will provide needed baseline data for the development of advanced waste forms for immobilization of iodine and mixed-halide wastes.
Sorption Modeling and Verification for Off-Gas Treatment Syracuse University $350,000 Researchers will develop modeling tools supported by experiments for off-gas capture from future nuclear-fuel recycling facilities. Target species include tritium, iodine, krypton, and xenon. The models are intended to provide path forward recommendations to develop off-gas treatment adsorption processes. The project will contribute to the evaluation of options for environmentally acceptable recycle systems.
Development of high performance ODS alloys Texas A&M University $800,000 Researchers will study swelling, radiation hardening and changes in mechanical properties of ODS alloys to develop two sets of advanced ODS alloys. Two sets of first-round candidate alloys that have already undergone extensive development and testing will evaluate irradiation performance. The study will meet the need for high strength, radiation-tolerant cladding and core components that have enhanced resistance to void swelling.
Computational and Experimental Studies of Microstructure-Scale Porosity in Metallic Fuels for Improved Gas Swelling Behavior University of Arkansas $796,823 Researchers will study the microstructure of metallic uranium alloy fuels, and their resistance to densification, to minimize in-pile irradiation swelling through bimodal pore size distribution. The project will develop a predictive approach to design metallic fuel microstructures for optimal swelling resistance and fission gas retention.
Improved Hybrid Modeling of Spent Fuel Storage Facilities University of California, Berkeley $645,393 Researchers will develop a variance reduction method for computational transport that will improve the ability to design and operate monitoring systems for interim used fuel installations through enhanced modeling and simulation. This new tool will demonstrate that modeling calculations can be done more accurately in less time than with current tools and will perform studies characterizing how changes in material, cask configurations, and number of casks could impact monitoring systems.
Selective ligands for uranyl via combinatorial peptoid libraries: A synthetic, structural, thermodynamic and computational study University of California, Berkeley $400,000 Researchers will study how donor ligands bind to the uranyl ion, UO22+, with the longer-term goal of using this information to tackle selective recognition of uranyl in aqueous solution. The study will impact underlying approaches to controlling the behavior of uranium in these systems. The actinide separation technology could be used in several areas including uranium extraction from seawater, nuclear waste remediation and nuclear materials.
Combining Experiments and Simulations of Extraction Kinetics and Thermodynamics in Advanced Separation Processes for Used Nuclear Fuel University of California, Irvine $799,938 Researchers will study how the kinetics and thermodynamics of metal ion extraction in advanced separation processes for used nuclear fuel can be described by molecular dynamic (MD) simulations and how the simulations can be validated by experimental data. The project would have broad impacts on several separations processes including advanced TALSPEAK, ALSEP and GANEX by increasing the confidence and accuracy of computer modeling of metal ion extraction.
Effect of Metallic Li on the Behavior of Metals in Molten Salts University of Nevada, Reno $458,250 Researchers will identify the effect of metallic lithium on materials that are used in molten salt recycling. The study will try to understand how the presence of Li(0) in molten salts affects the degradation of alloys. Studying these changes will help accurately predict container material behavior and longevity.
Assessment of Corrosion Resistance of Promising Accident Tolerant Fuel Cladding under Reactor Conditions University of Notre Dame $800,000 Researchers will assess the corrosion behavior of accident tolerant fuel candidate iron-based alloys under normal LWR operating conditions consisting of high temperature, relevant water chemistry and irradiation. The assessment will produce data about possible irradiation-accelerated corrosion rates of iron-based alloys, and the mechanisms by which such corrosion rates are accelerated. The project will advance the selection of appropriate replacements for Zircaloy cladding.
Functionalized Porous Organic Polymers as Uranium Nano-Traps for Efficient Recovery of Uranium from Seawaterr University of South Florida $399,000 Researchers will develop functionalized porous organic polymers, or ‘nano-traps’ for extraction of uranium from seawater. This technique allows for increased surface area and custom-designed pore size and chemistry to fit specific parameters. The adsorbent materials have high efficiency and effectiveness for uranium recovery from seawater, providing a potential supply for nuclear fuel.
Enhanced Accident-Tolerant Fuel Performance and Reliability for Aggressive iPWR/SMR Operation University of Tennessee $799,967 To develop a process that evaluates operational and safety performance of reactor-and-fuel combinations by integrating whole-core 3D neutronics with MOOSE/BISON fuel performance assessments via explicit time and space dependent fuel rod operational power histories. The project will be valuable in analyzing and evaluating accident tolerant fuel concepts and furthering the understanding of reactor physics and fuel performance aspects of key accident tolerant fuel concepts.
Nuclear technology R&D strategies in an era of energy price uncertainty University of Texas, Austin $799,112 Researchers will identify nuclear technology options that are competitive over a wide range of plausible future business environments. No single nuclear technology or business practice will be the best choice across all or even most future conditions. The study will focus on hybrid nuclear-fossil technologies, energy storage and conversion, which will result in an identification of nuclear strategies that can succeed under future market conditions.
Development and Optimization of Voltammetric Methods for Real Time Analysis of Electrorefiner Salt with High Concentrations of Actinides and Fission Products University of Utah $621,612 Researchers will develop an advanced voltammetry method to pursue the objective of real time monitoring of actinide concentrations in electrorefiner salt. This will include experimental measurement of key parameters such as activity coefficients and exchange current density. It will also involve simulation of voltammetry processes based on first principles. The project will allow for real time measurements that could support the commercialization of pyroprocessing.
Development of Self-Healing Zirconium-Silicide Coatings for Improved Performance of Zirconium-Alloy Fuel Cladding University of Wisconsin, Madison $798,621 Researchers will study the deposition of self-healing zirconium-silicide coatings on zirconium-alloy fuel cladding material to improve corrosion resistance under normal and accident conditions. Under these conditions, Zr-Si coating evolves into a highly protective functionally-graded multilayered system. The study will lead to improved performance of zirconium-alloy fuels.
Thermal Conductivity in Metallic Fuels Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University $799,837 Researchers will calculate the thermal conductivity of metallic uranium and neptunium alloys, including the effects of noble gasses, using density functional theory. The experiments will validate the calculated effective thermal conductivity using the MARMOT code and by helping determine DFT simulation parameters. The study works to improve fuel lifetime by understanding its thermal behavior.
SiC-ODS Alloy Gradient Nanocomposites as Novel Cladding Materials Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University $799,998 Researchers will combine nuclear nanomaterial design, processing, testing, and characterization efforts to develop revolutionary materials that can withstand neutron irradiation for long period of time using nanostructured SiC and oxide dispersion strengthened steel. The ultimate objective is to offer new cladding materials with increased corrosion resistance, strength, and creep resistance in both steady state and accident conditions.
  Total FCR&D $16,068,421  
Reactor Concepts Research Development and Demonstration (RCRD&D)
Fundamental study of key issues related to advanced S-CO2 Brayton Cycle: prototypic HX development and Cavitation Georgia Institute of Technology $799,000 Researchers will study scientific and operational issues pertinent to compact heat exchanger systems and turbo-machinery. The project will work to resolve issues with the fabrication of diffusion bonded compact heat exchangers, alternate heat exchange technology for recuperators, and resolution of issues with cavitation and fluid instabilities.
Advanced Models for Nondestructive Evaluation of Aging Nuclear Power Plant Cables Iowa State University $787,291 Researchers will develop advanced models that relate environmentally induced microstructural and chemical changes in cable insulation polymers to their macroscopic electrical parameters. These parameters will be measured and modeled over a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, covering several potential nondestructive evaluation techniques, enabling identification of the most sensitive techniques for future development.
Development of Novel Functionally Graded Transition Joints for Improving the Creep Strength of Dissimilar Metal Welds in Nuclear Applications Lehigh University $800,000 Researchers will develop graded transition joints and improved creep life models for increasing the life of dissimilar metal welds (DMWs) in nuclear reactors. The research represents the first application of functionally graded material concepts for solving the problem of DMW failures through an integrated approach of additive manufacturing, modeling, microstructural characterization, and advanced strain-sensing techniques.
Feasibility Assessment of a Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) North Carolina State University $400,000 Researchers will develop an innovative compact reactor concept that integrates power production, power conversion and electricity generation in a single unit: the Micro Modular Reactor (MMR). It is designed to be absolutely melt-down proof (MDP) under all circumstances including complete loss of coolant scenarios with no possible release of radioactive material, to have a cycle length of greater than 10 years, and to be highly proliferation resistant.
Experimental Investigation and CFD Analysis of Steam Ingress Accidents in HTGRs The Ohio State University $800,000 Researchers will study the steam ingress scenario for HTGRs. The study will investigate thermal-hydraulic behavior and graphite oxidation of stream ingress phenomena to validate predictive CFD models. This work will resolve concerns about possible steam generator tube ruptures in a HTGR He-Steam Rankine cycle.
Scaling Studies for Advanced Gas Reactor Concepts Oregon State University $681,834 Researchers will expand the utilization of the Oregon State University High Temperature Test Facility (HTTF) to validate a broader range of advanced high temperature reactors and events. The facility will be revised to add a detailed scaling analysis of additional gas reactor concepts including advanced gas-cooled, molten salt, and sodium cooled reactors.
Fluid Stratification Separate Effects Analysis, Testing and Benchmarking Oregon State University $800,000 Researchers will study fluid stratification in high temperature gas reactors. Coolant stratification is the result of incomplete mixing of one or more fluids, leading to a density gradient, which may or may not dissipate under diffusive or convective effects. This combined analytical and experimental project seeks to investigate stratification driven by diffusive and convective mechanisms and is expected to yield insight into this phenomenon.
Probabilistic Economic Valuation of Safety Margin Management Analysis Oregon State University $795,364 Researchers will use RAVEN and develop a companion software package to facilitate economic analysis of safety margins. The project is a proof of concept that will use techniques to examine the cost of improving safety margins vs. the risk of accidents from not improving safety margins. This analysis can be used to evaluate the economic viability of various plant upgrades.
Novel Dissimilar Joints Between Alloy 800H and 2.25%Cr and 1%Mo Steel Pennsylvania State University $800,000 Researchers will fabricate and test dissimilar metal joints between a nickel base alloy and a steel with gradual variations of chemical composition, microstructure and properties in a manner that reduces abrupt thermal expansion mismatch and the resulting residual stresses. Data on structure and properties will serve as valuable inputs for the initiation of an ASME code case.
Multi-Phase Model Development to Assess RCIC System Capabilities under Severe Accident Conditions Texas A&M University $564,246 Researchers will develop physics-based models of the Reactor Core Isolation Cooling (RCIC) System and incorporating them into a multi-phase code for validation. The project will tackle the current major challenges in RCIC System analysis and enable evaluation of two-phase thermodynamic aspects.
Coiled Tube Gas Heaters For Nuclear Gas-Brayton Power Conversion University of California, Berkeley $800,000 Researchers will develop heat exchangers for Brayton-cycle power conversion in reactors using sodium, NaK, or salt as intermediate coolants. The proposed coiled tube gas heaters (CTGHs) are expected to have excellent power density, thermal shock/creep, in-service inspection, and reparability characteristics.
Fundamental Studies of Irradiation-Induced Modifications in Microstructural Evolution and Mechanical Properties of Advanced Alloys University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign $800,000 Researchers will develop and test a mechanism for predicting neutron irradiation performance for optimized Grade 92 and Alloy 709 for applications in advanced reactor systems. The work will employ ion irradiations and available information from neutron irradiations of related alloys to develop a basis for predicting the neutron irradiation performance of the optimized alloys.
Integrated Computational and Experimental Study of Radiation Damage Effects in Grade 92 Steel and Alloy 709 University of Tennessee $800,000 Researchers will develop a mechanistic understanding and predictive models of irradiation-induced microstructural evolution and resulting mechanical properties in optimized ferritic-martensitic Grade 92 steel and austenitic alloy 709 using multiscale simulations coupled with rigorous experimental validation. The project will provide insights into the correlation between ion irradiation and fast neutron damage.
Meta-Level Design Guidance and Operator Performance Measures for Hybrid Control Rooms Vanderbilt University $799,869 Researchers will apply human factors engineering methods and relevant expertise from non-nuclear high-risk high-consequence domains toward the measurement of operator performance in analog, digital, and hybrid main control rooms. Performance measures will be developed for evaluating the situation awareness and decision-making proficiencies to support the transition to digital or hybrid control room displays.
  Total RCRD&D $10,427,604  
Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation (NEAMS)
An Investigation To Establish Multiphysical Property Dataset Of Nuclear Materials Based On In-Situ Observations And Measurements Purdue University $800,000 Researchers will create an in-situ measurement based experimental approach to develop experimental validation dataset for NEAMS based code validation. Particular emphasis is on supplying data set for multiphysics simulations in extreme conditions as a function of material microstructure.
Experimental Validation of UO2 Microstructural Evolutions for NEAMS tool MARMOT University of Florida $798,000 Researchers will experimentally validate MARMOT for predicting the microstructural evolutions of UO2 oxide fuel under the driving forces of high temperatures and large temperature gradient in reactors. By performing the experiments and simulations simultaneously using precisely defined initial conditions, the experiment data will provide direct benchmarking of the MARMOT code.
High-resolution time-resolved experiments on mixing and entrainment of buoyant jets in stratified environments University of Michigan $799,983 Researchers will study high spatial and time-resolution experimental data of the fluid dynamics phenomena of flow jets interacting with a stratified layer. The issue plays an important role in the safety of several reactor designs, including sodium-cooled reactors. The data addresses the NEAMS needs for the validation of high fidelity computational fluid dynamics methodologies.
  Total NEAMS $2,397,983  
Mission Supporting Nuclear Energy: Integral Benchmark Evaluations
Experimental Breeder Reactor II Benchmark Evaluation Idaho State University $400,000 Researchers will develop a benchmark evaluation of the Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II). During nearly 30 years of operation numerous experiments were conducted at EBR-II. The most significant of these experiments were conducted in 1986 demonstrating inherent safety features in loss of flow without reactor scram and loss of heat sink without reactor scram. Benchmark evaluation will be valuable for the reactor design efforts in the United States and South Korea.
Integral full core multi-physics PWR benchmark with measured data Massachusetts Institute of Technology $400,000 Researchers will introduce BEAVRS, a new multi-cycle full-core Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) depletion benchmark based on two operational cycles of a commercial nuclear power plant. This project aims at addressing the uncertainty quantification of the measured data and on making this benchmark a true non-proprietary international benchmark for the validation of high-fidelity multi-physics computational tools.
Benchmark Evaluation of PROTEUS Gas-Cooled Reactor Experiments University of Florida $400,000 Researchers will create International Reactor Physics Experiment Evaluation Project (IRPhEP) benchmarks using data from 1970s experiments of the neutronics of gas-cooled fast reactor (GCFR) designs investigated in the PROTEUS reactor. The GCFR-PROTEUS experiments fill a gap in current integral benchmark data. These experiments can provide validation of computational models and nuclear data for next generation reactors.
  Total MS-NE-1 $1,200,000  
  Total Awards $30,094,008  

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.