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Kansas State University researcher receives $1 million from DOE to advance safety in nuclear reactors

Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016


MANHATTAN — Next-generation nuclear reactors are required to be passively safe — involving no intervention to ensure a safe state of the reactor under all circumstances. Liquid sodium-cooled fast reactors have passive safety design features, but a more fundamental understanding of them is needed to predict the response of these reactors in accident-like situations.

Hitesh Bindra, Kansas State University assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, has been awarded a $799,319 Nuclear Energy University Programs grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study thermal stratification and natural convection in liquid-metal pools, essential to analyzing the response of sodium-cooled fast reactors under transient events and quantify risks. A sub-award of $80,000 from the grant will go to the Argonne National Laboratory, national lead on sodium-cooled fast reactors, who will provide consulting for the Kansas State University team.

Bindra will customize state-of-the-art, ultrasonic-Doppler-velocimetry and fiber-optics-based distributed-temperature sensing techniques to experimentally understand the physics of thermal stratification and differential temperature-driven flows in liquid metals.

"This project will generate much-needed data and understanding to quantify risk estimates and improve the safety design of sodium-cooled fast reactors," Bindra said. "As a by-product, it will train future researchers and engineers for next-generation nuclear reactors."

In a second nuclear reactor safety-related grant, also from the DOE Nuclear Energy University Programs, Bindra and co-principal investigator Terry Beck, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, have been awarded $240,791 to enhance the university department's reactor thermal hydraulics and safety research infrastructure facilities.

Instrumentation and equipment that will be procured under this project include a fiber-optics-based, distributed-temperature sensing system; high-speed imaging system; high-speed, multispectral infrared imaging system; and a very-near, infrared hyperspectral imaging system.

"This equipment will help build a unique research facility capable of simultaneously observing thermal and material behavior in extreme environmental conditions," Bindra said. "The grant will also directly support a DOE-sponsored, liquid-metal thermal hydraulics research project within the mechanical and nuclear engineering department."

These capabilities will assist the Nuclear Energy Systems Transport, or Nu-EST, Lab at Kansas State University to support the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy's mission to advance nuclear power as a resource capable of meeting the nation's energy, environmental and national security needs.

Written by

Mary Rankin

At a glance

Kansas State University's Hitesh Bindra has received more than $1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy for nuclear reactor safety research and work.