What can nuclear engineering learn from design research? Integrating theory and evidence from contemporary nuclear reactor design into policy design


Aditi Verma


FRI, 04/29/2022 - 3:00PM TO 4:00PM
3105 Etcheverry Hall


While nuclear reactor design is recognized as an essential skill and intellectual output of academic nuclear engineering, little attention has been paid within the discipline to the structure of the reactor design process and how factors beyond physical constraints influence design outcomes. In this talk, I describe the first systematic exploration of the nuclear reactor design process through the application of methodological and theoretical tools developed within the mechanical engineering design research field. Empirically based on a study of 27 American and 5 French contemporary reactor projects, this work examines how reactor designers make decisions in the early foundational stages of design such as conceptualizing the available design space and making design choices around cost, safety, and performance. The findings of this study reveal that the structure of the design process and its outcomes are significantly shaped by the identity and expertise of the designer as well as the site of the design work.

They also highlight the importance of social determinants of design outcomes particularly in the early, critical stages of design, and point to the need for a richer understanding of the reactor design process that goes beyond the long-held view focused on engineering analysis as propounded in nuclear engineering pedagogy. A deeper comprehension of these determinants of design outcomes is likely to yield valuable insights for design practice, pedagogical purposes, and chiefly for the creation and implementation of policies in the nuclear energy sector. In closing the talk, I will briefly describe some of these future research directions.


Dr. Aditi Verma joined NERS in the Fall of 2021 as an Assistant Research Scientist and will become an Assistant Dr. Verma joined NERS in the Fall of 2021 as an Assistant Research Scientist and will become an Assistant Professor in the Fall of 2022. She will also support and interact with the Fastest Path team as a Faculty Associate. Verma is a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs’s Project on Managing the Atom, and former Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at the Belfer Center where she was jointly appointed by the Project on Managing the Atom and the International Security Program. At MIT, she was a Burchard Scholar and a Kelly-Douglas Fellow.

Imaging at the Speed of Light – Reconstruction-Free Radionuclide Imaging

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 27, 2015

At UC Davis campus Dr. Simon Cherry  on July 27, 2015.

Photo by Robert Durell

Simon R. Cherry Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Radiology

FRI, 04/22/2022 - 3:00PM TO 4:00PM
3105 Etcheverry Hall

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a widely used medical imaging technique, and like many other tomographic imaging modalities, relies on an image reconstruction step to produce cross-sectional images. Detection and localization of the back-to-back annihilation photons produced by positron-electron annihilation defines the trajectories of these photons, which when combined with tomographic reconstruction algorithms, permits recovery of the spatial distribution of positron-emitting radionuclides.  Time-of-flight information, typically at the level of 200-400 ps in modern PET systems is used to constrain the reconstruction process. Once the time-of-flight resolution is improved by an order of magnitude to ~30 ps, a new regime is encountered where radioactive decay events can be directly localized without the need for tomographic reconstruction. In this presentation we show how prompt Cherenkov luminescence, photodetectors with very fast single photon response times, and deep-learning based timing pickoff algorithms are combined in an ultra-fast radiation detector to achieve a timing resolution of 32 ps, localizing positron-electron annihilation sites to 4.8 mm.  We also show this is sufficient to directly generate a cross-sectional image of positron-emitting radiotracers.

Simon R. Cherry, Ph.D. received his B.Sc.(Hons) in Physics with Astronomy from University College London and a Ph.D. in Medical Physics from the Institute of Cancer Research, University of London. He is currently Professor in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Radiology at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Cherry’s research interests focus on the development and application of biomedical imaging systems. Dr. Cherry is a fellow of six professional societies and served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Physics in Medicine and Biology from 2011-2020. Dr. Cherry was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2016 and to the National Academy of Inventors in 2017.


Kairos Power receives 2022 BloombergNEF Pioneer Award

Kairos Power receives 2022 BloombergNEF Pioneer Award

April 14th, 2022


BloombergNEF has announced its twelve winners of the 2022 BNEF Pioneers program, including Department of Nuclear Engineering professor Per Peterson and alumni Mike Laufer and their team at Kairos Power. Kairos Power was recognized for its "novel advanced nuclear reactor technology to complement renewable energy sources". For over a decade, this program has sought to identify and highlight technological innovations that accelerate global decarbonization and halt climate change.

You can read more about this achievement here.

UCBNE CUORE Collaboration and the Search for Matter

UCBNE CUORE Collaboration and the Search for Matter

April 6th, 2022


"Search for Majorana neutrinos exploiting millikelvin cryogenics with CUORE" has been published in Nature. The Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events (CUORE, Italian for “heart”) is one of several next generation neutrinoless double-beta decay (0νββ) experiments. Affilated with the published article include those from the UC Berkeley Department of Physics, the Nuclear Science Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Engineering Divison of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as well as the UC Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering.

The link to the article can be found here. And further coverage of the article can be found here.

Raluca Scarlat Selected for U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Advisory Team

Raluca Scarlat Selected for U.S. Department of Energy's Nuclear Advisory Team

February 9th, 2022

Raluca Scarlat is among eleven members named to the Department of Energy's Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee, which advises the secretary and the assistant secretary for nuclear energy on current priorities in the department's programs. "A change in the structure and focus in NEAC will help DOE act more quickly and effectively to research advances in nuclear power to meet the nation's energy, environmental, and national security needs,” said Andy Griffith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Supply Chain. NEAC is structured to provide input from multiple perspectives, with Raluca Scarlat representing the university perspective.

Raluca Scarlat is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering, heads the SALT Laboratory at University of California Berkeley, and is the recipient of the ANS Mary Jane Oestmann Award. Professor Scarlat has expertise in high temperature chemistry and materials for advanced reactors, reactor design and safety analysis, and engineering ethics.