Six Nuclear Engineering Faculty Members Receive U.S. Department of Energy NEUP Grants

Six Nuclear Engineering Faculty Members Receive U.S. Department of Energy NEUP Grants

June 18, 2020

NEUP-Logo-Gold

NEUP funds nuclear energy research and equipment upgrades at U.S. colleges and universities and provides student educational support.

The following six faculty members were awarded NEUP grants to further their research to help the U.S. Department of Energy accomplish its mission of leading the nation's investment in the development and exploration of advanced nuclear science and technology:

IRP:
MIT & Raluca Scarlat: Molten Salt Reactor Test Bed with Neutron Irradiation
UTK & Massimiliano Fratoni: Multi-physics fuel performance modeling of TRISO-bearing fuel in advanced reactor environments
NEUP: 
Rebecca Abergel: Evaluating hydroxypyridinone-based ligands for actinide and fission products recovery in used fuels
Peter Hosemann: Femtosecond Laser Ablation Machining & Examination - Center for Active Materials Processing (FLAME-CAMP)
Lee Bernstein, Massimiliano Fratoni, Jon:  Improved Molten Salt Reactor Design with New Nuclear Data for the 35Cl(n,x) and 56Fe(n,n’) reactions
NCSU & Peter Hosemann:  Corrosion Sensitivity of Stainless Steels in Pressurized Water Reactor Water Chemistry: Can KOH replace LiOH in PWRs?
NEUP infrastructure:
Peter Hosemann: Scanning Electron Microscope for nuclear materials investigation enabling in-situ techniques and novel characterization for the nuclear energy community

 

Researchers lead federal efforts to improve COVID-19 testing

Researchers lead federal efforts to improve COVID-19 testing

April 22, 2020

Rebecca Abergel of Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division is studying how an anti-radiation-poisoning pill she developed in 2014 could help to protect people from the potential toxicity in the long-term retention of gadolinium, an ingredient in MRI contrast agents. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 in Berkeley, Calif. 09/04/19

The Department of Nuclear Engineering is pleased to announce that one of our very own faculty has been leading the efforts during this global pandemic in the fight against COVID-19.

Rebecca Abergel, a faculty scientist in the Chemical Sciences Division and faculty for the Department of Nuclear Engineering, is leading a team to help establish validated alternatives to the instruments and reagents used for the currently approved diagnostics for COVID-19. This effort will provide normalized protocols to the broader community.

For more information, click here

David T. Attwood Award for ASTES (AS&T Excellence in Service)

David T. Attwood Award for ASTES (AS&T Excellence in Service)

May 8, 2020

Our very own, Marissa Ramirez de Chanlatte, was selected as the recipient for the David T. Attwood Award for ASTES (AS&T Excellence in Service).

Congratulations Marissa! The department celebrates your accomplishments!

Bethany Goldblum to receive 2020 James Corones Award

Bethany Goldblum to Receive 2020 Corones Award

April 29, 2020

Bethany

The Krell Institute has named Bethany Goldblum the recipient of the James Corones Award in Leadership, Community Building, and Communication for 2020.

The late James Corones founded Krell, a nonprofit that oversees several DOE graduate fellowship programs, in particular, the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration Stewardship Science and Laboratory Residency graduate fellowships (DOE NNSA SSGF and DOE NNSA LRGF). Dr. Goldblum was chosen for her exceptional achievements in nuclear physics and nonproliferation, mentorship of early-career scientists, and her advocacy for science communication.

Goldblum is the Department of Nuclear Engineering associate research engineer and executive director of the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium, a UC Berkeley-led collaboration of seven universities and five Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories. The consortium, established with a $25 million grant from the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE NNSA), focuses on nuclear security and nonproliferation research and on training future nuclear experts. Goldblum was instrumental in the program’s renewal in 2016.

For more information, click here.

Congratulations Dr. Bethany Goldblum!

Daniel Kammen elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Daniel Kammen elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 23, 2020

Kammen

Nine UC Berkeley faculty members from a wide range of disciplines have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), a 240-year-old organization honoring the country’s most accomplished artists, scholars, scientists and leaders.

The nine are among 276 new AAAS members from throughout the country and raise Berkeley’s total count of living AAAS members to about 260.

Daniel Kammen, a professor of energy and resources, public policy and nuclear engineering and director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. He directs research on the energy supply and energy transmission, smart grid and low-carbon energy systems, life-cycle impacts of transportation options and energy for community development in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The new UC Berkeley members are in good company. Other newly elected members are singer, songwriter and activist Joan Baez, former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., author Ann Patchett, poet and playwright Claudia Rankine, lawyer Anita Hill, New York Times reporter Adam Liptak and independent filmmaker Richard Linklater.

“The members of the class of 2020 have excelled in laboratories and lecture halls, they have amazed on concert stages and in surgical suites, and they have led in board rooms and courtrooms,” said AAAS president David Oxtoby. “With today’s election announcement, these new members are united by a place in history and by an opportunity to shape the future through the Academy’s work to advance the public good.”

For more information click here

climate one Podcast, “What’s the Future for Nuclear Power?”

climate one Podcast, "What's the Future for Nuclear Power?"

April 10th, 2020

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Guests

Per Peterson, Professor of Nuclear Engineering, UC Berkeley

Edwin Lyman, Acting Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists

@NucSafetyUCS

 Ken Farabaugh, Former Employee, Vermont Yankee

 Jose Reyes, Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer, NuScale Power

@NuScale_Power

Jacob Dewitte, CEO, Oklo

@jakedewitte

@oklo

Christine Parthemore, Chief Executive Officer, The Council on Strategic Risks

@clparthemore

@CSRisks

Tweets

Once thought to be a modern power source, nuclear fell out of favor after a series of major accidents. But nuclear power is extraordinarily efficient, reliable and clean--does it deserve a new lease on life? The latest episode of @climateone is out now: https://spoti.fi/2Xy2I54

Summary

Nuclear power - revive it or allow a slow death? Today, about a hundred nuclear plants provide 20 percent of America’s electricity.

Once touted as a modern power source, nuclear fell out of favor after a series of major accidents – most notably those at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. A handful of the plants that once dotted the landscape have been shuttered because they can’t compete with cheaper sources of power. By the end of the century, the industry was languishing. But the urgency of climate change causes some to advocate giving nuclear a new lease on life.  A discussion about the health of the nuclear power industry today, and the 21st century innovations that could point to a new path forward.

The podcast and radio show has been released, and is available on climate oneiTunesStitcher, Spotify and GooglePlay

National Academy of Engineering

Professor Per Peterson, Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

February 07, 2020

Per_Peterson

The Nuclear Engineering Department would like to recognize our very own Professor Per Peterson on his elected membership to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Per Peterson was elected for his distinguished contributions in experimental and analytical research for the design and development of passive safety systems for advanced nuclear reactors.

Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature" and to "the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education."

For more information, click here.

Best Paper Awards

Announcing: The 2019 UC Berkeley's Nuclear Engineering Department Best Paper Awards

December 13, 2019

This past Friday, our department chair Peter Hosemann continues his annual holiday tradition and gave out the 2019 UC Berkeley's Nuclear Engineering Department Best Paper Awards to eight students at this year's holiday party.

Let's celebrate the following students for their amazing work:

  1. David Frazer for his publication entitled "Plasticity of UO2 studied and quantified via elevated temperature micro compression testing" in the Journal of Nuclear Materials.
  2. Kylie Bilton for his publication entitled “Non-negative Matrix Factorization of Gamma-Ray Spectra for Background Modeling, Detection, and Source Identification” in IEEE Transactions in Nuclear Science.
  3. Adriana Sweet for her publication entitled “Radiative-capture cross sections for the 139La(n, g) reaction using thermal neutrons and structural properties of 140La” in Physical Review C.
  4. Marissa Ramirez De Chanlette for her publication entitled "A Two-Grid and Nonlinear Diffusion Acceleration Method for the SN Equations with Neutron Upscattering." in the Journal of Computational Transport Theory.
  5. Tyler Bailey for his publication entitled “Biodistribution Studies of Chelated Ce-134/La-134 as Positron-Emitting Analogues of Alpha-Emitting Therapy Radionuclides” in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.
  6. Amanda Lewis for her publication entitled "Ratio method for estimating uncertainty in calculated gamma cascades" in the European Physical Journal A.
  7. Jonathan Morrell for his publication entitled "Boutique neutrons advance 40Ar/39Ar-geochronology" in Science Advances.
  8. Daniel Wooten for his publication entitled "Linear Optimization for Predicting Material Compositions in Molten Salt Reactors" in the Annals of Nuclear Energy.

Congratulations to all the winners and a special thank you to those who were able to attend the event. Happy Holidays!

Rebecca Abergel elected as AAAS Fellow

Rebecca Abergel elected as AAAS Fellow

December 3, 2019

Rebecca Abergel of Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division is studying how an anti-radiation-poisoning pill she developed in 2014 could help to protect people from the potential toxicity in the long-term retention of gadolinium, an ingredient in MRI contrast agents. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 in Berkeley, Calif. 09/04/19

Our very own Rebecca Abergel has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an lifetime distinction bestowed upon the society’s members by their peers.

4 other UC Berkeley faculty members have been awarded and featured in this week's Berkeley News:

"The five are among 443 members awarded the honor because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Founded in 1848, the AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of Science and five other journals."

The article highlighted her work and leadership within the department and at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

See the News article here.

Professor Abergel will receive official certificates and rosette pins in gold and blue, colors symbolizing science and engineering, in a ceremony on Feb. 15, 2020, during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle.

See the AAAS announcement here.

Students make neutrons dance beneath Berkeley campus

Students make neutrons dance beneath Berkeley campus

September 11th, 2018

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In an underground vault enclosed by six-foot concrete walls and accessed by a rolling, 25-ton concrete-and-steel door, University of California, Berkeley, students are making neutrons dance to a new tune: one better suited to producing isotopes required for geological dating, police forensics, hospital diagnosis and treatment.

Dating and forensics rely on a spray of neutrons to convert atoms to radioactive isotopes, which betray the chemical composition of a substance, helping to trace a gun or reveal the age of a rock, for example. Hospitals use isotopes produced by neutron irradiation to kill tumors or pinpoint diseases like cancer in the body.

For these applications, however, only nuclear reactors can produce a strong enough spray of neutrons, and there are only two such reactors west of the Mississippi.

As an alternative, a team including UC Berkeley students has built a tabletop neutron source that would be relatively inexpensive to reproduce and eventually portable and also able to produce a narrower range of neutron energies, minimizing the production of unwanted radioactive byproducts.

“Any hospital in the country could have this thing, they could build it for a few hundred thousand dollars to make local, very short-lived medical isotopes — you could just run them up the elevator to the patient,” said Karl van Bibber, a UC Berkeley professor of nuclear engineering who oversees the students perfecting the device. “It has application in geochronology, neutron activation analysis for law enforcement agencies — when the FBI wants to determine the provenance of a sample as evidence, for example — neutron radiography, to look for cracks in aircraft parts. This is very compact, the size of a little convection oven; I think it’s great, we are excited about this.”

students with neutron generator

Graduate students Mauricio Ayllon Unzueta (left) and Jonathan Morrell adjust the high flux neutron generator in an underground vault at UC Berkeley. The aluminum vacuum chamber contains the deuterium plasma and the cathode target where the neutrons are generated via fusion. (UC Berkeley photo by Irene Yi)

UC Berkeley researchers have now demonstrated that the high flux neutron generator (HFNG) can produce “boutique” neutrons — neutrons within a very narrow range of energies — that can be used to accurately date fine-grained rocks nearly impossible to date by other radioisotope techniques. The study will be published this week in the journal Science Advances.

“This will expand the capability of dating fine-grained materials, like clay minerals associated with ore deposits, including gold, or lava flows,” said Paul Renne, a UC Berkeley professor-in- residence in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science and director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center. “This device might also let us look at the most primitive objects in our solar system — calcium/aluminum-rich inclusions found in certain types of meteorites — which are also very fine-grained.”

As they report in the new paper, the researchers used the neutron generator to determine the age of fine-grained lava from the 79 A.D. eruption of Vesuvius, which buried the Roman city of Pompeii. The date they calculated was as precise as the answer given by an exhaustive study in 1997 using state-of-the-art argon-argon dating of samples irradiated at a nuclear reactor.

“It’s making it possible to do things that were not possible otherwise,” Renne said.

The long road to desktop fusion

Renne has been searching for better ways to irradiate rock samples for decades and heard about one possible method from the late UC Berkeley nuclear engineering professor Stanley Prussin, who died in 2015. The technique involves the fusion of two deuterium atoms, which are isotopes of hydrogen, to produce helium-3 and one neutron. These neutrons have an energy — about 2.5 million electron volts — that is ideal for irradiating rocks to conduct argon-argon dating, one of the most precise methods in use today.

van Bibber and Renne near the vault

Nuclear engineer Karl van Bibber (left) and geochronologist Paul Renne (right) standing by the massive door to the vault housing the neutron generator. (UC Berkeley photo by Robert Sanders)

Argon-argon dating relies on the fact that about one in every 1,000 potassium atoms in rock is the radioactive isotope potassium-40, which decays to argon-40 with a half-life of more than a billion years. Using neutrons, scientists convert some of the stable potassium, potassium-39, to argon-39, then measure the ratio of Ar-40 to Ar-39 in the sample to calculate its age.

Rock samples must now be irradiated at nuclear reactors, but reactors produce very energetic neutrons that can knock argon atoms out of the sample — a particular problem for rocks with microscopic grains — and also produce unwanted radioactive elements. Both effects make age calculation more difficult.

The HFNG avoids both of these problems, because the neutrons are one-tenth the energy of those from a nuclear reactor and have a narrower range of energies, while still maintaining a high flux of neutrons.

“Eliminating the recoil issue, plus reduction of interfering reactions, is huge,” Renne said. “But the radiological aspects are also improved.”

“The beauty of this thing, we realized, is that you don’t have this thing spewing neutrons everywhere and creating a radiological issue,” added van Bibber, who is the Shankar Sastry Chair of Leadership and Innovation. “You’re actually having a modest number of neutrons, but by getting the target close to the point source — the thing that matters — the neutron flux at the sample is very high.”

The first device to create neutrons via deuterium-deuterium (D-D) fusion was designed 10 years ago by Renne’s team, which included plasma physicist Ka-Ngo Leung, formerly of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). But their prototype languished until van Bibber took an interest in 2012, shortly after his appointment as chair of UC Berkeley’s Department of Nuclear Engineering. To house the fusion generator, van Bibber took over a concrete vault formerly used for experiments conducted with the campus’s nuclear reactor, which used to sit under what is now Soda Hall — though it sits in a large underground room that is part of the basement of Etcheverry Hall — until the reactor closed in 1987 and was removed.

a cutaway view of the neutron generator

This cutaway of the high flux neutron generator shows the two chambers (bronze) where the deuterium is heated to 50,000 C, creating a plasma of ionized deuterium. A 100,000-volt charge at the extraction plate accelerates the ions toward the target, which contains more deuterium atoms. When two deuterium atoms fuse, they produce a neutron, which irradiates a sample placed nearby. The shroud prevents excessive heating from backstreaming electrons.

The generator employs about 100,000 volts to accelerate ionized deuterium atoms toward a metal cathode made of titanium. The deuterium accumulates on the cathode in a thin layer that then serves as a target for other incoming ions. When colliding deuterons fuse, a neutron is produced in a broad beam that irradiates the sample located about a third of an inch away.

Over the years, van Bibber enlisted many undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to help make the neutron generator a reality. One of them, transfer student Max Wallace, a rising senior interested in nuclear forensics, was amazed at the access he had to such a machine.

“It’s rare to be able to work with radioisotopes as an undergraduate,” said the former software engineer. “I learned to do so much late at night, wearing gloves and goggles to measure the radiation, taking samples, doing safety checks and running the software. Really, I’d learn something in my nuclear physics class and then come down here to work on a direct application of it.”

For Mauricio Ayllon Unzueta, a fourth-year graduate student in nuclear engineering, the experience he obtained in helping to perfect the neutron generator led directly to a new project at Berkeley Lab: designing a variant of the HFNG that could be taken into the field to do neutron activation of soils to measure carbon content — a key piece of information if society hopes to sequester carbon in soils to mitigate climate change.

“Through three generations of graduate students, we turned it from something which barely worked into a high performing neutron generator,” van Bibber said.

Daniel Rutte, a UC Berkeley postdoctoral researcher in geology working with Renne and BGC lab manager Tim Becker, played a critical role in designing and conducting the first dating experiment, according to Renne.

“Daniel was literally the key player in demonstrating that this would work for Ar-Ar geochronology,” he said.

Rutte’s goal is to develop new methods and instruments to better understand Earth processes, in particular the deformation of the Earth’s crust, which occurs by slow creep or rapid rupture resulting in earthquakes.

“To understand long-term crustal deformation, I date old ruptures preserved in the rock record,” Rutte said. “The neutron generator will aid progress in this field by expanding the range of materials we can date.”

Karl van Bibber adjusting neutron generator

Karl van Bibber examining the high flux neutron generator in an underground concrete vault that blocks X-rays produced when the experiment is running. (UC Berkeley photo by Robert Sanders)

With ongoing student help, van Bibber and Renne expect to be able to make the neutron generator more compact and to produce a more intense spray of neutrons, making it more broadly useful for geochronology, as well as for other specialized uses. Researchers at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory have already shown interest in using these neutrons to test electronic hardware to determine how it will survive in the radioactive environment of space. Higher energy neutrons could be used for neutron radiography, which can complement X-ray radiography in imaging the interior of dense objects, like metals.

“The purpose all along had been to test Paul’s dream of whether we could use a very compact, low-voltage device to do neutron irradiation,” van Bibber said. “We’ve now shown that any university can have a neutron source for doing the argon-argon dating technique.”

Co-authors of the paper with Renne, van Bibber, Wallace and Ayllon are former postdoctoral researcher and first author Daniel Rutte, now at the University of Bonn in Germany; students Jonathan Morrell, Jon Batchelder, Su-Ann Chong, Will Heriot, Angel Marcial, Charles Johnson, Graham Woolley and Parker Adams and electrical engineer Jay James, all of UC Berkeley; Liqiang Qi, Jonathan Wilson and Mathieu Lebois of the Institut de Physique Nucléaire d’Orsay in France; Tim Becker of BGC; and Lee Bernstein of Berkeley Lab. The work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (EAR-0960138).