Calvin Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso, will lead a project aimed at improving nuclear reactor infrastructure and providing crucial safety and performance upgrades to some of the nation’s 25 university research reactors through an award from the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program. | Photos courtesy UTEP
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) was selected as one of 24 U.S. universities to receive a portion of $59 million allotted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support university-led research projects aimed at improving nuclear reactor infrastructure and providing crucial safety and performance upgrades to some of the nation’s 25 university research reactors.
The money is awarded through the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) and is part of more than $61 million in funding for 99 advanced nuclear energy technology projects in 30 states and a U.S. territory. These awards are meant to bolster the resiliency and use of America’s largest domestic source of carbon-free energy and help meet the White House’s ambitious goals of 100% clean electricity by 2035, and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“Nuclear power is critical to America’s clean energy future and we are committed to making it a more accessible, affordable and resilient energy solution for communities across the country,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said. “At DOE we’re not only investing in the country’s current nuclear fleet, but we’re also investing in the scientists and engineers who are developing and deploying the next generation of advanced nuclear technologies that will slash the amount of carbon pollution, create good-paying energy jobs, and realize our carbon-free goals.”
The award from the DOE’s NEUP will fund UTEP’s acquisition of an Instron 8862 servo-electric testing system with intelligent furnace control capable of high temperature and dynamic qualification testing of nuclear structural materials as well as rapid verification and validation of data. The accelerated testing capacity can be completed in less than 100 hours and processed to replicate up to more than 100,000 hours of conventional testing data.
The project led by Calvin Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering, will support UTEP led nuclear science and engineering students’ research and education programs with the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), U.S. National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC), and DOE Fossil Energy Office as well as upcoming innovative nuclear research programs.
The advanced testing system will better equip UTEP to respond to work scopes under the nuclear reactor technologies, fuel cycle, and crosscutting technology research and development programs.
“I am honored that the DOE supports our work in extreme environment materials, Stewart said. “This new test system will help us to study the aging of structural materials for fission reactors and perform qualification of new additively manufactured materials for fusion reactors.”
Nuclear power provides 20% of America’s overall electricity and more than half of its zero-emissions energy, making it a key part of the nation’s clean energy future. To realize nuclear’s full potential, more research and development is needed to ensure the creation and operation of cost-effective nuclear power and to establish new methods for securely transporting, storing and disposing of spent nuclear fuel waste.
To learn more about DOE’s efforts to continue American leadership in low-carbon nuclear energy innovation, visit the Office of Nuclear Energy’s website.
Author: Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications