The Michigan Engineer News Center

U-M faculty receive $1.9M in DOE funding awards

NERS faculty are well represented as DOE releases its FY2020 Research and Development Awards| Short Read

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $65 million to support 93 projects spread across 28 different states. The U-M department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences (NERS) has received $1,883,668 to fund seven projects to advance nuclear technology. The awards are through two DOE programs: the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) and the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies (NEET). 

“Investments in programs like these help strengthen American leadership in nuclear innovation by supporting the development of the next generation of talent,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy and alum of the U-M College of Engineering. “DOE is committed to ensuring that researchers have access to cutting-edge infrastructure and lab capabilities to develop advanced nuclear technologies.”

“Advancing the next generation of nuclear energy is paramount to ensuring reliable, clean electricity for the American people. If we are serious about making substantial progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, then emissions-free nuclear energy must be a part of that conversation,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.


Center for thermal-fluids application in nuclear energy: Establishing the knowledgebase for thermal-hydraulic multiscale simulation to accelerate the deployment of advanced reactors

NERS PI: Professor Annalisa Manera
Amount: $500,143
Collaborators: NERS, Penn State University (Lead—Dr. Elia Merzari), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University, Liberty University, Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, General Atomics, Westinghouse, TerraPower LLC, Kairos Power
Project description: Researchers will establish a university component to the recently established Center of Excellence for Thermal Fluids Applications in Nuclear Energy that is fully integrated with the laboratory efforts and its stakeholders (e.g., industry, DOE programs, NRC).The consortium will deliver improved, fast-running models for complex physical phenomena involving turbulent mixing, thermal stratification and thermal striping in complex geometries relevant to these reactors. This will in turn lead to improved economics by achieving higher operating temperatures and/or a reduction in capital costs.


Deployment Pathways of Small Modular Reactors in Electric Power, Industrial, and Other Niche Markets to Achieve Cost Reductions and Widespread Use (RC-10.2)

NERS PI: Professor Todd Allen
Amount: $73,207
Collaborators: NERS, U-M School for Environment and Sustainability (lead—Michael Craig), Cornell University
Project description: Researchers will explore how to leverage two key value propositions for small modular reactors (SMR) in shifting market conditions, in order to achieve widespread market deployment: (1) participation in small and large power and industrial markets and (2) cost reductions via mass fabrication. The result of this work will be advanced power system modeling, optimized SMR design with thermal storage for power and industry markets, and new SMR deployment pathways.


Development and Demonstration of Scalable Fluoride Salt Pump Seals and Bearings for FHRs

NERS PI: Adam Burak
Amount: $380,000
Collaborators: NERS, University of New Mexico (lead—Minghui Chen), High Temperature System Designs LLC, Wenesco Pumps, Kairos Power
Project description: Researchers will develop and demonstrate scalable advanced bearings and seals of fluoride salt pumps for fluoride-salt-cooled, high-temperature reactors. The systematic approach to be used will employ both experimental and numerical methods to investigate the static and dynamic performance of fluoride-salt-lubricated bearings and high-temperature seals. The outcomes of this research will directly contribute to the reliability, safety, design, and operation of the fluoride-salt-cooled, high-temperature reactor power plants.


Development of innovative overlapping-domain coupling between SAM and NEK5000

NERS PI: Professor Annalisa Manera
Amount: $340,000
Collaborators: NERS (lead), Penn State University, Argonne National Laboratory
Project description: Researchers will develop a robust, multi-scale coupling scheme between the SAM code and the CFD code, NEK5000, based on a novel overlapping domain approach. The developed coupling will be validated by using experiments specifically designed for the validation of multi-scale coupled codes.


Engineering-Informed, Data-Driven Degradation Modeling, Prognostics and Control for Radiation-induced Void Swelling in Reactor Steels

NERS PI: Professor Todd Allen
Amount: $163,758
Collaborators: NERS, University of Wisconsin-Madison (lead—Dr. Kaibo Liu)
Project description: Researchers will advance the capability to model, predict and control void swelling in irradiated structural components through developing engineering-informed, advanced data-driven statistical and machine learning techniques. Excess swelling not only leads to dimensional instability, but also can cause severe embrittlement of internal materials. The proposed efforts will ensure more effective regulation, aging management and license renewal.


Innovative Enhanced Automation Control Strategies for Multi-unit SMRs

NERS PI: Professor Brendan Kochunas
Amount: $720,000
Collaborators: NERS (lead), University of Tennessee, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Idaho National Laboratory, NuScale Power LLC
Project description: Researchers will develop an innovative, enhanced automation control framework for small modular reactors (SMRs) that supports control of multiple units operating in a variety of reactor core conditions. Through these enhancements, SMR technology gains improved marketability through potential deployment to a broader range of markets and can also lead to reduced operating and maintenance costs for a SMR site, increasing the overall profitability.


Design and Prototyping of Advanced Control Systems for Advanced Reactors Operating in the Future Electric Grid

NERS PI: Professor Brendan Kochunas
Amount: $100,000
Collaborators: NERS, Argonne National Laboratory (lead—Roberto Ponciroli), Kairos Power
Project description: Researchers will design and demonstrate advanced control schemes for semi-autonomous and remote operation of advanced reactors to support integrated energy systems with energy storage technologies. The research will develop a control system architecture that will integrate with future changes to the grid, including highly variable grid demand.


Development of a High Throughput Nuclear Materials Synthesis Laboratory

NERS PI: Professor Kevin Field
Amount: $166,560
Collaborators:  NERS (lead)
Project description: This project will allow for the acquisition of equipment to establish rapid materials consolidation and modification to complement the already established facilities at the University of Michigan, including the world-class Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory (MIBL). Coupling both MIBL and the proposed facility in a single research effort will result in a new end-to-end high throughput nuclear materials discovery capability in a single institution. The resulting increase in capability will serve all nuclear energy supporting universities, national laboratories, and industry.

Portrait of Shannon Thomas


Shannon Thomas
Research Process Manager

Michigan Engineering

(734) 763-7760

1905 Cooley Bldg

  • Todd Allen

    Todd Allen

    Chair of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences

  • Adam Burak

    Assistant Research Scientist, Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences

  • Kevin Field

    Kevin Field

    Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences

  • Brendan Kochunas

    Brendan Kochunas

    Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences

  • Annalisa Manera

    Annalisa Manera

    Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences

The outside of the Ford Robotics building

U-Michigan, Ford open world-class robotics complex

The facility will accelerate the future of advanced and more equitable robotics and mobility | Medium Read