MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


US News and World Report again rated the department number one in its field. The consistency of this ranking over many years has reflected the quality of scholarship by students and faculty in the department.

This past year has been one in which we have devoted much of our effort towards implementing our strategic plan. Our Visiting Committee reviewed our program this past fall and in general was pleased with the progress we have made in the implementation. They also agreed with our identification of those areas needing more effort and new ideas. We will send them an interim report describing further progress this coming fall.

Of particular interest, the Department of Nuclear Engineering and the MIT Energy Laboratory have jointly developed a new Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES). The Center aims to create through research concepts for nuclear energy systems that promise more favorable economics, safety, proliferation resistance and environmental impact. The Center's programs involve development and application of methods for the design, operation, and regulation of current and advanced nuclear reactors and fuel cycles. This requires advances in knowledge about traditional scientific and technical disciplines, modern methods of systems reliability, probabilistic safety analysis and decision analysis, together with human interactions and management science. The Center will start operation in July 2000 with Professor Mujid S. Kazimi as its first Director.


Twenty-five students were enrolled in the undergraduate program during the past year. This included 9 sophomores, 5 juniors, 11 seniors. Nine students completed requirements for the bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering.

We are nearing completion of a major review and updating of our undergraduate curriculum. All subjects have been re-examined in detail to insure that the correct basics are being covered, that overlap has been minimized, and that the curriculum meets the need of the wide variety of interests exhibited by our undergraduates.

Professor David Cory introduced a new undergraduate subject, 22.058 Principles of Imaging focusing on the principles of tomagraphic imaging. Applications include X-ray, PET, MRI, and ultrasound imaging. This subject is expected to be of wide interest throughout the Institute.

As part of our effort to increase NE’s contribution to undergraduate education, two faculty members taught UG subjects outside the department (in addition to our "J" listed subjects): Professor Neil Todreas was involved in the teaching of 2.005 Thermal-Fluids Engineering I and Professor Jeffrey Freidberg in 6.002 Circuits and Electronics


The graduate program totaled 113 students during the fall term. Of this number, 35 were enrolled for their first term. Forty-three percent are specializing in radiation science and technology; 36 percent are working in fission and energy studies, and 21 percent in fusion. The department awarded 13 masters, 1 engineers, and 7 doctoral degrees during the academic year.

Professor Larry Lidsky developed and taught a new course 22.591 Radioisotope Production and Applications. This course concentrates on radioactive isotopes but spends time on stable isotopes as well. This new course replaced his previous lab course, Principles of Nuclear Radiation Measurement and Protection.

Professor Sow-Hsin Chen and a graduate student Julian Lebenhaft introduced a new IAP course on "Quantum Mechanics For Nuclear Engineers" and taught it as an enrichment subject for needed undergraduate and graduate students. The course will be offered again next January.


Professor Jacquelyn Yanch was named a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow. This award recognizes MIT’s outstanding teachers of undergraduate students and comes out of respect for both their intellect and their closeness to their students. This program honors the life and contributions of the late Margaret MacVicar who was Dean for Undergraduate Education. Professor Yanch also received the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching. This award acknowledges the tradition of high quality engineering education at MIT.

Professor Ken Czerwinski received a Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering in addition to a Department of Energy (DOE) Defense Programs Early Career Scientist and Engineer Award. The later award recognizes outstanding young scientists and engineers for their contributions to the Department’s national security mission. Professor Czerwinski’s work in developing the fundamental chemistry of the new element, rutherfordium (element 104), by perfecting "one-atom-at-a-time" chemical procedures on the highly radioactive atoms of 263Rf is of significant importance to the Department’s national security mission. He was also a visiting professor at the organic chemistry and nuclear science group at Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris. He reviewed DOE-EMSP Proposals in Actinide Chemistry. He was a session organizer of the American Chemical Society session on nuclear waste forms. He is currently a member of the National Research Council Committee on Selecting Long Term Research Plan for the Deactivation and Decommissioning of Department of Energy Sites. In the 22.76 Nuclear Chemical Engineering, students performed plutonium-uranium separations with reactor irradiated materials.

Professor Mujid Kazimi was appointed in April as the first holder of the Tokyo Electric Power Company chair in nuclear engineering at MIT. He is Chairman of the MIT Research Reactor Safeguards Committee that reviewed during the fall the safety analysis of an upgraded power level that was part of the relicensing application of the MITR. He continues to chair the Hanford waste Tank Advisory Panel (TAP) for DOE-Richland that he has chaired since 1990. In November 1999, he gave an invited lecture at the annual meeting of the American Nuclear Society entitled "Rethinking Nuclear Energy Technology." In May he gave an invited lecture on the evolution of transmutation concepts at a symposium held at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He organized 3-sessions on Liquid Metal Cooled Reactors at the ICONE-8 meeting in Baltimore that took place during April 2000.

Professor Jeffrey Freidberg was elected Chair of the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO), a group whose role is to coordinate and develop national policies and positions with respect to the academic community’s view of nuclear engineering education, following the American Nuclear Society’s annual meeting in June, 2000. Professor Freidberg was also reelected to a 2-year term as a member of the DOE’s Fusion Energy Science Advisory Committee (FESAC). This committee provides advice and guidance to DOE Director of the Office of Science, Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus on the national fusion program.

Professor Ian Hutchinson was appointed the Honorary Editor of "Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion," one of the top journals in the field of plasma physics.

Professors Larry Lidsky and Michael Golay were elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. Professor Golay continued his service on the Advisory Council of the Institute for Nuclear Power Operatons. He has served on the TOPS Committee of the DOE’s Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee.

Professor George Apostolakis continues to serve on the International Nuclear Technology Commission that advises the governments of three German states (Baden-Wurttemburg, Bavaria, and Hesse) on nuclear technology matters. He has also served as vice-chairman of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The PAI Outstanding Teaching Award (awarded by the student chapter of the American Nuclear Society) was presented to Professor Kim Molvig.

Professor Sow-Hsin Chen has been invited to chair a session on "Dynamics of water in confined geometry" at the Gordon Conference on Physics and Chemistry of Water, August 2000.

Professor Andrew Kadak was electedserved as the President of the American Nuclear Society for the 1999—2000 term.



The Energy Laboratory and the Nuclear Engineering Department have jointly developed a new Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES). The Center aims to create through research concepts for nuclear energy systems that promise more favorable economics, safety, proliferation resistance and environmental impact. The Center's programs involve development and application of methods for the design, operation, and regulation of current and advanced nuclear reactors and fuel cycles. This requires advances in knowledge about traditional scientific and technical disciplines, modern methods of systems reliability, probabilistic safety analysis and decision analysis, together with human interactions and management science. The Center will start operation in July 2000 with Professor Mujid S. Kazimi as its first Director.

With the increasing concerns about global climate change, MIT’s Department of Nuclear Engineering is taking a lead on developing advanced reactor technologies that can meet the technical, political and environmental needs of the future. The challenges facing new nuclear energy plants are economic, enhanced safety and non-proliferation with waste forms that are lower in quantity and more readily disposable. Through MIT’s new initiative, so-called "Generation IV," advanced reactor designs are being promoted by the Department of Energy and supported by the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI). In the highly competitive race for new research grants the fission group was part of the winning team inof 6 out of 46 national grants the first year and 4 out of 10 national grants awardedthe second year. The NERI program is just one piece of evidence suggesting a continuing resurgence of national interest in nuclear power as an option for the future. This work will lead to the development of advanced nuclear energy plants that can be competitive and safe to meet the energy and environmental challenges of the future.

The University Research Consortium (URC) of the DOE Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) has continued to support research projects at MIT, primarily in nuclear technologies, under the new contractor Bechtel which took over management of INEEL in October 1999. With support from the URC, a three-year program was initiated in October 1998 for development of advanced nuclear technology through an MIT/INEEL Strategic Nuclear Research Collaboration (SNRC). The aim of the SNRC is to investigate options that promote nuclear technology as a source of electricity in the next century. In its second year the program had a total funding at MIT of $1.2 million per year tied with about $1 million funding at INEEL. Four projects were funded under this initiative: the Modular Gas Cooled Reactor (MPBR) under the direction of Professors Andrew Kadak and Ronald Ballinger; the Lead-Bismuth Cooled Actinide Fueled Reactor (AFR) under the direction of Professors Todreas and Kazimi; advanced Fuels for Light Water Reactors under the direction of Professors Kazimi and Driscoll; and methodology of Performance-Based Regulation under the direction of Professors Apostolakis and Golay.

The new epithermal neutron irradiation facility based on the fission converter approach has started operation at the MITR. The preliminary measurements show that this facility is performing as expected based on the design calculations. The beam intensity is the highest available anywhere and there is negligible beam contamination from fast neutrons and gamma rays. When this beam is used for patient irradiations it will allow irradiations to be completed in a few minutes as opposed to several hours with the existing beam. Furthermore the therapeutic ratio will be doubled over the existing epithermal beam. These characteristics will greatly increase the probability of successful therapy with the neutron capture approach.

Professor Michael Golay is currently serving as Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-PI on six sponsored research projects. Within the USDOE’s Nuclear Energy Research Initiative program he heads the MIT participation in three projects, which are also executed with ABB-Combustion Engineering (now Westinghouse Electric Co.), Duke Engineering and Services and Sandia National Laboratory. Each project is headed respectively by one of these organizations. In the order listed they are concerned with formulating and developing methods for implementation of a risk-informed safety regulatory approach for use with new reactor concepts, with optimizing and creating technologies for change management in the process for new nuclear power plant design, construction and testing, and with development and demonstration of a system for plant-wide health monitoring taking advantage of modern informatic technologies. These projects also respectively involve Professors Apostolakis, Hansen and Todreas.

Professors Apostolakis and Golay are jointly leading a new project, executed with the Tokyo Electric Power Company examining the implications of severe external events (using the example of earthquakes) involving nuclear power plants and the general public. The purpose is to formulate decision principles for deciding when to focus available resources upon the nuclear power plant and when to focus them upon investments to protect the public directly.

Professor Golay is PI on a USDOE-funded project developing methods for testing and quantifying the reliability of simple safety-related software. The motivation of this project is to bring nuclear power plant digital applications into the modern informatic era. Currently most nuclear power plants are about three generations of technology behind the rest of the world because of concerns among safety regulators that use of digital instrumentation and control technologies will introduce opportunities for new failure derived from errors in the associated software.

Professors Golay and Hansen are also working, with funds from the Kann-Rasmussen Foundation, to develop "leading" nuclear power plant performance indicators. Most performance indicators in use are "lagging" in the sense that they indicate past performance but provide little knowledge of likely future performance outcomes. Such lagging indicators have come into widespread use by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in its efforts to make safety regulation more performance-based. In doing this the project team is working with nuclear power plants in the US and China trying to correlate their performance experiences and to use a computerized model of nuclear power plant performance to identify some useful indicators. The focus upon China is to try to help safety regulators in developing a regulatory regime that is useful for regulating the operations of nuclear power plants, even when they are obtained from a diverse set of sources as is the case with China.

Professor Czerwinski was awarded a DOE NERI grant for investigating the speciation of neptunium in spent nuclear fuel. This project is in cooperation with Argonne National Laboratory. The project has initial results on neptunium interaction and speciation in the repository near field. Christi Sherman, a student supported through the project, is performing experiments at Argonne National Laboratory.

A joint project with Ecole Nationale Superieur de Chimie de Paris (ENSCP) and Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris continues to investigate lanthanide and actinide separations. Ion specific resins have been investigated with Americium showing the ability to separate the target metal ions. The project on NMR imaging with Professor Cory is providing exciting results on resin behavior with metals and water. Three presentations at international conferences and two publications on the NMR imaging studies were completed. Dan Caputo, a student performing experiments in the project, will graduate with a Ph.D. in August 2000.

Through a URC project on Th fuel headed by Professor Kazimi, investigations on the behavior of Th fuel in a repository is continuing. Virginia Curran, the graduate student researcher on the project examined the solubility of thorium oxide and synthesized ceramics with thorium and uranium. Synchrotron studies with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have been made on the ceramics.

The project on the interaction of bacteria with uranium began with Professor Martin Polz of Civil and Environmental Engineering and provided the Masters thesis topic for Matt Lewis, who graduated in June 2000. The kinetics of bacteria reduction was determined. The use of indicator dyes for quick analysis of bacteria mediated reduction was evaluated.

With Professors Kazimi and Todreas a project on the release of radioactive polonium compounds from a hot lead-bismuth melt is investigated. The goal is exploring the feasibility of a direct contact heat transfer heavy liquid metal cooled fast reactor for actinide burning and power production. Particular emphasis is given to the study of the chemistry of polonium hydride, which plays a key role in the transport of the radioactive aerosols.

The development of effective soil washing techniques for the removal of actinides, primarily plutonium and americium, from contaminated soils is continuing. The overall goal of the research is to remediate sediments and concentrate waste for disposal. Currently, EDTA is being pursued as an extraction agent. Design aspects being explored include concentration, temperature, contact time, and synergistics.

Radiation Science And Technology

Professor Sow-Hsin Chen and his graduate student Ciya Liao have formulated a "Generalized Three Effective Eigenmode Theory" of supramolecular liquids and have applied the theory to analyses of a series of very high resolution inelastic x-ray scattering spectra from semi-oriented, fully hydrated DLPC Phospholipid bilayers they have measured at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility at Grenoble, France last year. They succeeded in determining a complete frequency-wavevector dispersion relation for the in plane, propagating density waves for both the liquid crystalline and gel phases of the bilayer for the first time. The result has significant implication for a possible mechanism for transport of water molecules across the bilayer.

Professor Sow-Hsin Chen has proposed the idea and presented a scientific case for an Extended Q-Range Small Neutron Scattering Spectrometer to be constructed in the up-coming Spallation Neutron Source (an approved $1.3 billion new project to be completed in ORNL by 2005). The concept is approved by the SNS project and he is currently serving as a member of the Instrument Designing Team for its detailed design. He is also serving as a member of the Instrument Advisory Team of two new multi-million dollar Back Scattering Spectrometers being constructed at the SNS project and at LANSCE in Los Alamos National Lab., respectively.

Quantum Information Processing (QIP)

Professor Cory and his colleagues continue to make rapid advances in the theory, practice and implementation of quantum information processing. Working with Bruker Instruments, Inc. they have helped develop and taken delivery of the first special purpose commercial NMR designed for quantum information processing. They are now constructing a 2nd generation quantum processor which is designed to reach more than 10 qubits.

Professor Cory and his students continue to explore NMR approaches to quantum information processing through a set of collaborations with Dr. T. Havel (HMS), Professor S. Lloyd (Mechanical Engineering), Dr. R. Laflamme (LANL), Dr. E. Knill (LANL), Dr. J. Yepez (AFRL). Much of their recent efforts have been directed to making liquid state NMR implementations of quantum information processing robust at the level of 5 to 7 qubits.

They have also articulated two new schemes for extending the success of NMR approaches to QIP to larger systems and have started to build a solid state device capable of coherently controlling 10—30 qubits, which will have the unique feature of a resettable qubit. This is essential for exploring quantum error correction.

NMR of heterogeneous semi-solids

In Professor Cory, in collaboration with Dr. S. Singer and Dr. Pabitra Sen of Schlumberger Doll Research Laboratory we has continued to explore the structure and fluid dynamics of complex media. This is facilitated by a series of recently developed methods that permit the separation of the pore structure factor from the incoherent fluid motion. We have shown that the NMR signal (after suitable averaging and manipulation) provides a fingerprint of the sample geometry and that much of the inverse problem can be solved. Applications are expected in both biology and in granular or porous media.

Professor Jacqueline Yanch’s new microbeam facility is nearing completion of its construction phase. This facility will have the capability of injecting a single proton or alpha particle into a particular portion of a living cell, thereby offering the opportunity, for the first time, of understanding from first principles the interaction of particle radiation with living matter.

NMR imaging of fluid transport through granular media

In collaborations with Professor Patricia Culligan (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Professor Czerwinski the transport of lanthanides and the displacement of contaminants in model sands, soils and resins are being studied by NMR. For resorcinol resins (used to trap metals) the NMR results provide a clean and unambiguous measure of bound, plasticizer and free water including their exchange properties.

Atomistic simulations

Professor Sidney Yip is continuing his participation in developing the interdisciplinary area of simulation research in materials science. He was an organizer of an international symposium on multiscale materials modeling in Beijing, China, June 1999 with the proceedings published in the Journal of Computer-Aided Materials Design, of which he is the Principal Editor. In January this year he visited the Hong Kong Polytechnic University under a fellowship from the Royal Society (UK) where he initiated a short course on materials processing simulations from the atomistic to the continuum.


Under the direction of Professor Ian Hutchinson, the Alcator C-Mod tokamak continued its studies in high-performance, compact magnetic plasma confinement. Approval was obtained in March 2000 to proceed with the upgrade consisting of installing 3MW of Lower Hybrid power. This addition will permit quasi-steady-state exploration of Advanced Tokamak operation with high fractions of self-generated current. The construction phase, led by Professor Ronald Parker, should be completed after about 30 months. In the subsequent plasma operations we will attempt to demonstrate the feasibility of steady-state tokamak operation attractive for future reactor application.

The diagnostic neutral beam installed as a collaboration with the University of Texas is now operational and the diagnostics based on it have begun to be commissioned. These challenging experimental measurements provide far more detailed information about the profiles of temperature, flow velocity and current density.

Experiments have now established that the core rotation observed on Alcator C-Mod arises in the absence of radio frequency wave heating and recent measurements ruled out an RF mechanism of a type theoretically predicted even when RF is applied. In other words, the plasma spontaneously spins itself up as a result of momentum transport. The process by which this occurs is not understood but may prove to be a key link to understanding tokamak anomalous transport and its suppression.

The dynamic baffles controlling the divertor neutral gas flow during plasma operation have led to new understanding of the determining factors for particle recycling. Recycling impurities are strongly influenced by the divertor flow but the main-chamber neutral pressure is relatively unaffected because the divertor pressure adjusts itself dynamically to maintain approximately constant throughput.

The new antenna for RF heating, installed as part of a collaboration with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, has been upgraded to improve its heating efficiency and higher total heating power levels are being obtained to achieve higher pressure, probing MHD limits.

The high-resolution measurements of the sharp edge of the plasma are showing remarkable structure in the transport barrier, and indicate that additional physics beyond ideal magnetohydrodynamics is essential to explain its stability. Under some circumstances on Alcator C-Mod the particle confinement of this edge transport barrier is reduced, allowing the density and impurities to be controlled. A specific instability has now been measured that appears to be responsible for this favorable mode of operation. Work continues to identify the instability and understand the conditions for its appearance.

Professor Freidberg and graduate student Antonio Bruno have been developing a new theory to predict the anomalos heat transport coefficient in Reversed Field Pinch Configurations. The basic idea is to calculate steady state profiles assuming the plasma has relaxed to a lowest energy state consistent with being marginally stable to tearing modes, the instabilities suspected of being responsible for the anomalous behavior. He is also working with graduate student Mike Thomas on developing a new linear MHD stability code capable of high accuracy including the effects of toroidal plasma flow and a resistive wall surrounding the plasma.


Extracurricular NED student functions centered on the MIT American Nuclear Society Student Branch. There have been many social and athletic events during the year, reflecting the interests of its members. The every other Monday Afternoon Seminar Series, NED Orientation for incoming students, holiday party, and international dinner are a few of the successful events from the past year.

The MIT Chapter of the Alpha Nu Sigma Society, a national honor society for students in applied nuclear science and nuclear engineering, recognized 6 graduate students and 2 undergraduate students for their outstanding academic achievement. The MIT Health Physics Society Student Branch’s activities are focused on environmental radiation transport, radiobiology, and radiation detection and measurement.

The paper "Void Fraction Prediction for the Pb-Bi/Water Direct Contact Nuclear Reactor" authored by Jacopo Buonjiorno, Neil Todreas and Mujid Kazimi was one of three best papers selected from the thermal hydraulic track at the recent ASME sponsored 8th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering (ICONE-8) held April 2—6, 2000 in Baltimore, Maryland. There were a total of 750 papers presented at the conference.

Graduate student Ju Li presented a talk at the international symposium on multiscale materials modeling in Beijing, China, June 1999 which won a best paper award from the sponsoring organization, the International Union of Materials Research Society.

A number of students were recognized at the annual international dinner/awards ceremony in May 2000:

Amanda Johnsen received the Roy Axford Award for academic achievement by a senior in nuclear engineering.

Winnie Yong received the Irving Kaplan Award, which recognizes academic achievement by a junior in nuclear engineering.

Jacopo Buongiorno in recognition of his excellence in academic performance and professional promise received the Manson Benedict Fellowship.

Dan Caputo, Randi Cohen, Julian Levenhaft and Richard Weil shared the Outstanding Student Service Award in recognition of exceptional services to the students, the department and the entire MIT community.

Li Lu received the Outstanding TA Award in recognition of exceptional services to education by a teaching assistant.

Three students from the actinide research group, Virginia Curran, Karen Noyes, and Christi Sherman, received American Nuclear Society Fellowships.

The Scholarship Subcommittee of the ANS Education and Training Division selected Christopher Melhus for the 2000 ANS Everett P. Blizard Scholarship and the Health Physics Society and Landauer Incorporated selected him as the 2000–2001 Robert S. Landauer Sr. Memorial Fellow.

More information about this department can be found on the World Wide Web at

Jeffrey P. Freidberg

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000