MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Department of Nuclear Engineering

During 1994-1995, the department made good progress in the development of a new graduate curriculum. The new curriculum will integrate the four core subjects of various Ph.D. specialties. This will allow the students expanded flexibility in the choice of advanced topics for their Ph.D. studies. The new core subjects will also serve as part of the curriculum of a new Master of Engineering program which is being planned. The first of the new graduate subjects, 22.103 Microscopic Theory of Transport, was approved for first offering in the fall term of 1995. These developments were the result of recommendations by a committee chaired by Professor Jeffrey Freidberg.

In conjunction with the Energy Laboratory, the department initiated a university consortium to help the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL) identify promising technologies for near term development into beneficial applications within the Department of Energy (DOE) complex or in the commercial sector. The nuclear technology was one of three focus areas for the INEL university consortium, the others being the environmental technologies and advanced infrastructure engineering systems. The total research volume sponsored by the consortium in FY 96 is expected to reach ten million dollars. Professors Mujid Kazimi and Michael Golay serve on the management team of this consortium.

Professor David Lanning retired in July of 1994, having spent most of his career at MIT. Among his many contributions was his design of the second (and still operating) core of the MIT Reactor (MITR). In September 1994, the department welcomed assistant professor Xiao-Lin Zhou, who is a specialist in the area of neutron source development and neutron scattering applications for material studies. The department also welcomed as visiting scientist Dr. Chang Saeng Rim, who had been the director of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute.

A general plan to upgrade electronic computation and communication capabilities has been implemented. The campus network lines were upgraded and expanded into all faculty and staff offices. Computer rooms' equipment was upgraded and additional systems purchased to allow all members of the department to take advantage of the campus network and the resources available on the Internet. A strategic plan for distribution of information on the World Wide Web has been developed. High speed DOS, Macintosh, and Digital equipment was purchased and newer printers were purchased to handle the increased use and increased complexity of graphical output.


Twenty-three students were enrolled in the undergraduate program during the past year (four sophomores, eight juniors, and eleven seniors). Also, two students were part of the undergraduate internship program (one junior and one senior). Eight students completed requirements for the bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering.


Twenty-seven new students were welcomed into the graduate program in September. The department's graduate population totaled 123 students, of which 41 percent were specializing in fission studies, 33 percent in radiation applications in biomedical and other technology, and 26 percent in fusion. An additional four students were approved for special student status. During the academic year, 39 students were awarded graduate degrees.

The department offerings in the area of Systems Economics and Policy were reorganized during the past year. Two subjects were initiated in the area of systems engineering and management. Professors Kent Hansen and Michael Golay offered 22.823 Nuclear Industry Dynamics, and Professor John Carroll of the Sloan School of Management offered 22.904 Management and Organization of Complex Systems. In addition, the department's longstanding subject on energy technology was reorganized by Dr. Marvin Miller and Professor Michael Driscoll into an IAP offering, 22.928 Energy in Perspective. The department continues to offer 22.38 Reliability and Risk Assessment and 22.821 Nuclear Policy and Economics.


Professor Elias Gyftopoulos was selected by the ASME division of thermodynamics as the 1995 James Harry Potter Gold Medalist for advancing the theory of thermodynamics to a new level, while clarifying basic concepts that had been generally misunderstood and while unifying the subject with quantum mechanics, and for the application of the science of thermodynamics in mechanical engineering, to industrial energy conservation, to energy policy, and to specific new technologies.

The Board of Directors of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) elected Professor Kazimi as a Fellow of the ANS. He delivered an invited lecture on nuclear technology in the twenty-first century at the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, and chaired a panel at the ANS Working Conference on Nuclear Engineering Education held June 1995 in Philadelphia.

Professor Neil Todreas received the 1995 Arthur Holly Compton Award of the ANS for his contributions to nuclear engineering education and research. He also received the 1994 Technical Achievement Award of the ANS's Thermal Hydraulics Division for technical contributions to the field of nuclear reactor thermal hydraulics. He was the recipient of the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching within MIT's School of Engineering. Professor Todreas chaired the MIT Research Reactor Review Committee. The purpose of this committee was to advise the MIT administration as to the future disposition of the reactor facility. A final report was completed and distributed to the administration in November 1994.

The American Nuclear Society--MIT Student Chapter Outstanding Teaching Award was presented to Professor Kevin Wenzel.

Professor Jacquelyn Yanch's appointment to the W. M. Keck Career Development Chair in Biomedical Engineering was extended for another two years. The Chair appointment will end in 1997.

Professor Kenneth Russell was inaugurated president of Alpha Sigma Mu, the national materials honorary society.

Professor Richard Lester served as a member of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force on Alternative Futures of the DOE National Laboratories.

Professor Ronald Ballinger served on a DOE panel to review fuel storage at the Hanford Facilities.

Professor David Cory was invited to lecture on the topic, "NMR Imaging, and Scattering Experiments of Macromolecules," at the American Chemical Society meeting held in Akron.

An invited paper was presented by Professor Golay at the International Conference on Nuclear Energy and the Global Environment, which was held at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Professor Sow-Hsin Chen's sixtieth birthday was celebrated in conjunction with a conference on Colloid and Interface Science held in Puerto Rico in May 1995. Professors Sidney Yip and Xiao-Lin Zhou also attended the conference.


Studies designed to upgrade and relicense the MITR continue under Professors Otto Harling, Allan Henry, David Lanning, and John Meyer, and Dr. John Bernard. Projects involve licensing the MITR for power levels up to 10 MWth, and the use of the MITR thermal column for a fission "plate" converter to provide epithermal neutrons in medical treatments by boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT). The work has included development of a computer program to treat reactor primary loop transients; a study of secondary components (heat exchangers and cooling towers); an experimental and computational treatment of velocity and temperature patterns in the reactor tank above the core; the development of a new approach for handling of uncertainties in design; and the definition and evaluation of safety limits for the reactor at 10 MW.

Professor Henry and his students have continued efforts to develop more efficient numerical methods for analyzing static and transient behavior in power reactors. In the area of nodal methods, two schemes (a so-called supernodal method and a syntheses method) have been found to provide acceptable accuracy at a reduced computation cost. In addition, a new (and, it is hoped, more accurate) method of representing flux shapes within a node is being developed. A scheme for using static codes to test the accuracy of transient analyses has been successfully developed.

A method (based on point synthesis) for inferring reactivity from in-core detector readings was developed by Professors Lanning and Henry and tested numerically several years ago. They have now tested the method experimentally using the MITR. Also, a scheme for inferring reactivity when flux shapes as well as amplitudes are changing during a transient has been successfully tested in the MITR. Finally, the ability to edit neutron scattering events from one energy group to another has been added to the Los Alamos Monte Carlo code MCNP.

At the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory (NRL), a program of actively loaded in-pile tensile tests to study irradiation assisted stress corrosion cracking was completed. These tests were conducted in a unique facility which closely simulates the primary coolant system of a light water reactor. This system for in-pile testing has been developed under the guidance of Professors Ballinger and Harling, and Dr. Gordon Kohse.

Professor Meyer and his students are attempting to develop a BWR simulator which represents the effects of many important variables that influence stability, can be used to study a variety of normal and near-normal operating conditions, is shown by comparison with experiments to provide a good representation of important BWR phenomena, and can complete calculations fast enough for potential use in a reactor control room or in a training facility.

Under the supervision of Professors Todreas and Driscoll, the following research accomplishments were achieved: a project to enhance capacity factor performance of light water reactors by adoption of a 48-month operating cycle was initiated; silicon carbide coated graphite as a matrix material for light water reactor cores was tested and found to significantly reduce the potential for serious damage following a reactor accident.

Professor Golay's research involved projects on human error and on error-free software.

Professor Russell's research provided major understanding of the thermodynamics of formation of controlled hydrogen porosity in cost metals and alloys. He was also part of a US Navy inspection team which visited the laboratory of the inventor in the Ukraine to verify the practicality of the process and inspect the processing furnaces.

Professor Gyftopoulos continued his research on thermodynamics as a nonstatistical quantum theory that applies to all systems (large and small) and all states (thermodynamic equilibrium and not thermodynamic equilibrium).

Radiation Science and Technology
Under the direction of Professor Cory, the Spatial Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Laboratory continues to grow. Professor Cory and his students are involved in the following research: multiple-pulse NMR imaging; high resolution NMR microscopy; RF gradient spectroscopy; Q-switching applied to high resolution NMR; high resolution NMR scattering; NMR transducers for flow measurements; and pure NQR imaging.

Professor Cory developed and demonstrated new approaches to coherence selection in NMR spectroscopy based on complex magnetization gratings. These methods avoid what was previously thought to be a fundamental limitation to the efficiency of coherence transformations. He designed and built an improved NMR microscope which is capable of obtaining micron resolution NMR images. This will be employed for screening studies involving targeted gene replacement and targeted mutations. The concepts of a new high resolution (Angstrom scale) NMR scattering experiment that will permit chemically selective spin-spin spatial correlations to be measured at high resolutions are being developed. Work is in progress to complete the implementation.

Professor Harling and his graduate students have completed the neutronic design for a new high intensity epithermal neutron beam which will enable BNCT to be completed in ~100 sec. This design would enable the MITR-II to be used for routine BNCT on several thousand patients per year.

The construction of a unique, high-current tandem accelerator, developed for use in medical research, is nearing completion by Professor Yanch and her students. This accelerator will be the first instrument of its kind capable of providing intense, low-energy neutrons for basic research into BNCT and other uses of the 10B(n,_) nuclear reaction, such as treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

A methodology to assess the feasibility of using nuclear medicine imaging (NMI) to detect atherosclerotic lesions is under development by Professor Yanch and her students. Recent advances in the development of 99mTc radiopharmaceuticals that can selectively target atherosclerotic lesions have made nuclear medicine a potentially important technique in early diagnosis and early screening.

Professor Zhou is researching the development of neutron reflection theory and instrumentation. He and his students have successfully unified all existing theories under Parratt's formula, and they have conceptualized and tested the use of a white beam for reflection measurement. Another project involves the development of compact neutron sources. They have evaluated the various low-energy p-n and d-n reactions including the yields, spectrum and target design.

In collaboration with Professor Eric McFarland of the University of California at Santa Barbara, Dr. Richard Lanza is developing a transportable system for neutron tomography. This technology has already demonstrated enhanced sensitivity to the problem of hydrogen in metals, a major source of failure. Using new imaging techniques, especially coded aperture imaging, Dr. Lanza is investigating new methods for detection of contraband and explosives using neutrons as probes. In the area of medical imaging, two new imaging methods are being developed. The first, a new high resolution gas scintillator is for SPECT imaging of the brain and will improve the sensitivity of this method as compared to conventional radiation detectors. This is a collaborative effort with S. Moore and R. Zimmerman of Harvard Medical School. The second method is a new concept in imaging using light instead of ionizing radiation and is specifically aimed at mammography. This is being done with F. Bowman of HST, B. Horn and C. Sodini of EECS, and A. Brill of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Fusion and Plasma Engineering
Under the direction of Professor Ian Hutchinson, the Alcator C-Mod has had an extremely successful year. Operation up to 8T magnetic field and with 3.5 MW of ion cyclotron heating has yielded much important new data. Alcator's divertor configuration has been adopted by ITER and its disruption measurements are now the standard design reference.

Professor Freidberg continued his research efforts in magnetic fusion theory as well as initiating efforts into several new areas. In fusion plasma physics theory the two main areas of interest involve the MHD stability of tokamaks in the presence of a resistive wall and the study of the formation and effects of "halo" currents which develop during vertical instability events. In the area of super conducting magnet design, the problems of interest involve the development of an explanation for the phenomenon of "thermal hydraulic quench back" and basic theoretical studies of the important operating restrictions associated with "ramp rate limits." Professors Freidberg and Wenzel are initiating a new research activity involving the vitrification of high level nuclear waste by means of an electrodeless melter.

Professor Wenzel continued development of a gamma-ray diagnostic for the Alcator C-Mod and an edge plasma ion probe for the tokamak. In addition, he has been exploring the use of diamond photoconductors for fast neutron spectroscopy.

Professors Kazimi and Meyer have been investigating the high heat flux removal capabilities in subcooled water using conditions of 2-3 MPa pressure and 5 to 15 m/s velocity. A predictive model for the initial heat flux under these conditions was formed. This will be of interest for applications in intense neutron sources and in fusion reactors. In addition, risk based criteria are being used to develop functional requirements of radiological confinement of tokamak systems.

Professor Meyer's research in the area of passive safety in a helium-cooled steel-structured blanket for a fusion reactor is based on a helium-cooled concept that uses conduction and thermal radiation during accident conditions to remove afterheat from steel structures in a passive manner. Beryllium in the blanket is configured to provide extra conduction paths. A shield region with naturally circulating water operates to remove heat during the duration of the accident. Calculated results for postulated severe accidents indicate that the magnitude of damage is acceptable. The benefits of the improved conduction are clearly quantified. Key requirements include the need for continually low shield temperatures.

Systems and Policy
Professor Lester continues his work at the Industrial Performance Center. As Center director, Professor Lester oversees its research on the nature and determinants of successful industrial performance. With the participation of about 30 faculty and more than 50 students from all five Schools at MIT, the Center today serves as a listening post on industry, monitoring patterns of organizational and technological practice, interpreting them for its industrial partners, and feeding its observations back into the core disciplines and departments of the Institute.

The safety and performance of nuclear power plants are a function of both technical factors, such as initial design and maintenance programs, and social/political factors, such as regulations. Professors Hansen and Golay have been developing system dynamics models that link external factors to internal performance so as to study social policies that generate favorable performance.

Professors Hansen and Golay have been developing system dynamics models of the management structure of the Hanford waste tank safety and operations program. The model is used to develop managerial policies to enhance program performance under the stress of frequent, and large-scale, externally imposed changes.


The MIT American Nuclear Society Student Branch serves as the focal point for extracurricular Department of Nuclear Engineering (NED) student activities. All activities are planned by students and change from year to year depending on student interests. Past year events include the Monday Afternoon Seminar Series (a total of 20 lectures), coordination of the NED Open House for undergraduate students, the orientation session for incoming students, a host program for international students, and, in addition, numerous social and athletic events.

The MIT Chapter of the Alpha Nu Sigma Society, a national honor society for students in applied nuclear science and nuclear engineering, recognized 16 outstanding students for their academic achievement. The MIT Health Physics Society (HPS) Student Branch continues to be active in activities focused on environmental radiation transport, radiobiology, and radiation detection and measurement.

At the annual NED international dinner/awards ceremony, the following students were recognized. The Roy Axford award for outstanding academic achievement by a senior in nuclear engineering was given to Tammy Stoops. The Irving Kaplan award for outstanding academic achievement by a junior in nuclear engineering was given to Seungtaek Choi.

The Manson Benedict Fellowship for 1995-96 was presented to David Freed. Chi Kang received the Sherman Knapp Scholarship, funded by Northeast Utilities. National Academy for Nuclear Training Fellowships for 1994-95 were held by Michael Quintana, Mark van der Helm, and Kent Riley. The Schlumberger fellowship was awarded to Charles Lee.

The Outstanding Service Award for service to the department beyond academic and research achievements was presented to Joëlle Dennie and Jeffrey Hughes. The NED Open House Poster Awards were presented to Joao Justo, Ju Li, Dan Moriarty, and Meijie Tang, for their outstanding visual presentation of research activity at the annual open house.

Mujid S. Kazimi

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95