MIT Reports to the President 1995-96


This was a successful year for the Department of Nuclear Engineering (NED) -- a year that brought new academic programs, new facilities, and new research efforts. The department proposal for the establishment of a Master of Engineering degree was approved by the Institute faculty and will be initiated in the academic year 1996-97. The program aims to attract the students interested in professional leadership in industry. The new degree will offer a more structured education at the master's level than the S.M. degree, to ensure breadth of coverage in systems synthesis as well as disciplinary analysis topics. Two tracks are offered: nuclear systems engineering, and radiological health and industrial engineering.

In recent years the field of nuclear engineering education has evolved to become broadly concerned with technological applications of nuclear and radiation phenomena in biomedical, industrial, and environmental fields, in addition to the technology of power production. The department has been at the forefront of this evolution, with the establishment in 1988 of the graduate level Radiation Science and Technology academic area. In 1991 the undergraduate program was reorganized into two tracks: nuclear energy, and radiation in medicine and industry. The two tracks of the Master of Engineering parallel those of the undergraduate program.

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

In September 1995 Professor George Apostolakis joined the department. He is a world renowned expert in reliability and risk assessment of engineering systems. His work has involved applications to nuclear power plants, NASA space missions, and chemical and nuclear waste repositories.

The department faculty continue to supervise nearly $15 million of annual research volume, administered through many interdepartmental centers. About two thirds of this is in the area of plasma fusion engineering which suffered some reduction, but not as much as the national program which was cut by nearly 30 percent. This was somewhat ameliorated by the initiation of the INEL University Research Consortium projects, from which six projects (out of a total of 47) were successfully proposed by department faculty and funded at approximately $1 million per year.

A multiyear research agreement with Korea Electric Power Corporation that will focus on the technological advancement of the next generation of nuclear power plants in Korea was initiated. The agreement expands the department's research cooperation with Asia/Pacific countries. Additionally, visiting teams were exchanged with Tsinghua University of Beijing, China, to explore cooperation in research on the boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) approach to cancer treatment.

A new laboratory was added to the research facilities to explore accelerator sources of neutrons for medical applications. Two projects supervised by Professor Jacquelyn Yanch are currently being pursued using a new tandem accelerator with unique capabilities. One project focuses on delivery of neutrons that are suitable for cancer treatment through boron neutron capture therapy. The other project focuses on use of boron capture as an alternative to surgery to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Another notable addition to research facilities was a 600 MHz magnet and spectrometer in the Spatial Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory of Professor David Cory.

Several administrative duties changed hands this year. Professor Jeffrey Freidberg took over from Professor Allan Henry the chairmanship of the department's Committee on Graduate Students. (Professor Henry, who retired this year, chaired the committee for nearly twenty years.) Professor Sidney Yip became the graduate student financial aid officer. Professor John Meyer continues as the head of the undergraduate education committee.


Twenty-one students were enrolled in the undergraduate program during the past year (seven sophomores, five juniors, and nine seniors). Seven students completed requirements for the bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering.

During the fall term 1995, an accreditation visit for evaluation of our undergraduate program occurred. Unofficial results from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) indicate that we conform to their guidelines. Their next visit will be in 2001.


Twenty-eight students were welcomed into the graduate program in September, bringing the total graduate enrollment to 118 students. Of this number, 42 percent were specializing in fission and energy studies, 33 percent in radiation applications in biomedical and other technology, and 25 percent in fusion. An additional student was approved for special student status. During the academic year, 51 students were awarded 56 graduate degrees.

For approximately one and a half years the NED Curriculum Development Committee, chaired by Professor Freidberg, has devoted its efforts towards the creation of a unified, streamlined curriculum for our doctoral program. They have developed a four subject Core program for all NED doctoral students that defines the discipline of Nuclear Engineering. The subjects consist of (1) Applied Nuclear Physics, (2) Engineering Principles of Nuclear Science and Technology, (3) Microscopic Theory of Transport, and (4) Nuclear Engineering Laboratory. The Core curriculum has been approved by the entire NED faculty and will be initiated in the fall 1996 semester.

The Institute approved the department's request to offer a new degree, the Master of Engineering, in September. This intensive fast-paced program will prepare students for productive professional engineering careers by providing additional depth in nuclear-related subjects beyond the bachelor's degree, together with the breadth of perspective necessary for engineering leadership in the field.


The Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching was presented to Professor Yip. This award acknowledges the tradition of high quality engineering education at MIT.

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) MIT Student Chapter Outstanding Teaching Award was presented to Dr. Lisa Porter, a postdoctoral associate.

Professor Cory was invited to lecture on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) at several conferences during the year. He spoke at the Microscopy Society of America, Kansas City, in August, and also at the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies, Honolulu, in December. The Department of Nuclear Engineering at North Carolina State University invited him to give a departmental seminar in February; and in April he gave a tutorial introduction to the physics of medical imaging at the New England Section of the American Physics Society Meeting in Cambridge.

Professor Elias Gyftopoulos was awarded the distinction of Commander of Order of Honor by the President of the Republic of Greece.

Professor Yip chaired an international conference on Multiscale Modeling of Industrial Materials which was cosponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and held at the University of California (UC), Santa Barbara, in January 1996. A follow-up is planned at MIT in 1997.

Professor Mujid Kazimi was a member of a Department of Energy (DOE) Basic Science Research Advisory Group that reviewed the proposed upgrades of national research reactors. He also served as a member of a review group for the Department of Nuclear Engineering at UC, Berkeley. He joined the executive committee of the Nuclear and Radiological Engineering Division of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for a two-year term.

Professor Apostolakis joined the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He chaired an international meeting on Probabilistic Safety Assessment in Crete, Greece, in June 1996.

Dr. Bruce Rosen sponsored and organized the Second International Conference for Human Brain Mapping. Over 1200 participants were in Boston for this event.

Professor Ronald Ballinger has joined a team to review safety of the storage of metallic nuclear fuel in DOE laboratories.



Professor Henry and a graduate student investigated an alternative method for describing space-time neutron behavior in a large light water reactor. The procedure (called one-dimensional nodal synthesis) consists of combining at a given reactor elevation a number of precomputed, two-dimensional flux shapes in order to approximate a three-dimensional, time-dependent flux shape. Thus, the coefficients of combination depend on time and axial location.

For test problems simulating a large pressurized water reactor (PWR), acceptable accuracy was achieved. However, at best, the computation time was reduced by a factor of three, while in some cases the synthesized solution took longer to run than a corresponding full, three-dimensional nodal calculation. Thus, the method appears to be of only limited value.

Under the supervision of Professors Neil Todreas, Michael Driscoll, and Michael Golay, a project to achieve enhanced capacity factor performance of light water reactors by adoption of a 48-month operating cycle was initiated. Three tasks were accomplished: (1) a PWR core was designed; (2) the surveillance requirements for both PWRs and boiling water reactors (BWRs) were investigated regarding this cycle length; and (3) required availability levels for components of a key sample PWR system were determined. Professors Todreas and Driscoll have assessed the performance of passive containment cooling systems. New concepts have evolved from this research.

Professor Meyer's research included the development of computer methods for simulation of boiling water reactor conditions that potentially could lead to unstable behavior. He and Dr. John Bernard collaborated to calculate the thermal hydraulic conditions in the MIT Reactor core tank after hypothetical accidents.

Professor Kevin Wenzel heads the Plutonium Group, which includes Professors Driscoll and Todreas and Dr. Marvin Miller, along with three graduate students. The group is exploring methods for disposal of plutonium, particularly excess weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons. Recent projects include the design of novel fuel forms for deep burning of plutonium in peripheral fuel assemblies of light water reactors, studies of long-term leach rates of plutonium surrogates in borosilicate glass, and experimental studies of the proliferation resistance of glass host forms.

The disposition of the contents of the high level waste tanks at the Hanford reservation has been studied by Professor Kazimi and two graduate students. Conditions were identified for water convection in the porous material in these tanks. That may explain anomalous temperature behavior in tank 106C. Professor Kazimi and his students have also pursued development of a decision analysis method for the immobilization of the radioactivity in the tanks.

Professor Kenneth Russell has actively pursued international cooperative efforts in nuclear materials research. He has submitted a Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) proposal on self organizing systems with scientists from the Kiev Institute for Nuclear Research and is pursuing a joint theoretical and experimental study of pressure vessel embrittlement with the Belgian Nuclear Center, SCK-CEN. Both efforts center on Professor Russell's theory for the effects of radiation on precipitate nucleation.


Professor Cory has articulated a novel description of spatial aspects of magnetic resonance that focuses attention on spin magnetization gratings. This leads to a more natural description of the dynamics and is useful both in research and in teaching. He has also implemented an improved NMR microscope operating at 600 MHz which is the highest field (and highest resolution) NMR system dedicated to microscopy. He has developed, designed, and implemented a new approach to high resolution NMR of semi-solids based on a combination of magic angle sample spinning and magnetic field gradients. He has implemented a set of paradigms for "NMR computation" based on the interactions of coupled spins. This in many ways parallels the efforts in quantum computing with small spin systems, but remains based on macroscopic phenomena and avoids issues of wave-function collapse.

Professor Xiao-Lin Zhou is conducting research in two areas: neutron reflectometry and applications in the area of neutron scattering spectroscopy, and near-threshold reactions for neutron production in the area of compact neutron sources. In the neutron reflectometry and applications project, a time-of-flight neutron reflectometer has been designed, and construction work is currently underway at the MIT Research Reactor. In the epithermal neutron production by near-threshold charged particle reactions project, Professor Zhou has completed a study on the reaction data of p-Li and p-Be reactions, as well as a comparison study between the neutron production characteristics of near-threshold reactions with high energy proton reactions, and determined the advantage and feasibility of near-threshold reaction as an alternative epithermal neutron source.

Functional brain mapping is being investigated by Dr. Rosen and his students. This research mapped the earliest brain system responsible for the visual motion after effect. Dr. Rosen and his students have also established the temporal resolution limits of functional activation, and pushed below one second the ability to characterize the temporal orchestration of distinct brain regions.

Professor Yip is supervising several projects on atomic-level materials modeling. They are (1) atomic simulation of thermal properties of irradiated silicon carbide, (2) multiscale materials modeling focused on study of atomistic mechanisms and the electronic effects of plastic deformation in semiconductor crystals, (3) atomistic modeling of SiC fiber composites, and (4) atomistic-continuum hybrid simulation of fluid flow.

Professor Sow-Hsin Chen and a student have found a method to measure average Gaussian and square mean curvatures of interface in a micro-phase separated bicontinuous micro emulsions and phase-separated polymer blends by small angle neutron and x-ray scattering.


Under the direction of Professor Ian Hutchinson, the Alcator C-Mod Tokamak project experienced a highly productive year despite the disruption associated with a big drop in the national fusion research budget. Major progress in divertor research included demonstration of record values of the compression of neutrals in the divertor and the documentation of the effects of geometry on divertor detachment. These are both critical ingredients of the proposed power and particle handling solution for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and future reactors. An important development in the core thermal confinement, which showed major improvements, casts some doubt on the current transport scaling. This development demonstrates once again the necessity of high-field compact tokamaks, like Alcator, to address fusion's scientific challenges.

Professor Wenzel is supervising a project to install an Omegatron edge diagnostic on the Alcator C-Mod Tokamak. The diagnostic will provide the first measurement of ion temperature in the edge plasma of the tokamak. He is also supervising a project at Astex to study high-density plasma systems for metal deposition in high aspect ratio features for semiconductor manufacturing.

Professor Freidberg and Dr. Ali Shajii discovered the existence of a new class of low Mach number discontinuous fluid flows. The flows are similar to "standard" contact discontinuities except that they are strongly modified by the presence of a metallic wall. The wall not only introduces new velocity jumps into the flow, but produces a thermal drag that can stabilize the flow against Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities which always destroy the structure of the "standard" contact discontinuity. This phenomenon is important in understanding the propagation of a quench in large, superconducting, fusion magnets.

Professor Freidberg and Dr. Shajii developed a new theoretical model describing low Mach number compressible flow. Such flows occur in long superconducting cables used for fusion magnets. The flow is dominated by friction rather than inertia and because of the long length, compressibility effects are important even though the flow corresponds to low Mach number. A surprising result is that when sufficient external heat is supplied to the fluid, the flow direction actually reverses against the direction of the pumping pressure. This phenomenon has been observed experimentally and cannot occur in an incompressible fluid.

Professor Freidberg and Dr. Shajii derived a theoretical explanation of the phenomenon known as thermal hydraulic quenchback. This phenomenon, which occurs in superconducting magnets cooled by super-critical helium, is characterized by a near explosive growth in the velocity of propagation of a quench event. They pointed out that ahead of a standard quench front there is a small compression of the coolant because of the frictional drag. This gives rise to an additional heating of the coolant which, while small, is still sufficient to drive the superconductor normal. This "new" region of superconductor gone normal leads to an enhanced propagation velocity.

Fusion technology and safety research continued under the supervision of Professors Kazimi and Meyer. Limiting heat flux conditions in high velocity water cooled channels were defined. For highly subcooled water, it was found that transition to film boiling would not be deleterious to heat transfer. This should enable the design of components that can remove up to 15 MW per square meter without reaching unacceptably high temperatures. Also, a probabilistic model for the design of the radiological confinements structure for a large tokamak such as ITER was developed based on a combination of event trees and influence diagram.


Professor Richard 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 MIT American Nuclear Society Student Branch serves as the focal point for extracurricular 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, coordination of the NED Open House for undergraduate students, the orientation session for incoming students, and a host program for international students, in addition to 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 11 outstanding students for their academic achievement. The MIT Health Physics Society Student Branch continues to be active in activities focused on environmental radiation transport, radiobiology, and radiation detection and measurement.

At the annual 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 Seungtaek Choi. The Irving Kaplan award, which recognizes academic achievement by a junior in nuclear engineering, was given to Jerry Hughes, Jr.

The Manson Benedict Fellowship for 1996-97 was presented to Ju Li, a graduate student from China, in recognition of excellence in academic performance and professional promise. The Theos Thompson Memorial Fellowships were held for the fall term 1995 by Andrew Gnau, Dennis Klein, and Robert McHenry.

Gary Cerefice received the Sherman Knapp Scholarship, funded by Northeast Utilities. National Academy for Nuclear Training Fellowships for 1995-96 were held by Jess Iverson and Sherry Wu.

The Outstanding Service Award for service to the department beyond academic and research achievements was presented to Kathryn Hautanen and Theodore Weber.

An Institute fellowship, the Ida Green Fellowship was held by Tammy Stoops during 1995-96. An incoming student, Heather MacLean, is the recipient of the Ida Green Fellowship for 1996-97.

The MIT Committee on the Writing Requirement awarded Second Prize in the Parke A. and Ann L. Hodges Prize for Phase Two Papers to Seungtaek Choi for his paper entitled, "The Compound Action Potential of the Frog Sciatic Nerve." This prize is given for outstanding undergraduate writing in a student's professional field.

The spring 1995 term project of subject 22.033 Nuclear Systems Design Project received a second place award in the design contest of the Education and Training Division of the American Nuclear Society.

Mujid S. Kazimi

MIT Reports to the President 1995-96