MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


The Department of Nuclear Engineering (NED), the youngest department of engineering at the Institute, has completed its 39th year of existence. The year witnessed the inauguration of the first career development chair dedicated to nuclear engineering and the inauguration of a new endowed fellowship.

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.

This year was marked with extensive activities involving lectures and seminars, drawing on speakers from outside the Institute as well as from the department and its associated interdepartmental laboratories: the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, the Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory, and the Energy Laboratory.

Albert Carnesale, Provost of Harvard University and Professor of Public Policy and Administration, was the invited speaker at the David J. Rose Lecture in Nuclear Technology, held on October 7, 1996. Professor Carnesale spoke to an enthusiastic gathering on the topic of Nuclear Proliferation After the Cold War.

On April 7, 1997, the department offered a day-long symposium entitled Advances in Nuclear Technology. This event gave students and visitors an opportunity to learn more about current research within the department. Presentations included Nuclear Medical Technology, Industrial Applications of Nuclear Sciences, Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century, and Nuclear Systems Reliability and Management.

In conjunction with this event, a special celebration/reception was held to mark the endowment of the Norman C. Rasmussen Career Development Chair in Nuclear Engineering. This chair honors Professor Emeritus Norman C. Rasmussen, department head from 1975 to 1981, who retired in 1994 after 36 years on the faculty. Professor Rasmussen, well known for his work in the area of nuclear risk assessment, directed the 1974 Reactor Safety Study, which was sponsored by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Assistant Professor Kenneth R. Czerwinski became the first holder of the Rasmussen chair. Professor Czerwinski, who joined the department in November 1996, is an expert in radiochemistry of heavy elements such as the actinides. His research interests cover environmental and waste technology aspects of nuclear materials.

Professor Ronald Latanision, professor of materials science and engineering since 1974, began a joint professorship with NED and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. His research interests include materials processing and the corrosion of metals and other materials in aqueous environments.

On June 12, the first annual Virtual Information in Education Conference was hosted by Professor Kevin Wenzel in collaboration with National Instruments. This conference provided educators who use virtual instrumentation an opportunity to discuss new and innovative approaches to teaching engineering, physical science, and life sciences.

A new endowed fellowship in nuclear engineering, the William T. and Ann D. McCormick Fellowship, was initiated this year, the first beneficiary being Kory Sylvester, a Ph.D. student in the area of energy and policy.


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

Department faculty offered six freshman advisory seminars in fall 1996.

The spring 1996 term project of subject 22.033/33 Nuclear Systems Design Project received a second place award in the design contest of the Education and Training Division of the American Nuclear Society.


Thirty-nine students entered the graduate program in September, bringing the total graduate enrollment to 121 students. Forty-five percent are specializing in fission and energy studies, 36 percent are working in radiation applications in biomedical and other technology, and 19 percent in fusion. A total of 33 degrees were awarded to 31 students during the academic year. The first Master of Engineering in nuclear engineering was awarded to Frederick Nielsen at the June commencement.

Three of the four subjects developed as part of the Core Curriculum were offered during the current academic year. The fourth subject will be introduced in fall 1997. This subject, 22.104 Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, replaces two lab offerings, 22.59 and 22.69.

A new doctoral qualifying exam structure was developed to concentrate more heavily on core elements in the first phase and allow flexible schedule of the specialty testing as a second phase. It will be implemented in fall 1997.

Graduate subject 22.811 Sustainable Energy was reorganized, and a new course, 22.351 Current Nuclear Fuel Cycle Issues, was offered during the academic year.

A graduate program brochure was revised during the current academic year. Its purpose is to highlight departmental research, and it is used to enhance our recruiting efforts. It is also accessible through the NED Web page.


The Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching was presented to Professor Richard Lester. This award acknowledges the tradition of high quality engineering education at MIT. Through the Industrial Performance Center, Professor Lester and coworkers released a major study of the future of economic development in Hong Kong.

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) MIT Student Chapter Outstanding Teaching Award was presented to Professor Neil Todreas.

At the ANS Annual Meeting in Orlando, Professor Jacquelyn Yanch received the ANS Young Member Engineering Achievement Award for 1997.

Professor Emeritus Gordon Brownell was made an Honorary Fellow of the American College of Nuclear Medicine. This award recognizes significant contributions to the field of nuclear medicine.

Professor Sidney Yip was the lead organizer of a workshop on quantitative methods in materials research at the Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California Santa Barbara. This six-month program was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Professor Sow-Hsin Chen and a former student, Michael Kotlarchyk, developed a textbook on Interaction of Photons and Neutrons with Matter. The book is designed to teach non-relativistic quantum electrodynamics to engineering students who are preparing to do research in materials characterization using radiation.

Professor Ian Hutchinson served on the editorial board of the journal Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, and was appointed series editor of the "Cambridge Monographs on Plasma Physics" published by Cambridge University Press. He was an invited speaker at the 23rd European Physical Society Conference on Controlled Fusion and Plasma Physics, held in Kiev, Ukraine.

Professor David Cory was invited to speak at several conferences. These included Keystone Conference on Magnetic Resonance, Keystone, CO, August 1996; and Major Analytical Instrument Facility 25th Anniversary Symposium Series, Cleveland, Ohio, October 1996. During April 1997, he was an invited speaker at the American Chemical Society Conference, the Golden Gate Polymer Forum, and the IBM Almaden Research Lab.

Professor Todreas chaired the Fifth International Conference on Thermalhydraulics and Operation of Power Reactors, held in China in April 1997. Professor Kazimi co-chaired the best paper award at this meeting.

Professor George Apostolakis chaired the American Nuclear Society International Topical Meeting on Probabilistic Safety Assessment: Moving Toward Risk-Based Regulation, held in Park City, Utah, October 1996.

Professors Neil Todreas, Michael Driscoll, and Michael Golay continued investigating the feasibility and economic factors involved in extending power reactor operating cycle lengths as a strategy to achieve higher capacity factors. Professors Todreas and Driscoll continued their design of a thermosyphon loop for passive cooling of advanced double concrete wall containment buildings. A scaled test loop is also being constructed to determine the performance of the loop's inner evaporator, the component that limits loop performance due to the presence of noncondensable gas with the steam within the containment.

Professors Mujid Kazimi and Michael Driscoll have initiated an investigation of the economics and environmental aspects of fuel cycles that reduce the amount of spent fuel and high level waste per unit energy produced. This includes the reuse of spent nuclear fuel from light water reactors into heavy water reactors.

Professor John Meyer has been examining modification of light water reactors to obtain extended cycle durations. His contributions involve the core thermal hydraulics and fuel rod lifetime concerns.

Professor Apostolakis continues to work on software dependability assessment using formal methods and the dynamic flowgraph methodology. Regarding aging effects in probabilistic safety assessment, models are being developed for flow-accelerated corrosion. Accident sequence precursor methodology for fire precursors has been completed. The methodology behind environmental decision-making involving multiple stakeholders has been tested and is now complete. Organizational factors affecting on-line maintenance have been investigated.

During the year, Professor Ronald Ballinger made a significant advance in the effort to understand and to predict the environmental degradation in Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) steam generator tubing with the generation of the first crack initiation and growth data using actual steam generator tubing in prototypic environments with in-service loads. The data are now being used to improve predictive models.

Radiation Science and Technology
Professor Yip's research in atomistic simulation of materials properties and behavior expanded considerably to include three new funded projects: thermomechanical performance of fiber-matrix composites, nonlinear fluid flows in microchannels, and plastic deformation in bcc transition metals. The last effort is a collaboration with Dr. Vasily Bulatov of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Tomas Arias of Physics.

Professor Chen's research efforts succeeded in using small-angle neutron scattering technique to measure interfacial curvatures in bicontinuous phase separated fluids and porous materials. The curvatures are the most significant quantities which characterize the mesoscopic-scale morphology of such two-phase systems. This technique was applied for the first time to show how the average Gaussian curvature of a microemulsion changes when such a self organized liquid undergoes a bicontinuous to globular structural transition.

Professor Lawrence Lidsky and his group have continued their work on the electron-beam production of Molybdenum-99, a key isotope for medical diagnostics. New experiments have shown that the same equipment may also be used for the production of other isotopes not easily made by current techniques.

Professor Yanch and her group in the Laboratory for Accelerator Beam Applications (LABA) were successful in generating almost one milliampere of proton current using the tandem electrostatic accelerator at LABA. This represents the highest current achieved with any accelerator of this type in this energy range. Particle beams were then used to generate neutrons using three different charged particle reactions. The clinical feasibility of this approach to producing neutron beams for BNCT is under investigation at LABA.

A major accomplishment in Professor Yanch's group was the demonstration that practical accelerator targets can be made for BNCT from the point of view of heat removal. The problem of target cooling has long been referred to as the stumbling block for accelerator-based BNCT. Professor Yanch, students, and industrial colleagues from Newton Scientific, Incorporated, demonstrated that power levels in excess of 5 kW/cm could be safely handled using the cooling method of submerged jet impingement. Also under investigation at LABA is the application of BNCT to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, an approach that Professor Yanch has termed Boron Neutron Capture Synovectomy. Major accomplishments over the past year include verification of boron uptake in arthritic rabbits. Results show that sufficient compound is taken up by the diseased tissue to permit therapeutic treatment to be carried out in less than 20 minutes. Determination of treatment efficacy is underway.

Professor Cory's research in High Resolution NMR Microscopy continues to push for high resolution and sensitivity NMR microscopic images, particularly through the implementation of diffusion insensitive slice selection methods, rapid constant time imaging schemes based on reduced k-space sampling and the characterization of micron structures via local gradients. Recently he explored the applications of RF gradients to bi-linear rotation sequences (BIRD and TANGO) and developed a more robust two channel NMR probe. Regarding High Resolution NMR Scattering research, the spin diffusion measurements discussed above, and an improved version of the high gradient strength probe have been completed. Professor Cory and his researchers are now turning their attention to measures of local morphology in semi-crystalline solids.

In collaboration with Professor P. Culligan-Hensley, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Professor Cory is working on MRI of Soil Remediation. They completed a set of measurements that show the images of oil displacement by a water stream in a packed bead system. This provides the only direct, non-invasive three-dimensional data on the efficiency and is needed as a link to microscopic models of the system.

In the area of NMR Applications to Liposarcoma Grading, Professor Cory and Dr. S. Singer, BWI and Dana Farber, have seen that gradient HR-MAS is indeed a powerful means of exploring the chemistry and compartmentalization of sarcomas and have expanded the study to include cultured cell lines.

Professor Xiao-Lin Zhou is working on two projects. The first is neutron reflectometry and applications in the area of Neutron Scattering Spectroscopy; the second is Near-Threshold Reactions for Neutron Production in the Area of Compact Neutron Sources. In the first project, the engineering design of a white-beam neutron reflectometer for surface and thin film research has been completed, and 70 percent of the instrument construction has been implemented. Along with Professor P.S. Pershan of Harvard, they have advanced a Groove-tracking method (GTM) for reflectivity data analysis by developing a smoothed GTM method. They have also developed and demonstrated a mirror-reflection method for neutron spectrum measurement. In the epithermal neutron production project, they have completed a thorough analysis of near-threshold p-Li reaction and established the feasibility of near-threshold production of epithermal neutrons.

The Alcator C-Mod tokamak, under the leadership of Professor Hutchinson, is one of two major US tokamak facilities and is recognized as one of the five key divertor tokamaks in the world. Alcator C-Mod is the only diverted high-field compact experiment in operation and, therefore, it plays a unique role in providing critical tests of confinement scaling and theory at high power density. Because of its high power density, C-Mod contributes uniquely to ways of achieving ignition at low cost, and of exploring advanced tokamak physics regimes. Its vertical plate divertor geometry has been adopted as the reference design for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). It was found that the plasma naturally enters an operational regime called Enhanced D-alpha, in which the energy confinement is high but the edge particle confinement is modest. This is ideal for a reactor or next-step experiments in which one wishes to keep the energy in but allow impurities or helium ash to escape. Detailed physics studies to identify the processes involved in this phenomenon are just beginning.

Professor Jeffrey Freidberg has proposed a simple model to explain the empirical energy confinement time observed in Reversed Field Pinch (RFP) experiments. As opposed to carrying out detailed micro-turbulence calculations, he and his students have suggested that the plasma profiles relax to a state of marginal stability against ideal MHD modes, specifically the Suydam criterion. The analysis predicts precisely the same scaling with plasma parameters and geometry as the empirical relation with a very similar numerical coefficient.

Professor Freidberg and his associates continue their research on several projects in the area of Magnet Science and Technology. Regarding Ramp Rate Limitation in Superconducting Magnets, a theory has been derived which describes a robust mechanism for the observed ramp rate limitation in high field superconducting magnets. It compares reasonably well with experimental data and explains why such magnets quench significantly below their predicted DC current limit during rapid ramping of the current.

Regarding AC Losses in Superconducting Cables, a continuum theory has been formulated and analyzed with the goal of calculating AC losses in multi-strand superconducting cables used for fusion magnets, a critical problem during current ramping. Criteria are derived which show how to minimize these losses. Regarding Multi-Channel Flow in Superconducting Cables, a theory has been derived to describe the thermal hydraulic behavior of superconducting magnets with a central cooling channel. It is shown that two channel (or multi-channel) systems can be reduced to an equivalent single fluid model whose properties include anomalously large (i.e., a factor of 100) thermal and particle diffusion coefficients. The predictions of the theory are in excellent agreement with experiment.

Regarding Magnetic Field Mapping, a novel procedure has been suggested for mapping the magnetic fields in large detectors used in high energy physics detectors. The method is fast, accurate, and economical with respect to existing techniques. It makes use of analogous surface mapping procedures used widely in the magnetic fusion community. The procedure is currently being implemented on the PHENIX detector at Brookhaven Laboratory.

Design and construction of a new test facility for high heat fluxes has been undertaken by Professors Kazimi and Meyer. Tests using the facility will cover the design parameters best suited to extract high heat fluxes with very cold water flowing at high. This is particularly important for plasma facing components such as the divertor.

During the year, Professor Ballinger's alloy development effort for the ITER fusion experiment culminated in the fabrication of the first "full" size conductor for the TF coil in the ITER design program. The jacket material, Incoloy 908, was developed at MIT in Professor Ballinger's laboratory. Incoloy 908 is a high strength, high toughness super alloy that combines outstanding mechanical properties with physical properties, especially the thermal expansion coefficient, that match those of the superconductor, Nb3Sn. The resulting combination allows for a savings in weight of approximately 25 percent for the same field strength or a 25 percent increase in field strength for the same size coil. These savings translate directly to a comparable savings in cost.

Environment and Waste Technology and Policy
Professor Czerwinski's primary focus is trivalent actinides in real systems. His work involves modeling a waste site at ORNL and calculating the amount of Am and Cm bound to fulvic acids in the groundwater.

Professor Kazimi and his students have formulated a multiattribute utility model for decision analysis in the cleanup of the nuclear waste tanks at Hanford. The model allows for the uncertainties in the technical, environmental, and economic factors in evaluating alternatives for the cleanup process. Also, it allows for the summation of the attributes with weighting functions that are to be specified by the user. In their recent work the group suggested the concept of least variance in the multiattribute utility as an optimization parameter for the utility function. Application of the model to deciding on the amount of water to be extracted for remediation versus the amount that can be treated in-place reveals that the in-place burial offers better options if the current interagency agreement were to be modified to allow such options. From a cost perspective, the options with minimum waste disposal outside the site are found to be the most desirable, but also the most uncertain. From a multiattribute point of view, the advanced separations of radioactive elements are found to provide the highest multiattribute values.

Professor Ballinger has made significant advances in the understanding of the environmental degradation of aluminum alloys used for aircraft. Corrosion related damage is the primary source of airframe degradation. The understanding of aircraft aging is critical to the development of strategies for the extension of the useful life for current and planned airframes. Several (actually most) airframes now in service are over 20 years old--in the case of the B-52, more than 30 years old. As part of the University Research Initiative (URI), funded by the AFOSR, a quantitative relationship between the role of rivet/structure interaction and degradation has been established. This understanding has led to the development of criteria for new rivet material for use in replacement and future applications.

Professors Kent Hansen and Michael Golay continued work on models of the management and operation of the cleanup process for the Hanford Waste Tank Farm.


The MIT American Nuclear Society Student Branch is the organizational center for extracurricular NED student functions. There have been many social and athletic events during the year, reflecting the interests of its members. The Monday Afternoon Seminar Series, NED Orientation for incoming students, holiday party, and international dinner are just 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 nine outstanding students for their academic achievement. The MIT Health Physics Society Student Branch's activities are focused on environmental radiation transport, radiobiology, and radiation detection and measurement.

Several students were recognized at the annual international dinner/awards ceremony. The Roy Axford award for outstanding academic achievement by a senior in nuclear engineering was given to Jerry Hughes, Jr., and Melissa Lambeth. The Irving Kaplan award, which recognizes academic achievement by a junior in nuclear engineering, was presented to Eric Empey.

The Manson Benedict Fellowship for 1997-98 will be shared by Khashayar Shadman (fall term) and Eugene Bae (spring term) in recognition of their excellence in academic performance and professional promise. The Theos Thompson Memorial Fellowship was held by Mark Skubis during spring 1997.

As mentioned earlier, the McCormick Fellowship was offered in the spring of 1997 for the first holder: Kory Budlong Sylvester. The Sherman Knapp Scholarship, funded by Northeast Utilities, was presented to Vicentica Valdes. National Academy for Nuclear Training Fellowships for 1996-97 were held by David Gierga (health physics), Susan White, John Goorley, and Jeffrey Dulik (nuclear engineering).

The Outstanding Student Service Award, which recognizes exceptional services to the students, the department, and the entire MIT community, was presented to Christopher Handwerk. The Outstanding TA Award was initiated to recognize exceptional services to education by a teaching assistant. Wen-Yih (Isaac) Tseng was chosen for this honor.

Upon the recommendation of the department, the Dean of the Graduate Education Office selected Yun Long, an incoming graduate student, for the Chyn Duog Shiah Memorial Fellowship.

Eric Empey received the 1997 ANS Undergraduate Scholarship Award for a student entering the field of nuclear science and engineering. This award was officially presented to him at the awards luncheon during the June ANS Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

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

Mujid S. Kazimi

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97