MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


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 December 1997, the Nuclear Engineering Visiting Committee met with the department. In general they were pleased with the smoothness of the transition to a new department head. They were, by and large, in agreement with the faculty on the problems and possible solutions facing the department and urged us to carry our long-range planning activities one step further by developing a detailed strategic plan.

Professors Jeffrey Freidberg and Richard Lester, acting as coordinators, developed a strategic plan to guide the department over the next 5-10 year period. The plan has achieved consensus among the faculty, and we are now seeking a wide range of external input. Implementation has already started and should be in full swing by the fall semester.

In relation to the strategic plan, the department has initiated a major recruiting drive to increase both graduate and undergraduate enrollment. Professor Neil Todreas, aided by Professor David Cory, is leading the effort on graduate recruiting. Professor Kim Molvig is leading the undergraduate effort.


A record 30 students were enrolled in the undergraduate program during the past year. This included eleven

sophomores, nine juniors, six seniors, and four fifth-year students. Three students completed requirements for the bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering.


The graduate program totaled 116 students during the fall term. Of this number, 28 were enrolled for their first term. Forty-two percent are specializing in radiation science and technology; 38 percent are working in fission and energy studies, and 20 percent in fusion. The department awarded 30 master's, 2 engineer's, and 14 doctoral degrees during the academic year.

Lab subject 22.104 was introduced fall 1997. This was the last course of the four-subject Core Curriculum, a requirement for all doctoral candidates. The newly restructured doctoral qualifying examination will be introduced fall 1998. Candidates will complete the written portion in September and the oral portion during the following spring term.

Professor Cory presented a new seminar on magnetic resonance, 22.915. Faculty revised the content of eight existing subjects.

Nuclear Proliferation: Technology and Control (22.903) was developed and offered for six weeks during the spring term by Dr. Kory Sylvester. Dr. Sylvester received his doctorate from NED and currently holds the position of postdoctoral associate.


The Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching was presented to Professor Kent Hansen. 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 Professor Jacquelyn Yanch.

Professor Todreas continued as chairman of the INPO Advisory Council. He served on the Department of Energy working group to develop its Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Program.

Professor Michael Golay was appointed to the INPO Advisory Council.

Professor Ronald Latanision was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was honored as a Centennial Fellow by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University. He was a Visiting Professor at the University of Naples, Italy.

Professor Mujid Kazimi chaired an MIT panel to review the project on Accelerator Based Transmutation of Nuclear Waste (ATW) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He resumed chairmanship of the Hanford Tank Waste Panel for DOE-Richland, which he had chaired in the period 1990-1995. He was a member of the review panel of the Fission Energy and System Safety Program of Livermore National Laboratory. In April he and Professor Golay organized a two-day workshop at MIT on research priorities for nuclear energy in a greenhouse constrained world.

Professor Sidney Yip chaired a committee which organized a three-day Institute-wide international workshop on Multiscale Materials Prediction: Fundamentals and Industrial Applications. The September 1997 workshop was supported by the MIT Center for Materials Science and Engineering with collaboration from the Industrial Liaison Program and the Materials Processing Center. Faculty from the departments of Physics, Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering participated.

Professor Sow-Hsin Chen was an invited speaker at the Toyota Symposium on Nano-structure Materials which was held in Nagoya, Japan, in November 1997. In December, he was invited to speak at the Boston meeting of the Materials Sciences Society. He also spoke in March at the American Physical Society Meeting which was held in Los Angeles.



Professors Neil Todreas and Michael Driscoll are researching advanced reactor designs involving novel containment cooling concepts for Korea Electric Power Research Institute and advanced boiling water reactor designs for Tokyo Electric Power Company. Professors Driscoll, Golay, Meyer, and Todreas have continued to study means of improving the economic performance of the US nuclear operating fleet by investigating the technical and economic constraints to extended reactor cycle operating lengths.

Professor John Meyer and Zaichun Feng of the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering initiated a project that is aimed at studying approaches to reduce the severity of fluid induced vibrations. Initial efforts are concentrated on understanding sources of intense noise being generated in main steam lines of an operating nuclear power plant.

Professors Kazimi and Driscoll have initiated an investigation of advanced nuclear fuel cycles to allow higher efficiencies in uranium ore utilization, spent fuel production, and proliferation resistance. The application of dry recycling of LWR spent fuel in CANDU reactors was investigated. This will allow the extraction in the CANDU reactor of about 15 MW-days/ton from the LWR spent fuel, i.e. enhance the energy utilization of the LWR fuel by about 30 percent. If the United States could supply such fuel to Canada, both the United States and Canada could reap considerable economic and environmental benefits from cooperation on such a fuel cycle.

Professor Golay's research topics include the following: completion of an on-line power plant monitoring and expert system for improved power plant operational availability; improved strategy for nuclear power development to alleviate global warming; and a project to show benefits and to refine risk-informed performance-based safety regulation. He and Professor Todreas are working on methods for plant management to improve power plant operational availability.

Professors Ronald Ballinger and Jeffrey Freidberg and a graduate student are developing a procedure for determining pipe thickness from a series of external impedance measurements. Such a procedure would be of great safety value and economic importance to the nuclear power industry, where steam pipe thinning due to corrosion is a critical problem. The new procedure saves time (i.e. money) by allowing continuous monitoring of pipe thickness without the need for shutdown as is the current practice.

The entire fission research group has developed a strategy and initiated implementation of a Center for Management of Nuclear System Performance and Risk.


Professor Yip's research in the theory and simulation of materials across different length and time scales continues to focus on fundamental challenges in long standing problems, such as crystal plasticity and fracture, thermal conductivity in defective solids, and migration of radioactive nuclides, which have significant current technological implications. His particular thrust is in atomistic simulation studies of complex materials systems. Several sponsored projects involving students and a sizable number of collaborators at the Institute and elsewhere are at the center of a growing area of research, becoming known as multiscale materials modeling. A noteworthy success, reported in the journal Nature, is the linking of large-scale molecular dynamics simulations with mesoscale dislocation dynamics. A number of international workshops and calls for proposals by national funding agencies are currently focusing on the emerging role of materials modeling coupled with high-performance computing, indicating an increasingly broad-based recognition of its relevance to various institutional programs in universities, national laboratories, and corporate research.

Professor Chen developed a new method for measuring interfacial curvatures in porous media using small angle neutron scattering techniques which were based on a theory of clipped random wave. A theoretical method for computing low shear viscosity of dense colloidal solutions based on analysis of small angle neutron scattering data was developed. The method should find wide applications in polymer industry. His research group identified a kinetic glass transition temperature in super-cooled water based on a computer molecular dynamic simulation.

The development of supercritical water as a vehicle for chemical waste destruction continues to attract attention. The selection of the materials of construction for large scale systems is the central focus of the Uhlig Corrosion Laboratory, under the direction of Professor Latanision. In particular, he has identified thermodynamic conditions in potential-pH-temperature space which allow materials such as nickel-based and titanium-based alloys to be protected while not compromising the waste destruction efficiency.

Professor Kenneth Russell continued to develop a theory for nucleation in solids under irradiation. Progress was made on including a source term for cluster injection in addition to cluster destruction through irradiation cascades. He entered into a collaboration with Professor V. Sugakov of the University of Kiev on the kinetics of self organizing systems.

Professor Otto Harling, along with medical collaborators at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Drs. Paul Busse and Robert Zamenhof, Professor Peter Griffith of Mechanical Engineering, several staff of the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, and six MIT graduate students, has continued research in the area of neutron capture therapy for cancer. Clinical trials for a particularly refractory form of brain cancer (glioblastoma multeforme) and for metatstatic melanoma on the extremities and in the brain were continued. The goal of these Phase I trials is to determine the maximum tolerable dose so that Phase II trials efficacy can be initiated. Tumor control has been observed for two peripheral melanoma subjects and for one subject with a melanoma brain metastasis even though the doses delivered were well below the maximum tolerable level.

In a separate but related project, $2.5 M in construction funding has been granted to the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory for a new medical irradiation facility to be used for neutron capture therapy at the MIT Reactor. The facility is based on a design developed at the NRL and uses a fission converter to produce a high intensity and high purity epithermal neutron beam suited for neutron capture therapy. When the new facility is completed in two years, the MIT/BIDMC group will have the best beam for neutron capture therapy and will be well positioned to conduct advanced clinical trials and eventual routine therapy.

Professor Freidberg and Drs. Stefano Migliuolo, Ali Shajii, and Jay Jayakumar developed a novel method for mapping the magnetic fields in the large detectors located in high energy particle accelerators. The method makes extensive use of Green's theorem and the theory of integral equations to greatly reduce the cost and time of traditional volume mapping techniques to a much simpler surface mapping procedure. The procedure is now being implemented on the PHENIX detector of the RHIC facility at Brookhaven.


Under the direction of Professor Ian Hutchinson, the Alcator C-Mod tokamak continued its studies in high-performance, compact magnetic plasma confinement. Very large core plasma rotations have been measured in plasmas with no external momentum input. The rotation is a key factor in understanding the reduction of transport by flow shear stabilization. Important new structure of the edge confinement barrier was measured using new high-resolution diagnostics, and the turbulence responsible for the degradation of this barrier has been documented. Edge plasma research demonstrated sustained divertor detachment during high confinement mode operation with minimal impact on the core plasma. In this work, the otherwise very large plasma heat flow to the divertor plates is reduced by large factors by volumetric radiation and recombination processes, through the addition of trace impurity gases. Plasmas that are identical in dimensionless plasma parameters to those on the much larger JET tokamak have been obtained. The results confirm the applicability of the dimensionless scaling approach over the largest range of sizes yet studied.

Professor Freidberg and his graduate student completed an analysis of energy transport in a reversed field pinch (RFP) fusion configuration. By assuming that the magnetic field and pressure profiles relax to a state which is marginally stable to the Suydam criterion (because of the related MHD turbulence), they derived an expression for the energy confinement time. This expression is in exact agreement with the empirically determined scaling law obtained from various RFP data.

Professor Freidberg, Dr. Joseph Minervini, and a graduate student are developing a continuum model of a multistrand superconducting CICC magnet in order to explain the ramp rate limitation observed in certain coils. This is a significant modeling effort attempting to account for transverse geometric effects in cables with as many as 1000 strands with time varying transport current and transverse fields.

Professors Kazimi and Meyer continued their investigation of the limits on heat removal from plasma facing components by highly subcooled water. Tests were carried out that showed when water velocity is 15 m/s or above, the heat flux removed in channels of a few mm diameter can be on the order of 25 MW/sq. m.


In order to expand nuclear waste management research within the department, Professor Kenneth Czerwinski initiated a program to investigate health hazards associated with nuclear waste. In collaboration with the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, this program is multidisciplinary and includes Institute toxicologists and environmental engineers. It will have three main aspects: investigation of a site contaminated with nuclear waste; biological effects of radiation; and examination of health records of areas near nuclear installations. Results will be used to quantify and model the effect of radioactive waste on human health. As with other Center programs, results will be communicated to the public.

Professor Czerwinski obtained first selective separation of lanthanides with ion specific resins. The selective uptake of Eu from aqueous solutions containing La was investigated and the ionoselectivities of the resins were compared. The separation factors obtained (S = 6.2, 6.9, 9.9 + 5%) by phenolic ion-exchange resins from aqueous solutions indicate that ion-specific resins can be developed for the specific separation of actinide ions from nuclear waste.

Professors Golay and Hansen continued work on the representation of the interactions between management policies and nuclear plant performance. They completed the development of a simulator model of plant operations.


Extracurricular NED student functions center around 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 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 15 graduate students and 2 undergraduates 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.

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 Eric Empey. The Irving Kaplan award, which recognizes academic achievement by a junior in nuclear engineering, was presented to Marc Berte.

The Manson Benedict Fellowship for 1998-99 will be shared by Damien Hicks and Roberto Accorsi in recognition of their excellence in academic performance and professional promise. The Theos Thompson Memorial Fellowship was held by Daniel Caputo and Laura Murphy during fall 1997.

The William and Ann McCormick Fellowship was given to Jacopo Buongiorno. The Sherman Knapp Scholarship, funded by Northeast Utilities, was presented to Michael Reynard. National Academy for Nuclear Training Fellowships for 1997-98 were held by Anthony Chatelain, Michael Folkert, and Michelle Ledesma.

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 presented to Mr. Buongiorno in recognition of his exceptional services to education as a teaching assistant.

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

Jeffrey P. Freidberg

MIT Reports to the President 1997-98