Left to right: Faris Fakhry, Emile Gateau, and Emile Germonpré from NSE’s Microreactor Group
Research from the NSE Microreactor Group won three Best Paper Awards at the 2023 International Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants (ICAPP) held in South Korea in April. The Microreactor Group, headed by Professor Jacopo Buongiorno, researches all aspects of microreactor technology, including reactor design, safety, security, economics, market applications, business models, logistics, and regulations. The Group provides opportunities for collaborative research across disciplines within MIT and with other institutions beyond MIT. The lead authors on the three presentations are Emile Germonpré, Emile Gateau, and Faris Fakhry.
NSE graduate student, Emile Germonpre, won the award for a presentation titled “An economic analysis of the use of nuclear microreactors in hydrogen production”. Nuclear batteries are autonomously operated nuclear microreactors the size of a shipping container that can supply several megawatts of electricity for years without refueling. They can potentially be an exceptionally versatile energy platform, yet typically, only niche applications are suggested for their use due to the high first-of-a-kind costs, e.g., powering remote communities. In this work, the team examined the potential of Nth-of-a-kind nuclear batteries to penetrate larger markets, particularly wider hydrogen markets, and have identified the major obstacles and enablers for them to do so. The results allow for future work to be focused on the most important cost drivers and help to better understand the conditions needed for a successful nuclear battery project and as such these results help to make nuclear batteries reach their full potential. (Emile Germonpré, J. Buongiorno, K. Shirvan, J. I. Lee, R. Macdonald, “An economic analysis of the use of nuclear microreactors in hydrogen production”, Proc. ICAPP 2023, Gyeongju, South Korea, April 23-27, 2023.)
Emile Gateau, a visiting student in NSE's microreactor group last summer and is currently a graduate student at Ecole Polytechnique, won the award for a presentation titled “Consequence-based security for microreactors”. Proving the security of nuclear reactors is a necessary step for their licensing. However, in the case of microreactors, the current framework of the security approach does not allow their development while remaining economically viable. A new approach to security is therefore necessary. This body of work proposes methodology adapted to microreactors through a new consequence-based approach to be applied to the cases of four microreactors of different technologies. The team's new framework estimates the radiological consequences in the worst case of malicious action on a reactor and compares them with existing regulations. This comparison allows for assessment and proof of the security of the reactor. (Emile Gateau, N. Todreas, J. Buongiorno, “Consequence-based security for microreactors”, Proc. ICAPP 2023, Gyeongju, South Korea, April 23-27, 2023)
Tufts University undergraduate, Faris Fakhry has been working in the NSE Microreactor Group this year and will be transferring to MIT's Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering in Fall 2023. Fakhry won the award for a presentation titled “A Central Facility Concept for Nuclear Microreactor Maintenance and Fuel Cycle Management”. Nuclear microreactors are potentially deployable at a much faster cadence than traditional reactors. This accelerated deployability creates new challenges for the industry beyond those traditionally encountered with grid-scale reactors. While the industry is forecasting microreactor deployment in the hundreds or possibly even thousands of units, there is currently no existing framework or model to manage the fuel cycle and O&M requirements of such an envisioned, distributed fleet. MIT's Advanced Nuclear & Production Experts Group, has developed an approach to address these issues through a multi-operator "Central Facility," designed to meet the needs of reactor developers, nuclear regulators, and end-consumers. The goal is to have the Central Facility act as a central node for the microreactor industry to which all fuelling, defuelling, inspection, and transportation activities will channel through. (Faris Fakhry, J. Buongiorno, S. Rhyne, B. Cross, P. Roege, B. Landrey, “A Central Facility Concept for Nuclear Microreactor Maintenance and Fuel Cycle Management”, Proc. ICAPP 2023, Gyeongju, South Korea, April 23-27, 2023)