S&T modular reactor consortium funds two initiatives

Graphical rendering of the Westinghouse SMR containment vessel. ©2013 Westinghouse Electric Company LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Graphical rendering of the Westinghouse SMR containment vessel. ©2013 Westinghouse Electric Company LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Missouri’s multi-university Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Research and Education Consortium, led by Missouri University of Science and Technology, has selected its first two research initiatives for funding.

The consortium, established in July 2013 with Ameren Corp. and Westinghouse Electric Co. as founding members, is supported by a $250,000 grant from the Missouri Technology Corp. In collaboration with the University of Missouri-Columbia, S&T conducts research through the consortium that will benefit the nuclear energy industry.

The first initiative will involve research aimed at identifying and establishing a sustainable supply chain for SMRs. The second initiative will investigate and identify uncertainty involved in numerical simulation of thermal-hydraulic flow inside an SMR using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). This work, referred to as “verification and validation” of CFD codes, will help provide software tools to evaluate SMR design and operation.

“An SMR requires many components that must come together for it to function safely and efficiently,” says Dr. Joseph Smith, the Wayne and Gayle Laufer Chair of Energy at S&T and executive director of the SMR Research and Education Consortium. “Research conducted by the SMR consortium will help develop and support the SMR industry, while teaching our students through hands-on learning.”

“Developing an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable SMR supply chain will impact which vendors become part of the supply chain,” says Smith. “These vendors must maintain an ‘N-Stamp’ certification to provide materials associated with building and operating an SMR.” Smith says one objective of the research will also be to assess the life-cycle sustainability of the SMR supply chain.

“Construction of an SMR in Missouri is expected to generate approximately $3 billion in economic activity and provide more than 10,000 new jobs through a sustainable SMR supply chain,” says Smith.

Dr. Kwame Awuah-Offei, an associate professor of mining engineering at S&T, Dr. Suzanna Long, an assistant professor of engineering management at S&T, and Dr. Shoaib Usman, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at S&T, will lead the “SMR Supply Chain Assessment” research project.

The research effort to establish a verified and validated CFD code to simulate thermal-hydraulic flows inside a light-water nuclear reactor will be led by Smith and Dr. Muthanna Al-Dahhan, professor and chair of chemical and biochemical engineering at S&T. This work will help assess safety issues associated with the design and operation of an SMR.

“The two research initiatives awarded by the SMR consortium will help advance the technology while also providing the support needed to businesses interested in the future supply chain,” says Richard Smith, director of research and development at Ameren Corp.

The consortium’s main objective is to identify and develop technology that supports the SMR industry to improve U.S. energy security and enhance environmentally sustainable energy generation. Smaller than traditional nuclear power plants, SMRs provide more flexibility for generating electricity.

For more information about the SMR Research and Education Consortium, visit energy.mst.edu/consortium. Visit Westinghouse’s energy website online. Visit Ameren’s energy website online. Hear Smith talk about SMRs on S&T’s public radio affiliate KMST at www.kmst.org/programs/energytoday.