When it comes to the daunting task of storing large quantities of nuclear waste in the United States, there are a lot of major stakeholders. Scott Spychala, a nuclear engineering major at the University of Missouri-Rolla, is trying to help those stakeholders work together more efficiently.
At the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada, stakeholders plan to safely store nuclear waste for thousands of years. Spychala will present his research findings about work at Yucca Mountain June 20 during the International Youth in Nuclear Congress (IYNC) in Stockholm, Sweden.
“The research suggests that the largest and most daunting tasks do not necessarily require the largest work force,” says Spychala, a senior from Glyn Ellyn, Ill. “It is the tasks that are in the path of most resistance that require the most effort.”
According to Spychala, stakeholders in the Yucca Mountain project include the U.S. Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, Congress, national laboratories, construction engineering firms and other non-government organizations.
“The Nuclear Waste Policy Act requires that all responsible bodies submit reports containing performance metrics and objectives,” Spychala says. “While these reports are issued in progress toward a common goal, there is no accessible dynamic model of the project timeline in its entirety that includes all of the stakeholders.”
Spychala decided to try to take on the challenge of providing such a timeline. His research has been supported through UMR’s Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Experiences (OURE) program, which gives undergraduates a chance to conduct research with faculty members. OURE students then have opportunities to present their findings, but Spychala is among the first to attend an international conference.
Spychala got the idea for the research project from Dr. Akira Tokuhiro, who is now at Kansas State University. Michael Flagg, who recently earned a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from UMR, also worked on the project with Spychala and Tokuhiro. Flagg is from Sikeston, Mo.
“Our project includes a web-based application that will allow users to apply changes to the Yucca Mountain timeline,” Spychala says. “Through this application, users can view the long-term effects of different work force sizes, account for various delays, and so on.”
Another recent graduate from UMR, Kendal Bishop, will also present OURE-inspired nuclear engineering research at the conference in Stockholm. Bishop, who is from Clovis, N.M., is presenting a paper titled “Can Lean Manufacturing Concepts be Applied to Future Nuclear Power Plant Construction?” Co-authors include Tokuhiro and Tricia Mattson, yet another recent nuclear engineering graduate from UMR. Mattson’s hometown is Dixon, Mo.
In addition to support from UMR, Bishop and Spychala are receiving funding from the DOE for the trip to Stockholm.