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Christensen Receives Grant for Nuclear Plant Control Room Simulator

August 26, 2019

Richard Christensen, director of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Idaho, Idaho Falls College of Engineering, in collaboration with professors Robert Borrelli, Michael Haney and Michael McKellar, was recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support the installation of a NuScale reactor plant simulator. The simulator, which will be housed at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) at U of I Idaho Falls, is a virtual nuclear power plant control room that provides CAES with the ability to observe nuclear plant behavior.

The simulator will include an interface that accepts input from operators in a virtual control room and displays parameters simulating the plant response.

DOE grants were also awarded to Oregon State University and Texas A&M University-College Station. The simulator facilities will be used for research, education, K-12 outreach and public advocacy regarding nuclear power and small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

"This grant puts U of I CAES in the forefront of modeling with respect to NuScale reactors," Christensen said. "U of I has a significant impact on nuclear research already. Now, we will be able to host students and research from other universities across the intermountain West."

Christensen said the first NuScale SMR is also expected to be built at CAES, giving more opportunity to utilize the control room to record and test simulated fluctuations on the only SMR currently at an advanced stage in the nuclear regulatory process.

"We can do a great deal of research in cybersecurity and nuclear power production," he said. "We can investigate variable sources of power, including nuclear, solar and wind. We now have the capability of modeling all of that."

Richard Christensen

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