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Andrea Frank
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Mujid Kazimi
Professor of Mechanical Engineering Director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems

What are you working on?

Our work focuses on improving nuclear power technology options for the future. The key element is the fuel. It must be designed in such a way that the plant, which is built around the fuel, can be efficient––both in terms of housing and cooling the fuel, and also in converting into electricity the thermal power that is produced by the nuclear fission process. To that end, we’re developing fuel that can handle a higher power density than is possible in today’‘s fuel. Therefore, it will require less volume to produce the amount of power we need, which, in turn, will lower cost.

We also have new power conversion systems that are more efficient and thus can reduce the amount of material that is needed to produce a certain amount of electricity. And looking forward, we must find solutions for handling the discharged fuel. Today, discharged fuel is stored at the nuclear power plants. The plan is for it to go into a deep depository currently proposed in Nevada, but which hasn’t yet been licensed. We are also working on understanding the options for recycling fuel, as 95% of it is potentially useful in that capacity.

So, there are three main focus areas: more power per unit volume in the reactor, a more compact energy conversion system, and an optimum method for recycling the useful parts of the spent fuel. At the same time though, we must at least maintain all the current safety characteristics, if not improve upon them.

What could the recycled fuel be used for?

It could be used for future energy generation in similar reactors. Of course, it has to be separated from the waste and remanufactured in the right proportions.

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Andrea Frank