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Highlights

Fast Reactor Curriculum Workshop

Nuclear engineering faculty engaging in a discussion on their curriculum needs for advanced reactor technology during the Fast Reactor Curriculum Workshop

Nuclear engineering faculty engaging in a discussion on their curriculum needs for advanced reactor technology during the Fast Reactor Curriculum Workshop.
Click on image to view larger image at Flickr.

Oct. 1st, 2010
The Nuclear Engineering Division (NE) at Argonne recently hosted a Fast Reactor Curriculum Workshop for 32 members of faculty from 18 nuclear engineering programs around the country.

The purpose of the workshop was to provide the participating faculty with a common understanding of the current state of fast reactor technology and to engage them in a discussion on curriculum development needs for their schools or universities. The goal is to collect feedback on how the national laboratories can best support their curriculum development in advanced reactor technology. A fast reactor is one in which the high-energy neutrons released by fission are not slowed, as in most reactors, by moderating materials. Unlike the "once-through" fuel cycle used in current reactors, metallic fuel in a fast reactor can be recycled — allowing more power to be extracted while minimizing the amount and lifetime of waste. This is referred to as "closing the fuel cycle."

The Fast Reactor Curriculum Workshop was the first effort to engage a large number of nuclear engineering faculty simultaneously in a discussion on their curriculum needs for advanced reactor technology. The results of this workshop are being summarized in a milestone report that will provide valuable guidance for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in developing programs to support the education and training of future generations of nuclear engineers in fast reactor technology. As a result of the workshop, NE has already received several requests to sponsor guest lecturers, joint seminars and student-faculty laboratory assignments.

One of the many participants at the Fast Reactor Curriculum Workshop

One of the many participants at the Fast Reactor Curriculum Workshop.
Click on image to view larger image at Flickr.

To get to that next step, NE has been getting the word out on fast reactors. The workshop is one avenue. Interaction between faculty and researchers is vital because most textbooks in the area of advanced reactor technology are often outdated or unavailable. The well-known text, Fast Breeder Reactors by Waltar and Reynolds is no longer in print and was last published in 1981. As a result, the last 30 years of advances in technology are only available across numerous journal articles, conference proceedings and laboratory reports, making curriculum development a challenging task for individual faculty.

In addition to the faculty at the workshop, experts from Argonne, Idaho National Laboratory and other collaborators in the areas of advanced reactor physics, fuels, materials, safety, engineering and simulations were on hand to lead discussions on past and future trends in fast reactor development. Feedback from the faculty was extremely positive. During the discussions, two major needs were identified. First, a substantial educational benefit could be realized through closer, more personal interactions between faculty, students and laboratory researchers. A number of methods for accomplishing this were identified. Second, the complex topics discussed at the workshop need to be distilled into smaller examples with simple exercises that students can solve to help comprehend and internalize the concepts. With DOE and national laboratory support to meet these needs, advanced reactor concepts can be better integrated into the U.S. nuclear engineering curriculum.

Article by Thomas Fanning, principal nuclear engineer, Nuclear Engineering Division.

 

Related Information

Flickr View photos of the “Fast Reactor Curriculum Workshop” - Photo Gallery at Flickr

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Last Modified: Wed, April 20, 2016 9:36 AM

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For more information, please contact the Nuclear Engineering Division () at Argonne.