UPDATE: MU wins $1.1 million grant for nuclear research

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 | 12:40 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — MU received a grant Tuesday of more than $1.1 million to promote nuclear energy research and development projects.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced that MU was one of 31 college and universities across the country to receive a grant as part of its Nuclear Energy University Programs. The grants total $39 million.

The university was the only school in Missouri to receive an award.

The grant will be used for research by the MU Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute, Research Reactor and Chemistry Department, said David Robertson, associate director of the Research Reactor.

Nuclear energy experts from the Department of Energy, national laboratories, industries and universities reviewed 766 project applications from university professors, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

After selecting 249 of those applications, the professors submitted a final proposal, from which 51 were chosen.

MU will put its grant money toward a project in the Reactor Concepts Research, Development and Demonstration field, one of the four awarded fields.

This project will aim to "develop new and advanced reactor designs and technologies that broaden the applicability of nuclear reactors while addressing the technical, cost, safety and security issues associated with different reactor concepts," according to a department news release.

Under the project, MU is working to increase the safety of the next generation of reactors, Robertson said.

A team of MU researchers, led by nuclear engineering professor Sudarshan Loyalka, is looking at ways to eliminate the release of small amounts of radioactive material at power plants in the event of "extreme accident conditions" — a melting or evaporation of nuclear material, according to the department.

Robertson said the general purpose of the project is to look at the behavior of materials under high temperatures, through the use of a high-temperature reactor.

He said a high-temperature reactor can be used to generate electricity and run chemical processes such as hydrogen production.

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