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Researchers at GW receive federal funds to study the effect earthquakes have on nuclear reactors
Date:6/8/2012

WASHINGTON A team of George Washington University researchers have received federal funding to study the effects earthquakes have on nuclear reactor cores. The findings of the research have implications for nuclear reactor construction and analysis well into the future.

Philippe M. Bardet, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and lead researcher on the project, and his colleagues, Elias Balaras, associate professor of engineering and applied science, and Majid Manzari, professor of civil and environmental engineering, were recently awarded more than $860,000 over three years by the U.S. Department of Energy to devise a model for simulating the impact of fuel rod vibrations inside a nuclear reactor.

The researchers, all members of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) faculty, will be modeling the most common type of reactor in the United States, called a pressurized water reactor (PWR). In a PWR, steam is made from water outside the reactor core, while water inside is used as a coolant.

"GW's effort is focused on what is happening at the fuel rod level, namely, can fuel rods bend during an earthquake," said Dr. Bardet. "If they do, there is a risk that the fuel cladding, or pipes that contain the fuel, can be damaged, prematurely releasing radioactive materials into the water. Another risk is that the thimble guides used to guide control rods, which regulate the reactor, can bend as well, preventing the insertion of the control rods."

The research is part of an international contributory approach in which a series of experiments will be conducted in concert with the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in France and the Argonne National Lab (ANL), a research laboratory operated by the University of Chicago for the Department of Energy.

Dr. Manzari and Dr. Bardet will conduct small scale experiments on the earthquake simulator, or "shake table" located at GW's Virginia Science and Tech
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Contact: Latarsha Gatlin
lgatlin@gwu.edu
202-994-5631
George Washington University
Source:Eurekalert

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