Nuclear Engineering

Nuclear Engineering

Post doctorate student Bethany Matthews uses the Thermo Fisher Helios 660 Dual Beam Focus Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscope (FIB-SEM) for preparation and analysis of radioactive and non-radioactive samples, including metals, oxides, and geologic materials.
The “dual” part of the microscope is what makes it special. Researchers can prepare samples and analyze them while also using one of the beams to remove site-specific material from the sample. 

Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

We have expertise in complex irradiation systems that support materials science, tritium production, advanced fuel modeling, and reactor production analysis. Our strong knowledge base and expertise in commercial nuclear industry enables design of targets for isotope production and fuel performance modeling to develop or evaluate fuels for use in Nuclear Regulatory Commission-regulated commercial or research reactors.

We developed the world’s most accurate estimation tool for graphite reactor operational history, and have deep expertise in plutonium production, from reactor to plutonium metal. We are the design authority for tritium production targets used in a commercial reactor and are noted for expertise in remote sensor design to enable reactor life-extensions. The combination of thermal, nuclear, and structural skills is also used to evaluate spent nuclear fuel storage and transportation options.

We apply these skills in radiological facilities to characterize and understand irradiation effects on materials through post-irradiation examination and to make precise measurements and analyses that enable nuclear archeological assessments. In addition, we have experimental testing capabilities that enable design, development, and fabrication of advanced, accident-tolerant fuel for commercial reactors and low-enrichment fuel for research reactors, as well as design, modeling, fabrication, and deployment of complex irradiation tests to evaluate nuclear materials. Unique facilities at PNNL include the Applied Process Engineering Laboratory, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, and the Radiological and Nuclear Science Laboratories.

The nuclear engineering capability supports research programs managed for the Department of Energy’s Offices of Science (Basic Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics, and Nuclear Physics), Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Environmental Management, and Nuclear Energy. Sponsors also include the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Defense Programs, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Research topics