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Utah State University
Heng Ban, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Utah State University, will receive a $5 million grant from the Department of Energy to oversee research into accident-tolerant nuclear fuels — an increasingly relevant topic since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

LOGAN — Two mechanical engineering professors at Utah State University will receive grants from the U.S. Department of Energy totaling $5.8 million for nuclear energy research.

Department of Energy officials have awarded more than $35 million to 48 university-led nuclear research and development projects around the country.

Heng Ban will receive a $5 million grant to oversee research into accident-tolerant nuclear fuels — an increasingly relevant topic since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the development of light water reactors.

Ban said in a statement the research will advance understanding of fuel behavior and performance in accident conditions and provide experimental and computational tools for the department’s Accident Tolerant Fuels program. The research will focus on several key technical areas that are critical to the safety of nuclear power generation.

His collaborators include USU assistant professors Ling Liu and Ryan Berke, who will investigate how the extreme temperatures common to nuclear reactors affect the cladding material that encases nuclear fuel pellets.

Many of the experimental phases of the research will take place at Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test Facility.

Barton Smith will receive an $800,000 grant to improve computer models that predict how reactor cooling systems behave in an accident scenario. Smith will collaborate with Mark Kimber, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at Texas A&M University.