The Economics of a Nuclear Accident
UROP Description: As demonstrated by the accidents at TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima, a nuclear accident anywhere has an impact on national nuclear industries everywhere, and it is in the interest of nuclear suppliers and operators that plants in another country are built and operated as safely as their own. Accidents at nuclear plants can incur enormous costs. Some of these costs are direct and easily observable. These include costs of evacuation, rehabilitation, cleanup, decommissioning, litigation, and purchasing replacement power (that would otherwise have been produced by the nuclear plant). Less direct and less observable are the costs created and incurred by stakeholders in other countries in the form of higher insurance premiums, or costs of new regulatory requirements, or a cancelled nuclear plant project.
A thorough accounting of the costs of Fukushima has not yet been undertaken. The purpose of this UROP project, is to identify and systematically document the costs of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. This work will begin by developing a taxonomy of stakeholders (which will be iteratively refined). Much of the cost data will be found in or calculated using reports of the accident, journal articles or newspaper reports, and the rest will be gleaned from conversations and interviews with the stakeholders.
The broader inquiry of which this UROP project is a part, is to understand the cost of a nuclear accident to each key stakeholder in the nuclear industry in order to identify how the incentives of organizations to create and adopt a minimum enforceable level of safety have changed over time and might change in the future, and, by drawing on theories of collective action and institutional change from the social sciences, suggest the design of instruments and institutions for enforcing safety at an international level that will have better chances of success.
No previous nuclear engineering experience necessary !
Focusing optics for a neutron microscope
PIs: Dr. David Moncton, Dr. Boris Khaykovich
UROP Description: Neutron scattering is one of the most useful methods of studying the structure and dynamics of matter. However, a neutron analog of an optical microscope has not been built so far, mostly because weak interaction of neutrons with most materials precludes making effective neutron lenses. At the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, we are developing novel neutron focusing optics, which have led to a recent demonstration of a prototype neutron microscope. The UROP student will work on computer simulation of a neutron instrument equipped with such mirrors.
Some familiarity with Python, a flavor of C, or Matlab will be helpful to complete this project.
Low-Dose Inspection for Nuclear Threats Using Monochromatic Gamma-Rays
PIs: Dr. Richard Lanza
UROP Description: We are working on a new approach to finding shielded nuclear materials using high energy gamma rays to make images of containers and their contents. We need high energy gamma rays (>4 MeV) to penetrate thick objects. Normally this is done with electron accelerators, however they produce a continuous spectrum of x-rays, most of which are wasted and only produce radiation dose and not contrast. We are planning to produce gamma rays at discrete high energies using nuclear reactions produced by small proton and deuteron particle accelerators, some which have been developed at MIT. Since we use monoenergetic gammas, the contrast between materials such as iron and uranium is very large. The picture shows a 100 cc U cube in 40 cm Fe block imaged with 15.1 MeV gammas (MCNPX simulation).
This project is a collaboration between NSE and CSAIL as well as researchers from Penn State and Georgia Tech. Things you can work on include operating small accelerators either on campus or at the MIT Bates Lab, making and testing new radiation detectors and using new decision making algorithms to ferret out signals in the noise. One of the accelerators which is shown below and is still under development is a revolutionary superconducting cyclotron which weighs about 1/50th of conventional cyclotrons.
Graphical User Interfaces for a Nuclear Reactors
PI: Dr. Koroush Shirvan
UROP Description: The task is to create a GUI in Matlab, based on one written in DOS in the 1990s, to serve as an educational tool to help teach about nuclear power plant operation. The student is expected to port all the existing visual features of each component in the DOS based GUI and bring them to Matlab (with added personal artistic touch!). The actual computation for each component's performance already exists, and will be provided separately. The student can develop the GUI in Matlab with his favorite operating system: Windows, Linux or Mac.
No nuclear engineering background is required, however, throughout the process of making the GUI, the student will slowly learn how nuclear power plants operate.