Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) are part of a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support efforts in developing interim storage solutions for the country's spent nuclear fuel. The UIUC team, comprising Drs. Caleb Brooks, Syed Bahauddin Alam, Tomasz Kozlowski, and Tim Grunloh, will leverage their expertise to assist the DOE in advancing research and development for the long-term disposal of fuel used to generate emissions-free nuclear power. This aligns with President Biden's goals of a 100% clean electric grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050.
The funding will facilitate UIUC's contributions to consent-based siting education, data collection, monitoring, and artificial intelligence-driven framework development. Tools, techniques, and procedures developed during the course of this project will assist DOE in engaging any prospective community considering hosting nuclear spent fuel.
The results of testing these tools with site communities will provide valuable insight for DOE when it comes to public perception of radioactive material. At the same time, participants in the knowledge-sharing program and experiential learning exercises will provide data on the effects of proper education and training on the opinion of stakeholders. “In the pursuit of consent-based siting for spent nuclear fuel storage, the fusion of digital twins and machine learning can offer groundbreaking pathways,” said NPRE assistant professor Syed Bahauddin Alam. “These technologies promise enhanced safety and efficiency while ensuring community stakeholders' voices are respected.”
The project will be conducted in collaboration with an array of partners, including Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Missouri - Columbia, Taylor Geospatial Institute, and St. Louis University. The effort leverages the Illinois Microreactor RD&D Center at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which is a collaboration of faculty, research staff, and student working to enable a new paradigm for nuclear power for a clean, sustainable energy future.
“DOE’s consent-based siting is in the initial stages of more holistic effort to address the nation’s spent fuel storage needs,” said center director and NPRE associate professor Caleb Brooks. “This project will give Illinois residents the opportunity to share their perspective on future of spent fuel management.”