Visit to Cal Berkeley NSE Department!

I had a great visit to the University of California, Berkeley – Nuclear Engineering Department this month!

I had reached out to a couple of faculty members, and the Professor working in Thermal Hydraulics agreed to sit down with me, and linked me up with one of his graduate students to show me around.

I got to see their flagship research project: the Compact Integral Effects Test (CIET 1.0) device, which is a ~10m tall pre-prototype of the hydraulic cooling system of an FHR (molten flouride-salt-cooled high temperature nuclear fission reactor).  You can find out a lot more about it on their website, but the most watered down description is that with the CIET the TH department is hoping to simulate and recreate the coolant system of a 4th Gen Mk-1 Pebble Bed FHR (still in development), so that they can accurately predict the behavior of a prototype, at much lower temperatures (<10% of actual FHR temperatures) and without any nuclear material—and also at less than a million dollars.  A derivative goal of the CIET is to prove that through building projects like CIET, researchers and engineers can simulate and validate “Licensing Based Events” (LBEs) for certification of next generation nuclear reactors, before building multi-million, or even billion dollar prototypes. It was a lot of fun to see the work they’re doing.

I also got to sit in on NE 267 a combined grad/undergrad course on Nuclear Reactor Safety taught by the Thermal Hydraulics Professor.  The class presented next generation nuclear technologies in a town-hall format, with student hecklers, protesters, and supporters in the audience.  It was great, and the professor encouraged the hecklers and protesters to ask the tough and usual questions that non-nuclear engineers have about nuclear technology.  Primarily—-is it safe!!!

Yes.  It’s safe, and it’s clean.