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Kaitlyn Barr given DOE Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Award

The award program strives to facilitate innovation and the creation of new ideas in nuclear-technology-relevant disciplines.

Kaitlyn Barr portrait
Kaitlyn Barr

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that Kaitlyn Barr, a Master’s student in the U-M Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, has been given an Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D award. The awards are given for innovative nuclear-technology-relevant research. 

Kaitlyn was awarded for her work on the paper, “Verification of MPACT for the APR1400 Benchmark.” The paper discusses the results of benchmark problems done using the code MPACT to support ongoing verification and validation efforts and ensure that MPACT can accurately model advanced light water reactors. Calculations were performed using the Korean APR1400 reactor design, and comparisons between the Monte Carlo reference results and those computed by MPACT indicate that MPACT was able to effectively predict reactor operation for a variety of temperatures and geometries ranging from a single pin cell to a full 3-D core. The results of this analysis have provided insight into advances that can be made to MPACT to further enhance its accuracy in simulating reactor behavior.

“This paper represents the culmination of a year of intense work under the mentorship of Prof. Brendan Kochunas,” said Kaitlyn. “I feel very honored to be recognized for the impact it has on our understanding of modeling advanced reactor operation.”

“The kind of cross-verification work and benchmarking Kaitlyn did for this paper, might seem routine, but it is so important when it comes to the deployment of advanced nuclear systems,” said Prof. Kochunas. “You have to be as sure as you can be that your models and methods are giving an answer that is going to reflect reality. Kaitlyn was relentless in pursuing an understanding of every aspect of the results and leaving no stone unturned. She is always such a pleasure to work with because of her capacity as an engineer and her professionalism.”

Kaitlyn at her X-energy internship with the office puppy, Roentgen.

Kaitlyn finished her undergraduate studies at NERS this past spring and will return in the fall to begin her Master’s studies. She is currently interning at X-energy. During her undergraduate studies, Kaitlyn did neutronics modeling and analysis of advanced nuclear reactor cores, and her work at X-energy is an extension of this. “I use state-of-the-art tools to perform analysis work on their Xe-100 small modular reactor,” Kaitlyn said. You can read the full profile of Kaitlyn and her internship here

In addition to a cash prize, R&D Award winners will have the opportunity to participate in the 2021 American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting, the 2021 Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Supply Chain Annual Meeting, and an Innovators’ Forum, a meeting designed to engage students in advancing innovations in nuclear technology research.

According to DOE, “In order to be successful and retain its leadership role in nuclear technologies, the United States must foster creativity and breakthrough achievements to develop tomorrow’s nuclear technologies. DOE has long recognized that university students are an important source of breakthrough solutions and a key component in meeting its long-term goals. The Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards program was developed for this purpose.”

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