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Wirth Contributes to Two Committees Shaping the Future of Nuclear Engineering

Brian Wirth.UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Computational Nuclear Engineering Brian Wirth just completed a one-year assignment as a member of a US Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) sub-committee to evaluate the scientific justification for a US domestic, high-performance reactor-based research facility.

The report provides a thorough assessment of the aspects of neutron science and applications of utilizing neutrons in industry and materials research, including for the production of medical isotopes, in order to assert that significant upgrades are required within the US to continue to serve the country’s needs, and then recommends the following:

  • An upgrade to the high flux isotope reactor at ORNL that would replace the aging reactor pressure vessel and convert the nuclear fission core to low-enriched uranium while increasing the capacity for research and isotope production;
  • Begin the design work for a new nuclear reactor that could expand capacity for neutron research and isotope production.

The final report has been officially approved by BESAC and is now available for download.

Wirth is also a member of the National Academies committee, which is tasked with mapping out the path to building a fusion pilot plant in the US.

This membership is a follow-up to his participation in the 2017 and 2018 National Academy committee on burning plasma research to define the US strategy for fusion energy. That committee recommended a strategic plan for the development of fusion energy that highlighted the importance of building a fusion pilot plant.

Read the full recommendation from the burning plasma strategy committee.