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    Expanding the Family of Glenn T. Seaborg Institutes at Idaho National Laboratory

    Idaho National Laboratory (INL) established its Glenn T. Seaborg Institute (GTSI) in October 2017, becoming the latest Seaborg Institute to join the already well-established institutes/centers.

    By Terry A . Todd, D onald J. Wood | September 21, 2022

    Idaho Featured Image
    Yi Xie at work in the lab.

    INL is the only national laboratory overseen by the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy and is the nation’s leading laboratory for the development of nuclear energy and related technologies. Actinide science is critical for the successful development and implementation of nuclear energy. To strengthen and highlight this area, the Laboratory established its GTSI with the mission to increase INL’s recognition as a world leader in actinide science and a vision to advance the security of the nation and the future of the laboratory and benefit the American public through actinide research and education.

    Focus areas

    It is imperative that the GTSI supports key INL mission areas to maintain management and customer support for the institute. These areas include the development and characterization of advanced fuel materials and used fuel separation processing, both aqueous and non-aqueous, as well as a strong and growing program in actinide forensics and standard development. INL has world-leading capabilities in the development, fabrication, and post-irradiation examination of metal fuels, based on a nearly 60-year experience with the EBR-II fast reactor and expanding to recent micro-reactor fuels. With decades of molten salt experience, INL has recently developed capabilities for the fabrication and characterization of molten salt reactor fuels. The Laboratory also has experience in the fabrication and characterization of oxide fuels for both thermal and fast reactors.

    Nuclear fuel development has perhaps been INL’s largest nuclear program during the past few decades. To support and enhance this important field, the INL-GTSI targeted solid state actinide chemistry/physics as a focus area. The technologies of advanced aqueous and non-aqueous (molten salt) used fuel processing are considered critical for any future sustainable nuclear fuel cycle and support (funding) has been declining in this area over the past decade. With decades of experience in this area of chemistry, INL needs to maintain its critical expertise, therefore actinide solution chemistry was selected as the second focus area. The third and final focus area chosen was actinide forensics and standards. To be crosscutting in the laboratory, it is important that the GTSI supports multiple directorates within the laboratory. The forensics area is an important and growing capability within the National and Homeland Security Directorate and has many activities that are supported by actinide science.

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    Idaho National Laboratory

    Organization

    The INL-GTSI is governed by a director and deputy director, reporting to the Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology. There are three focus area leads for solid state actinide chemistry/physics, actinide solution chemistry, and actinide forensics and standards. There is an external advisory board consisting of the directors of the other three Seaborg institutes (Franz Freibert, LANL; Mavrik Zavarin, LLNL; Rebecca Abergel, LBNL), David Clark (former director of LANL Seaborg institute), and Darleane Hoffman as an honorary member. Terry Todd, an INL Laboratory Fellow, was selected as the first director of the GTSI and Donald Wood was later selected as the deputy director. Terry Todd has recently retired, and Rory Kennedy has been recently named the new director.

    Postdoc program

    The primary activity of the INL-GTSI to date has been the development of its postdoc program. The goal of the program is to attract outstanding scientists/ engineers that will conduct world-class research in actinide science with the aim of developing future leaders in these research fields at the laboratory. The first GTSI postdoc was hired in October 2018, about one year after the start of the institute. Since that time, eight Seaborg postdocs have been hired. Two have completed their postdoc assignments and left the laboratory for other opportunities. One has converted to a staff position at INL and five are continuing in their postdoc assignments. The table overleaf lists the postdocs, their internal organization, and their area of research.

    Activities to date

    Idaho National Laboratory (INL) established its Glenn T. Seaborg Institute (GTSI) in October 2017, becoming the latest Seaborg Institute to join the already well-established institutes/centers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). The INL-GTSI has been active in supporting collaborations between the other Seaborg institutes/centers and their postdocs. This effort has however been significantly set back by the pandemic, which has impacted travel and in-person meetings. A Seaborg panel session was held at the Global 2019 Nuclear Fuel Cycle Conference (in Seattle, WA), where each of the Seaborg institute/center directors gave presentations. This session was very well received and resulted in follow on discussions with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Savannah River National Laboratory about potentially establishing new Seaborg institutes at their laboratories.

    A session at the American Nuclear Society (ANS) winter meeting in November of 2019 was co-sponsored by the Seaborg institutes entitled “Advances in Solvent Extraction Technologies for Advanced Fuel Cycles.” It was well attended and afforded excellent interactions among postdocs and actinide scientists from around the world. We sponsored a distinguished seminar speaker (Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt) from Florida State University and made recruiting visits to a number of universities to solicit postdoc applications. Furthermore, INL organized a 2018 joint workshop with the University of Bristol (UK) on the topic of nuclear materials. The workshop was well attended and collaborations followed.

    Past and present INL GTSI post-doctorate researchers

    Seaborg postdocINL directorate organization*Research area
    Yi XieMFCCharacterization and properties of nuclear fuels
    Corey PilgrimNS&TNMR measurements of actinide solutions
    Xiaxin DingNS&TQuantum magnetism of actinide elements
    Thibaut LecrivainN&HSActinide and fission product chemistry
    Shuxian ZhouNS&TNuclear material performance using DFT and machine learning
    Rocio Rodriquez-LagunaNS&TDevelopment of novel methods for thermal conductivity measurements of molten actinide
    salts
    Trishelle Copeland-JohnsonMFCMaterial characterization and engineering
    Charlyne SmithMFCMechanistic studies in high burn-up fuels
    * MFC: Materials and Fuels Complex; NS&T: Nuclear Science and Technology; N&HS: National and
    Homeland Security.

    The GTSI annual review, in which the advisory panel is invited to provide evaluation and feedback, features a half-day symposium in which postdocs from each institute provide a short summary of their most recent work and allows unique interaction among the postdocs. This aspect of the review has been interesting and productive.

    As the restrictions for the global pandemic ease, INL-GTSI is preparing proposals to host symposia in 2023. The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) meeting in March of 2023 will feature a session entitled “Seaborg Institutes: Emerging Topics in Actinide Materials and Science” and sessions with the general theme of Actinide Science have been put forward for 2022/2023 ANS meetings.

    The Seaborg institutes around the country are developing a session at the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in fall 2023 entitled “Opportunities at the National Laboratories” which will focus on actinide research opportunities for graduate students and postdocs.

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    Research at Idaho National Laboratory supported by the Glenn T. Seaborg Institute.

     

    Summary

    The establishment of the INL-GTSI has led to greater attention to actinide science at INL and has catalyzed activity between Seaborg institutes. It has been able to attract some outstanding postdoctoral researchers across a broad range of research areas related to actinide science. In the short time that it has funded research, there have been over a dozen peer-reviewed journal publications and numerous presentations at conferences.

    Acknowledgments

    We would like to acknowledge Kelly Beierschmitt for being the management champion to initiate the INL-GTSI. Rekha Pillai, Kris Gofryk, and David Clark were instrumental in the development and initiation of this institute. The directors of the other three Seaborg Institutes and Centers have been extremely supportive. Current INL senior management (John Wagner, Laboratory Director, and Marianne Walck, Deputy Laboratory Director) continue to provide strong support for the INL-GTSI.

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    Terry Todd Portrait

    Terry A. Todd

    Terry Todd, retired, was a Laboratory Fellow and Director of the Fuel Cycle Science and Technology Division at Idaho National Laboratory. His primary focus was directing research and development of advanced technologies for spent nuclear fuel recycle and other chemical separation applications. He also served as the National Technical Director for the DOE Nuclear Technology Research and Development Material Recovery and Waste Form Development Program.