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US DOE Awards $1.5 Million Grant to Kansas State University to Upgrade Nuclear Reactor

Kansas State University's nuclear reactor control console in Ward Hall will be getting a much-needed upgrade, funded by a $1.5 million Nuclear Engineering University Partnerships grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The entire reactor console will be replaced, including cabling and neutron detectors used to monitor reactor power. While the core and control rods will remain the same, plans include replacing some of the auxiliary monitoring equipment such as conductivity meters and radiation detectors to improve compatibility with the new console.

The existing control console in the mechanical and nuclear engineering departmentreactor facility was procured second hand from the U.S. Geographical Survey reactor facility following an upgrade to its console in the 1990s.

"Researchers and educators in the College of Engineering will be able to more easily access data from the reactor data loggers for use in lab experiments," said Jeff Geuther, nuclear reactor facilities manager and principal investigator of the grant. "The reactor console will feature more redundancy with regard to required safety functions, which will improve safety and reliability."

Many of the current console components are obsolete and difficult to repair, causing frequent reactor downtime due to console reliability issues. The vendor for the original console does not always have ready replacements for broken parts.

"Another reason to upgrade the console, aside from increased reliability," Geuther said, "is that we will be able to improve the interface for operators by incorporating controls and indicators for auxiliary equipment into the main console. We also plan to increase the number of data outputs for classes and experiments."

The objective in the replacement process is to select a bid by January 2016, followed by approximately 18 months for design and construction of the console. Completed installation is set for September 2018. A one-month reactor outage for console replacement is planned for summer 2018 to minimize interruption for classes that use the reactor.

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