Innovation for Nuclear Never Stops

The first edition of Innovation for Nuclear (I4N) ended at IYNC2018 in Bariloche, Argentina, with the final contest and the winner announcement. At IYNC, innovation never stops and we also never stop supporting our partner YGNs around the world. So, we are excited to continue the I4N initiative and to support innovation and new technology solutions for sustainable development.

While we wait for the 2nd edition of I4N to launch, IYNC has been supporting Innovatome, Spark!, and the ANS Student Conference. We are happy to share with you their ideas and their experience in these contest.

The ANS Student Conference took place in April 2018 at the University of Florida (Gainsville, USA) and saw three groups of young professionals being awarded:

  1. The Fusioneers team from Texas A&M Kingsville, with their project on Fusion-based Neutron Source called “Neutrons at the Flick of a Switch”. A portable, market-competitive, miniature neutron-testing apparatus which utilizes Deuterium gas to fuel a D-D fusion reaction induced by high-temperature plasma. Such a reaction allows for the generation of neutrons, that can then be utilized for a wide array of applications including material composition analysis via neutron scattering, tomography, petroleum well logging, and radioisotope production.

The team believes that their neutron source allows for safe, inexpensive, modular, and semi-mobile neutron testing capabilities.  

They describe their experience in the contest: “It was a great experience for us. We had to “pitch” our idea to them (business-style) in 5 minutes, and we had to explain its feasibility, its desirability, and its viability.  We were also able to advance our designs because of the feedback we received from the judges and the audience, and were given a lot of valuable insights. This experience gave us an insight about how the nuclear industry is advancing, and the major problems we are facing across the industry. It is a valuable experience from which we learned a lot. It definitely reinforced and strengthened our interests and passions for the industry, and the entire nuclear science field as a whole.”

2. Kyle E. Brumback from Oregon State University presented their innovative idea of “Enhancing Geothermal Resources with Spent Nuclear Fuel”. Kyle was unavailable to be interviewed but we are sure he had an amazing experience.

3. Gerrit Bruhaug, Samuel D’Amico, Jacob Lehmer from Idaho State University were awarded for their proposal for “Magnetically Shielded IEC Neutron Generators”. While neutron radiation is used all across the world for materials analysis, cancer treatments, isotope production, and various nuclear physics experiments. The team highlighted the current limitations of these methods (large size, expense, and in some instances, the use of expensive, and rare, radioisotopes).

They proposed an alternative with their nuclear fusion device. The team highlight that “Our group has become the first to ever test the concept of a magnetically shielded IEC neutron generator, and we are currently in the process of testing this concept. The economic value in IEC neutron generators is obvious when compared to other neutron sources.  They have lower costs for maintenance and fuel, along with a longer lifespan. Their prototype under construction and testing at Idaho State University has been built at an incredibly low cost and commercial construction of an IEC neutron generator will be at a competitive level for the current industry.” Speaking about their experience, the team greatly enjoyed the contest and the conference and are all looking forward to their next conference.

The second contest supported by IYNC was the Innovatome contest which took place in two steps. First in March, around twelve teams – half of them in Paris, the other half in Lyon – had to figure out their idea for the contest. After several presentations on challenges the nuclear industry has to address, as well as on solutions that were brought in from other industries, the teams held brainstorming sessions with an innovation coach. At the end of the sessions, they had to pitch their idea to a jury of experts from the nuclear sector in France. As a result, four of the teams were selected to continue – two in Paris and two in Lyon.

Second, from April to June, the teams had to work on their ideas from the technical and business aspects, and at the end of June, each team presented their idea in front of a jury of senior directors in France. The Framateam team composed of Stanislas Quere, Guillaume Rondeau, and Julien Gardiol with their Arobase robot was selected as the winner.

The Arobase (Automated RObot with Assisted Shaving Execution) is a robot that can be used to automatize shaving operations of concrete and thus limit dust inhalation by operators.  Moreover it will improve the efficiency of decommissioning by shorten the length of dismantling activities and can reduce the quantity of very low level waste produced during these operations.

The Team describe their experience as rewarding and learning experience. “Innovatome is a great occasion to meet people interested or involved in the nuclear industry, to learn innovation methods and to put them into practice.” They believe that Innovation “is one of the keys of nuclear power, it increases safety, security and performance. I learned that there is always an innovation to discover, whatever the field and its maturity.”

And finally, IYNC also supported the Spark! contests. The aim of Spark! is to unite the leaders of today’s energy industry with those of tomorrow.  Each year, up to 45 brilliant young men and women (15 teams of 2-3 people) compete to take home The Spark! Contest crown. Each team must write 5000 words (10 pages) focusing on various technical, commercial and geopolitical aspects to voice a sound argument to underwrite their proposal.

In 2017-18, the contest asked the question “The Energy Transition: What is the role of nuclear technology in a world of growing alternative power and digital technology?”. It challenged participants to think about the next 20 to 30 years of nuclear power, and how it could play a role in the Energy Transition.

Antonio VAYÁ SOLER Supélec won this edition. “My first feeling when I arrived at the British Embassy was that I was being part of something big and quite unique. The fact of being surrounded by young talent and the best senior professionals in the sector just gave more motivation to develop my ideas. The Spark! Contest is the perfect platform to enlarge your network, share ideas and make them grow, and, most important of all: with the best.  Looking back, it was also a good opportunity to develop new skills and to test myself. I must admit that pitching about the paper was a challenging but fruitful experience”.

IYNC is happy to support the youth in the development of their innovative ideas that will shape the future of nuclear technology. We cannot wait to see the fantastic ideas from our upcoming I4N contest. Stay tuned for more innovation!