Nuclear Engineering in
Dr. Robert J. McTaggart
South Dakota State University
SDSM&T Vertical Facility Meeting
December 16, 2008
History of nuclear power
in South Dakota
• Ernest Lawrence (cyclotron)
graduated from USD in 1922.
• Uranium mining occurred (and
may occur again) near
Edgemont, SD (1956-1972).
• Pathfinder in Sioux Falls was
considered to be the world’s
first all-nuclear power plant.
– Operated 1966-1967.
– Decommissioned in 1994.
– Precursor to Monticello and
Prairie Island. The Pathfinder Plant in
Interest in Nuclear Power
for South Dakota
• 2007, South Dakota Energy Infrastructure
– Opportunities/challenges for wind, coal, nuclear
– Skilled labor force needed for nuclear power
– SD has natural resources and public support for
• 2006, SD House Resolution 1010
– House and Senate support the development of
nuclear power within South Dakota
Nuclear Engineering Education
• South Dakota can play a significant role in
the current renaissance of nuclear power.
– Near-term employment in Minnesota,
Nebraska, near Chicago, etc.
– Support future generating capacity for the
Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains.
• A TRIGA test reactor would support
nuclear engineering education in South
What is a TRIGA
What could it be used
What is the current
nuclear engineering in
Neutron source: TRIGA =
3.4 MW annular core Training
research TRIGA reactor Isotopes
with Liquid D2 cold from
neutron moderator General
Why TRIGA’s are
the safest reactor.
Uranium-zirconium-hydride (UZrH) fuel is chemically
The design has structual integrity at 950 °C.
“Warm-neutron principle”: Negative feedback at high
– Moderation is done by the hydrogen in the fuel, not by water that
can cool things down.
– Remove fuel rods, increase temperature, reduce chances of
– It cannot explode like Chernobyl.
It will operate in the steady DC mode.
Superior retention of fission products compared with
Fewer exchanges of spent fuel.
TRIGA Annular Core
TRIGA Side View
Can TRIGA create a background for other DUSEL experiments?
Neutrinos ? For reactor located at
the distance 2 km from the DUSEL main
campus reactor antineutrino flux is
not larger (e.g. by scaling from KamLAND)
than solar neutrino flux
Might be still essential for CC
antineutrino detection experiments
at DUSEL (e.g. geo-neutrinos)
Neutron Activation Analysis
Neutron radiography (imaging)
Radiation materials science
Training of nuclear engineers
Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA)
• Many elements absorb neutrons and undergo
gamma decay with unique energies: These
decays are detected and counted.
• NAA provides a highly accurate, non-destructive,
multi-elemental analysis of a sample.
• The flux of > 1013 # / cm2s would be large
enough to support analyses for Homestake and
external environmental and industrial needs.
Center of Excellence in Physics
• Irradiation for NAA could take place on the
surface, counting could take place
underground with High-Purity Germanium
• Reduced background rates underground
will result in lower detection limits.
• Local irradiation will allow more short-lived
isotopes to be assayed.
Current infrastructure for nuclear
engineering in South Dakota
Both SDSU and SDSM&T have ABET accredited
programs in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering.
Collaborative M.S. in Physics is being developed among
SDSM&T, USD, and SDSU.
SDSM&T has an ABET accredited chemical engineering
SDSU offers the introductory nuclear engineering course
Cobalt-60 irradiator in Brookings used to sterilize 3M
Uranium mining may occur again in Southwestern SD.
SDSU has one remaining Pu-Be neutron source.
Near-term support for nuclear
engineering (~2 years)
SDSU could accredit its B.S. in Engineering
Physics with an emphasis in nuclear power.
ME degrees at both SDSU and SDSM&T could
add a nuclear option.
Minor in Nuclear Engineering.
Health Physics would support Homestake,
hospitals, and nuclear engineering.
Collaborative NE courses & research
opportunities could be developed.
Long-term development of
nuclear engineering (≥ 5 years)
NRC licenses for all BOR schools and
Robust and modernized nuclear
laboratories to handle larger throughput of
students and research needs.
Higher-level planning and organization of
nuclear engineering education.
Implementation of a TRIGA test reactor in
TRIGA Reactor after NNbar
• The TRIGA reactor can be owned by the
South Dakota Universities, and serve as a
long-term radiation and education facility.
• If necessary, it can be relocated to a
different site in South Dakota after NNbar
has been completed.
“Nuclear Power is a necessary part of the
future. We can’t walk away from nuclear
energy because of the last generations’
– Governor Rounds, November 24, 2008
meeting of the Pierre Rotary.