Safer Fission

On the nuclear front, researchers at Purdue are focusing on making this energy source safer.

Today, nuclear power provides about 20 percent of the nation's electricity. It may well provide more in the future as the country shifts from its dependence on oil.

Mamoru Ishii, the Walter Zinn Distinguished Professor of Nuclear Engineering and director of the Purdue Institute of Thermal Hydraulics, is developing a computer tool that can help ensure the safety of future nuclear power plants. The tool will help engineers design nuclear plants that have "passive cooling systems," which require no pumps and will keep running during electrical–power interruptions.

Colleague Karen Vierow, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering, is leading research to improve three computer programs needed to prevent Three Mile Island–like disasters.

The complex programs, or "reactor safety codes," are used to simulate severe accidents and, in the process, provide data needed to ensure that power plants are designed properly.

—Lisa Hunt Tally with Cynthia Sequin