Fuel Cycle and Waste Management
Materials underpin all technologies. Energy materials research utilizes experimental facilities and analytical modeling to understand and predict the physical and mechanical behavior of materials at high temperatures, pressures, and stresses, as well as under other adverse environments found in energy systems and radioactive waste repositories. Materials of interest include ceramic nuclear fuels, metal and ceramic matrix composites, cermets, structural ceramics, and waste canister alloys. Advanced processing techniques are also developed. The wide applicability of materials permits students to enter a variety of career paths.
Nuclear energy is experiencing a renaissance both in the U.S. and worldwide. One of the most frequently asked questions when new nuclear power plants are proposed is "How do we manage the waste?" The answer involves a combination of technology and policy. In addition to the research on materials related to nuclear waste disposal, Purdue offers a course entitled Radioactive Waste Management that explores technical and policy issues related to treatment, storage, transportation, recycling, and disposal of radioactive wastes. High-level waste (used fuel from nuclear power plants) is considered along with low-level wastes from hospitals, research laboratories, universities, and other nuclear facilities as well as other types of radioactive wastes produced over the years from such varied activities as weapons production and uranium mining. Students have an opportunity to conduct research programs that explore these other aspects of radioactive waste management.