Researchers from The University of New Mexico have been awarded more than $1.5 million in two separate multi-year grants beginning this fall and announced recently from the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program.


One award, for $799,945, is titled “NICSim: Nuclear Instrumentation and Control Simulation for Evaluating Response to Cyberattacks.” The project is being by led by Mohamed S. El-Genk, Distinguished and Regents’ Professor of nuclear engineering and founding director of the UNM Institute for Space and Nuclear Power Studies. It is a collaboration between UNM and Sandia National Laboratories. Christopher Lamb, a member of the technical staff at Sandia and a UNM research assistant professor, along with UNM research assistant professor Timothy Schriener, with the Institute for Space and Nuclear Power Studies, are collaborators on the project.

This program, which focuses on cybersecurity, will seek to develop a nuclear instrumentation and control simulation platform with a unique capability to simulate control systems and components in nuclear power plants. The objective of the project is to be able to simulate and eventually prevent cyberattacks on nuclear power grids. The project will also provide students with opportunities to participate in the cutting-edge research conducted at both UNM and Sandia.

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The second project, in the amount of $800,000, is titled “Integral Experimental Investigation of Radioisotope Retention in Flowing Lead for the Mechanistic Source Term Evaluation of Lead Cooled Fast Reactor.” The goal of the project, which is being led at UNM by Assistant Professor of Nuclear Engineering Youho Lee, is to discover how much radiation the public will be exposed to in the event of worst-case scenario accidents of next-generation reactors. Additionally, the project will explore future licensing strategies for the technology that is developed. Researchers from Brigham Young University and Westinghouse Electric Company are collaborators and several UNM graduate students will be hired to work on the project.

The goal of the Nuclear Energy University Program projects is to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.

The awards to UNM are part of nearly $64 million in awards issued this month for advanced nuclear energy technology to the Department of Energy national laboratories, industry and universities.