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Innovative Use Of A Research Reactor For Interdisciplinary Engineering Education

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Distance, Remote, and Virtual Experiments

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.900.1 - 12.900.21



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Paper Authors

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John White University of Massachusetts-Lowell

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Leo Bobek University of Massachusetts- Lowell

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Innovative Use of a Research Reactor for Interdisciplinary Engineering Education


Over the last few years, the research reactor facility at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UMLRR) has developed capability to perform live experiments and deliver archived reactor operations data via a web-based interface to remote users.1-3 Access to this capability is available through the educational website and the UMLRR Online link,4 which were originally set up as a resource for students, instructors, and working professionals interested in the nuclear engineering field. This capability was designed specifically to promote and enhance the use of the UMass-Lowell research reactor (UMLRR) within a much wider nuclear engineering educational community. The UMLRR has been a terrific educational resource for the students at UMass-Lowell for many years and, through this website, the goal was to share this rather unique resource beyond the physical boundaries of UMass-Lowell -- with, of course, a focus on nuclear engineering education. However, our experience over the last three years has indicated that the overall system can also be used successfully by a much wider base of engineering students with no background or specific interest in nuclear systems.

Within this non-nuclear context, the reactor core is simply treated as a variable heat source, whose energy can be removed by either natural or forced convection. The core is contained within a large pool of water which is used as both a heat sink and as a source of shielding for the core. The facility has a primary and secondary cooling system that includes primary and secondary pumps, a shell and tube heat exchanger, and a cooling tower for final discharge of the waste energy to the environment. The system is fully instrumented with over 40 web-accessible indicators (including core power level, primary and secondary flow rates, various temperature values, device on/off status indicators, etc.) that give a continuous picture of the overall condition of the system. Thus, the reactor facility represents a perfect scale model of a modern industrial plant with many of the same components and energy transport processes that can be found in any plant. This facility is rather unique within the educational community and it has the potential to provide a wide variety of educational opportunities and real-life learning experiences that are not readily available at most institutions.

This paper first describes the physical plant layout and main system components and discusses the overall web-accessible reactor laboratory system that has evolved over the last few years. By way of illustration, two specific cases are then highlighted: an introductory energy balance laboratory that has been conducted for several groups of freshman Chemical Engineering students, and a pool heat-up experiment that was used as the basis for a project in an Engineering Differential Equations course. Both these examples focus on the energy transfer and transport mechanisms that are an integral part of the reactor facility. The readily available data allow one to illustrate a number of fundamental concepts of interest to each course using real information from an operating facility -- and the real-world nature of these applications seems to really motive the students. The purpose of these examples is to highlight how the UMass-Lowell

White, J., & Bobek, L. (2007, June), Innovative Use Of A Research Reactor For Interdisciplinary Engineering Education Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--3067

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