University Students Collaborate With Oak Ridge on Cleanup Tools

Five University of Tennessee students are helping design tools for Oak Ridge’s cleanup, continuing a collaboration among the university, EM, and cleanup contractor UCOR to train and develop the future cleanup workforce.

A four-student senior design project team and a graduate research assistant from the university’s nuclear engineering department are assisting UCOR in qualifying a new type of gamma-ray imaging system to support the collection of radiological data necessary to ensure safe work planning and execution.

This system will prove especially beneficial as UCOR begins expanding its cleanup responsibilities at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. That site, with its numerous and diverse former research reactors and isotope production facilities, presents crews with new and challenging radiological environments. Gathering more data is valuable when devising work plans and approaches for those settings.

The gamma-ray imaging system benefits the Oak Ridge cleanup as well as the students, who receive experience and mentoring to prepare them for employment following graduation.

“We are excited to participate in this mutually beneficial collaboration with the University of Tennessee to engage with upcoming graduating students, introducing them to UCOR’s scope and expediting the in-field deployment of the gamma-ray imaging system,” said Brandon Rasmussen, UCOR nondestructive assay manager.

UCOR’s Adam Caswell and Brandon Rasmussen are overseeing the students in collaboration with the university’s Jason Hayward, associate department head for graduate studies and research and UCOR fellow.

The senior design project team will complete its work by the end of the spring semester, while the graduate research assistant, Jonathan Mitchell, is working on the project until November. The team includes nuclear engineering seniors Olivia Crawley, Jack Nowotarski, and Annette Robbins, and Maddie Ratner, a medical physics master’s student.

The team is working on aspects of a performance test and validation plan. This is part of the UCOR Non-Destructive Assay Program’s instrument qualification process before new instruments can be deployed.

The project is giving students hands-on experience in setting up, calibrating, and collecting data on a modern gamma-ray imaging system. Additionally, working as a project team gives them real-world experience in project management, allowing them to practice crucial skills such as task delegation, time management, project planning, and efficient communication in a professional setting.

Mitchell will collaborate with the students and the UCOR team. His more in-depth work will include developing a system description of the detector and conducting research on its applications and limitations to finalize the performance test and validation plan.