Thursday, February 28, 2013

Restoring U-M’s most extreme windows

Kevin Mayra wipes down the last pane in the window. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering.

Cleaning three-foot-thick windows, composed of 6-inch-thick panes that weigh up to 740 pounds each, was never going to be an easy task. But by undertaking it, Alex Flick, an engineer in the department of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences (NERS), could get the university’s second hot cell up and running again.

The hot cell will help the Radiation Materials Science group, led by Gary Was, professor of NERS, to gain insights on the aging of components that have spent decades in nuclear power reactors. Most of the reactors in the US are approaching or surpassing 40 years of service, and many are set to operate for another 20 years. With no new reactor construction since 1977, US reliance on fossil fuels will have to rise steeply if these reactors shut down before new ones can take their places. To keep them running safely and efficiently, nuclear engineers need be smart about making repairs – and that means figuring out what components will break and when.