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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, August 2004

To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and Community Outreach staff member identified at the end of each tip.

TRANSMISSION -- Grains of insight into the grid . . .

The way growing piles of sand behave -- with bursts of energy that result in large and small avalanches -- has served as a model for fusion researchers seeking insight into the way magnetically confined plasmas behave in fusion reactors. The same research into self-organizing systems has also lent itself to predicting the reaction of electric power grids to increasing power demand or system anomalies. One year after the northeastern blackout drew attention to their work, Oak Ridge National Laboratory fusion researcher Ben Carreras, David Newman of the University of Alaska and Ian Dobson of Wisconsin University are continuing their power grid modeling research. Instead of being strictly an engineering challenge, the researchers now see the nation's electric power grid infrastructure driven by a complex combination of variables as diverse as rising demand, conflicting subsystems and societal pressures. Without a broader understanding of the interaction of those forces, a sandcastle power grid will be hard pressed to accommodate the rising tide of power demand. [Contact: Bill Cabage, 856-574-4399; cabagewh@ornl.gov]

ENERGY -- More bang for the buck . . .

Spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors could be minimized and burn-up potentially doubled if Gamma Engineering's new silicon carbide-based cladding proves viable. Conventional cladding, the tubing that contains the enriched uranium that fuels reactors, becomes brittle and must be replaced along with the fuel every five years. If, however, Gamma Engineering's proprietary duplex material can be used instead, the refueling cycle could be extended to a theoretical 10 years. Information gained from tests at the High Temperatur
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Contact: Ron Walli
wallira@ornl.gov
865-576-0226
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
13-Aug-2004


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