Dr. Arthur T. Motta

138 Reber Building
University Park, PA 16802

(814) 865-0036

atm2@psu.edu

Courses Taught

NucE 310W: Issues in Nuclear Engineering

To function effectively in today's world, engineers need to be more than technical experts. They must also be aware of the social, political, economic and environmental effects of the technology with which they work, and develop a broader view of their profession. As students enter the major, NucE 310W gives general information on the field of nuclear engineering and on the operation of nuclear reactors and builds writing skills that are useful in later courses and in later professional life.

This course attempts to develop in nuclear engineering students an understanding of the various professional issues they will encounter in their careers. These issues include the genesis of the nuclear power industry, the environmental impact of energy sources, the problem of radioactive waste disposal, the economics of nuclear power, safety and the impact of accidents (TMI-2 and Chernobyl), how regulation and political institutions affect the industry, and how the designs of next-generation or advanced reactors can potentially address these and other issues.

We also discuss public acceptance of nuclear power and introduce non-power applications of the field such as medicine and space propulsion. Permeating all these topics are the issues of professionalism and ethics, which are dealt with throughout the course. The course is intended to be writing-intensive: a professional engineer must be able to effectively communicate ideas and viewpoints on a range of technical and non-technical issues to a variety of audiences. Audiences for the nuclear engineer encompass a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Nuclear engineers need to be effective at getting their point across to these various constituencies.

The writing assignments in this course include a variety of different, short communications that resemble types of writing an engineer might perform during his or her career. In each case, the emphasis is on writing that can be understood - that is, communicating the important points clearly, concisely, and in plain English.

There are approximately six guest lectures, which vary every year; they are typically given by invited lecturers from the department and the university, and by occasional outside guests. These lectures have included topics such as electricity deregulation, the role of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, other technologies for producing energy such as coal, natural gas, biofuels, solar power, and hydroelectricity, space nuclear power, non-power applications of nuclear science, etc.

NucE/MatSE 409: Nuclear Materials

NucE/MatSE 409 provides a background on the types of materials used in nuclear reactors and their response to the reactor environment. Most of the materials problems encountered in the operation of nuclear power reactors for energy production are discussed here. The objective of the course is to give nuclear engineering students a background in materials and to discuss the unique changes that occur in these materials under irradiation, so students understand the limitations put on reactor operations and reactor design by materials performance.

In the first part of the course we review basic concepts of physical metallurgy to develop a mechanistic and microstructurally-based view of material properties. In the second part of the course, we present the methods to calculate displacement damage to the material produced by exposure to neutron irradiation, and describe the microstructural evolution that results from reactor exposure (including radiation damage and defect cluster evolution, and changes). The aim is to create a linkage between changes in the material microstructure and changes in macroscopic behavior of the material. Special attention is given to property changes that affect fuel performance and operational safety. Both mathematical methods and experimental techniques are emphasized so that theoretical modeling is instructed by experimental data. Students quantitatively evaluate neutron damage, and learn simple analytical models that describe microstructural evolution and property changes under irradiation.

No background is required in either Materials Science or Nuclear Engineering, beyond sophomore physics. Successful students will, at the end of the course have:

  1. A basic understanding of physical metallurgy and of the relationship between material microstructure and macroscopic behavior, outside of irradiation.
  2. An overall view of the materials used in nuclear power reactors, and an understanding of the basic mechanisms of materials degradation induced by neutron irradiation and the reactor environment including processes such as swelling, creep, phase transformations, embrittlement and radiation induced segregation.

The overall objective of the course is to enable the students (the majority of which may work directly in the nuclear materials area in the future) to understand the issues and discuss more knowledgeably about materials degradation issues in nuclear reactor environments with specialists.

NucE 428: Radioactive Waste Control

This course provides an introduction to the technical issues regarding the disposal of high-level and low-level radioactive waste, as a basis for understanding and discussing the environmental and societal impact of the problem. The topics covered range from a basic introduction to the nuclear fuel cycle, a historical perspective on radioactive waste, and basics of biological effects of ionizing radiation, to the alternatives considered for waste disposal, with emphasis on geologic disposal.

The focus of the course is interdisciplinary, combining nuclear engineering, geochemistry, chemical engineering, civil engineering and risk assessment, to correctly address the relevant technical issues. The course will include one group project on performance assessment of geologic waste repositories.

The objective of the course is to make the students knowledgeable about the many issues related to the disposal of radioactive wastes, mainly from civilian nuclear power, so they can interact with specialists in the area, and know the fundamentals of the discipline well enough that they know where to seek further information. This course is part of the Environmental minor in the College, and can serve as a technical elective for undergraduate students or as an introductory course for graduate students who will perform work in environmental aspects of waste. No pre-requisites are required, beyond basic Physics and Chemistry.

NucE 523: Environmental Degradation of Materials in Nuclear Power Plants

This course is intended to give graduate students in Nuclear Engineering and in Materials Science a background on the special materials problems that occur in nuclear power reactors. Materials in nuclear reactors are subjected to an unusually harsh environment in which high temperatures, a corrosive medium and neutron irradiation damage, combine to cause the materials to fail to perform their design function. This degradation of materials in reactor environments has great economic consequences for the utilities that operate the reactors, and could potentially have safety implications as well. There is thus a great driving force to better understand the mechanisms of materials degradation in nuclear power reactors, specially the synergistic effects of radiation and electrochemistry which are at the root of phenomena such as irradiation assisted stress corrosion cracking.

The course is cross-listed in Nuclear Engineering and Materials Science, and is jointly taught by professors from both, with the idea that an interdisciplinary approach can help develop a mechanistic understanding of these complex phenomena. Whenever possible we will present simple mathematical models to illustrate the nature of the processes, while keeping in mind the full complexity present in the real cases. The aim is to teach the fundamentals of radiation damage, electrochemistry and materials behavior, and apply them all together to the study of specific degradation mechanisms, evaluating the degree of degradation, and quantitatively modeling the processes.

At the end of the course, the students should have accomplished the following educational objectives:

  1. Have an overall knowledge of the materials and operation conditions in nuclear reactors.
  2. Be familiar with the limiting degradation mechanisms that restrict the use of various nuclear reactor components, and of the current research issues in materials degradation.
  3. Understand the basics of thermodynamics of solids and electrochemical solutions, of neutron radiation damage and its effects on materials, and the kinetics of corrosion.
  4. Have a working knowledge of the mathematical models that mechanistically describe the degradation processes.