Nuclear, Reactors

GE engineer honoured for Generation IV nuclear reactor work

17 June 2009 – GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has announced that the American Nuclear Society (ANS) has honoured engineer Charles Boardman with the prestigious Cisler Medal for his decades of leadership in the development of GEH’s “Generation IV” PRISM reactor technology.

The PRISM reactor is a cornerstone of GEH’s proposed Advanced Recycling Center (ARC) for recycling spent fuel from nuclear power plants. The technology offers a timely solution to one of the industry’s most significant public policy and environmental challenges, turning spent nuclear fuel into an asset.

“Charles Boardman’s commitment to the development of advanced nuclear reactor and fuel recycling technology could provide significant benefits for the United States for many decades to come,” said ANS President William E. Burchill.

“Recycling would address one of the challenges raised by the resurgence of nuclear energy, retrieving large amounts of energy from used fuel and greatly reducing radioactive waste.”

The ANS awarded Boardman the Walker Lee Cisler Medal today during the organization’s annual conference in Atlanta, Ga. The ANS is a not-for-profit, international scientific and educational organization covering nuclear science and technology. The Cisler Medal recognizes leadership in the field of “fast reactor” technology and its potential applications for power generation.

GEH’s proposed recycling center is being evaluated by the U.S. Department of Energy and Congress as the government determines the country’s long-term strategy for spent nuclear fuel.

Currently, spent nuclear fuel is safely stored in special pools or in dry casks installed at nuclear power plant sites, a practice adopted by the U.S. government. Approximately 95 per cent of the material in spent nuclear fuel from light water reactors is considered untapped energy that could be used to generate electricity in different kinds of nuclear reactors.

GEH’s proposed ARC system would permit much of this spent fuel to be recycled in the PRISM reactor to generate additional electricity for consumers. As a result, utilities also would be able to reduce the amount of spent fuel that needs to be stored on-site.

Boardman, who retired from GE in 2001, worked on GE’s advanced nuclear energy technology programs and led the development of GE’s fast-breeder reactor concept. During his tenure, he served as manager of systems and plant engineering for the PRISM/Advanced Liquid Metal Reactor (ALMR) and S-PRISM plant designs.

During a career that began in 1964, he contributed to the conception and implementation of evolutionary passive safety features integrated into GEH’s current Generation III ABWR and Generation III+ ESBWR reactor designs—even as he also looked to the development of Generation IV reactor technology.

Following his retirement, Boardman continued working with numerous government and nuclear energy organizations to help spearhead the continued research and development of the PRISM and other Generation IV reactor concepts.

The PRISM, which would use liquid sodium as the primary coolant instead of water, is designed to potentially increase the fuel use of nuclear power plants 20-fold.

“We are proud that the ANS has selected Charles Boardman for the Cisler Medal in recognition of the contributions he has made to the field of advanced nuclear reactor technology,” said Jack Fuller, GEH’s President and CEO. “Charles Boardman has contributed to GE’s legacy of championing crucial energy research as the world seeks environmentally sound, baseload sources of energy in the years to come.”

Boardman’s work has led to additional study of the potential for dual-purpose plants for both nuclear energy and desalination, along with ABWR design developments, gas-cooled reactors and overall plant-optimization studies.

The resident of Saratoga, Calif., holds 13 patents related to the design of containments, decay heat removal, power generation and sodium-heated generators. Boardman has written a vast array of technical papers and has been a frequent expert speaker on advanced nuclear energy topics.

John Sackett, a former director with the Argonne National Laboratory, worked closely with Boardman in the development of GE’s ALMR and subsequent S-PRISM designs.

“(Charles) was clearly the key individual in translating information from the R&D community into practical application…,” Sackett wrote in support of Boardman’s award nomination. “The PRISM design … is a safe, economically competitive system which will be important to the nation as we move forward.