Justin Coleman.Idaho researcher improves seismic risk analysis

An earthquake can strike at any time or place around the globe. The varying levels of seismic risk capture the attention of nuclear power plant designers and owners, who must take these data into account when evaluating plant safety.

Justin Coleman, a researcher at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory, plays a number of roles in an international effort to manage risk from external hazards at nuclear power plants. The effort relies heavily on scientific modeling. He oversees a collaboration of seismic researchers from laboratories, industry and academia, using their data to develop a standard methodology for the evaluation of seismic risk at a nuclear power plant site.

"A methodology is like a recipe," Coleman said. "Ideally, you follow the recipe correctly and you get a good result. My job is to create a ‘recipe' that details how to evaluate seismic risk."

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Coronal mass ejection hurling plasma from the sun. (NASA)PPPL joins research correlating rheumatoid arthritis and giant cell arteritis with solar cycles

What began as a chat between husband and wife has evolved into an intriguing scientific discovery. The results, published in BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) Open, show a “highly significant” correlation between periodic solar storms and incidences of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and giant cell arteritis (GCA), two potentially debilitating autoimmune diseases. The findings by a rare collaboration of physicists and medical researchers suggest a relationship between the solar outbursts and the incidence of these diseases that could lead to preventive measures if a causal link can be established.

RA and GCA are autoimmune conditions in which the body mistakenly attacks its own organs and tissues.  RA inflames and swells joints and can cause crippling damage if left untreated. In GCA, the autoimmune disease results in inflammation of the wall of arteries, leading to headaches, jaw pain, vision problems and even blindness in severe cases.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 442  |
  • June 29, 2015
  • New, high-volume joining process expands use of aluminum in autos

    PNNL researcher Yuri Hovanski inspects the quality of the friction stir welding join after the test sheet of aluminum is stamped. PNNL’s new process enables the use of FSW to create all-aluminum auto parts without rivets and fasteners that increase cost and weight. Researchers have demonstrated a new process for the expanded use of lightweight aluminum in cars and trucks at the speed, scale, quality and consistency required by the auto industry. The process reduces production time and costs while yielding strong and lightweight parts, for example delivering a car door that is 62 percent lighter and 25 percent cheaper than that produced with today's manufacturing methods.

    In partnership with General Motors, Alcoa and TWB Company LLC, researchers from DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have transformed a joining technique called friction stir welding, or FSW. The technique now can be used to join aluminum sheets of varying thicknesses, which is key to producing auto parts that are light yet retain strength where it's most needed. The PNNL-developed process also is ten times faster than current FSW techniques, representing production speeds that, for the first time, meet high-volume assembly requirements. The advancement is reported in the May issue of JOM, the member journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

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  • NREL innovates today for the homes of tomorrow

    NREL Engineer Jiucai Zhang works on a vehicle grid integration project in the Smart Power Lab. The study connects electric vehicles and smart appliances to a grid in the lab to study the dynamics of how they interact. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL Shaping our energy future into one that is efficient, reliable, affordable, and sustainable is a significant undertaking. Much of this effort is focused around the energy industry, utilities, and power grids—which can seem intangible to the average consumer. But the performance and integration of the homes we all live in is a critical part of solving national energy challenges.

    Deep in the heart of the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a dedicated team of engineers in the Smart Power Laboratory is tackling these challenges, developing the technologies that will help the "smart homes" of the future perform efficiently and communicate effectively with the electricity grid while also enhancing occupants' comfort and convenience.

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  • New tool on horizon for surgeons treating cancer patients

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s new droplet-based surface sampling probe speeds the process of analyzing a liver biopsy sample. Surgeons could know while their patients are still on the operating table if a tissue is cancerous, according to researchers from DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

    In the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, a team led by ORNL's Vilmos Kertesz describes an automated droplet-based surface sampling probe that accomplishes in about 10 minutes what now routinely takes 20 to 30 minutes. Kertesz expects that time to be cut to four to five minutes soon. For this proof-of-concept demonstration, researchers rapidly profiled two hormones from human pituitary tissue.

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  • New capability takes sensor fabrication to a new level

    A sapphire rod being melted in the Laser Heated Pedestal Growth system. A sapphire seed crystal is being lowered onto the molten sapphire rod to begin the growth of a single-crystal sapphire fiber. Operators must continually monitor conditions in power plants to assure they are operating safely and efficiently.  Researchers on the Sensors and Controls Team at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory can now fabricate prototype optical sensors that demonstrate superior properties in comparison to traditional sensors using a new laser-heated pedestal growth (LHPG) system. According to NETL researcher Michael Buric, “The new sensors have broader functional temperature ranges, increased durability, and reduced cost. Sensors produced using LHPG will be capable of operating in the high temperature and harsh environments associated with advanced power systems.”

    LHPG is a crystal growth technique that reforms bulk high temperature-resistant materials, such as sapphire or YSZ (yttrium stabilized zirconium), into single-crystal optical fibers. The technique produces optical fibers with very high melting temperatures for use as sensor substrates. The LHPG system enables researchers to precisely control crystal growth, and to incorporate novel sensor materials with fiber-substrates during the growth process.

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