Argonne’s Mitch Farmer honored for addressing challenges to US nuclear energy industry

Mitch Farmer, senior nuclear engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, has been named a fellow of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), the organization’s highest honor.

Farmer received this fellowship for his outstanding scientific contributions and leadership in the area of nuclear reactor safety, particularly for his work on addressing severe accident issues in the light water reactor industry.

Farmer’s work has helped shape the thinking of the nuclear industry and regulatory bodies around the world regarding the effectiveness of accident management strategies. Farmer leads the Light Water Reactor Programs within the laboratory’s Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) division, where he studies reactor core melt accidents.

With over 30 years of experience in reactor development, design and safety, he is considered an international authority on light water reactor severe accident behavior. The Melt Attack and Coolability Experiments he spearheaded at Argonne showed how a melting reactor core interacts with concrete, and how that interaction can be halted by flooding with water. These were some of the largest experiments of their kind in the world.

His team’s research on mitigating these types of events help save the U.S. nuclear energy industry $1 billion in potential costs for modifying boiling water reactors, keeping power plants running while ensuring safety.

“Mitch is truly deserving of this honor for his extensive contributions to nuclear technology experimental research and modeling as well as for his distinguished record of achievement and service to the nuclear reactor safety community,” said Temitope Taiwo, interim director of the laboratory’s NSE division.

Farmer garnered international acclaim for his work simulating core melt accidents to improve nuclear reactor safety. Using data from tests conducted at Argonne, he developed two important codes to model ex-vessel — i.e., beyond the reactor vessel — phenomena, the CORQUENCH code for assessing core ex-vessel debris coolability, and the MELTSPREAD code for evaluating ex-vessel melt spreading. First developed more than 25 years ago, these codes continue to be used by industry researchers, regulators, and other DOE national laboratories to gain insight into important severe accident issues and improve accident management strategies.

Farmer’s expertise was central to U.S. efforts to aid Japan as it responded to events at Fukushima in 2011. His work remains vital to the ongoing efforts to fully understand those events, the effectiveness of response actions, and future safety tactics. Farmer received many awards for his important technical contributions assessing the Fukushima events, including the Department of Energy’s 2011 Secretarial Honor Award, a letter of appreciation from the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, and the 2014 Special ANS Award for enhancing nuclear power plant safety.

In addition to his work on modeling accidents and improving safety at existing nuclear power facilities, Farmer is working with his team at Argonne to develop and test new and improved safety measures for the next generation of nuclear power plants. They are now designing, conducting, and analyzing experiments on the operations and safety of Generation IV reactor concepts including sodium fast reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors.

“It’s an honor to be named a fellow of the American Nuclear Society,” said Farmer. “This recognition shows the importance of large-scale nuclear safety experiments that can only be done here at Argonne. This research helps us understand and address issues before they arise and how to minimize the impact of incidents in the future.”

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Farmer’s work has been supported by a broad coalition of funders, including DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Electric Power Research Institute, U.S. plant operators, as well as a number of international partners.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.

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Lynn Tefft Hoff
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https://www.anl.gov/article/argonnes-mitch-farmer-honored-for-addressing-challenges-to-us-nuclear-energy-industry

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