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Clemson professorship draws attention to nuclear-waste research

Published on Thursday, July 16, 2015

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Brian Powell, a Clemson University researcher who is overseeing a $5.25-million research project, has been appointed to a professorship that was named for the husband-and-wife team that played a central role in his graduate studies.
 

Clemson University

Brian Powell, a Clemson University researcher who is overseeing a $5.25-million research project, has been appointed to a professorship that was named for the husband-and-wife team that played a central role in his graduate studies.

 

By Paul Alongi

Clemson University

A Clemson University researcher who is overseeing a $5.25-million research project has been appointed to a professorship that was named for the husband-and-wife team that played a central role in his graduate studies.

Brian Powell was introduced Wednesday as the Fjeld Professor in Nuclear Environmental Engineering and Science.

The professorship is named for Bob and Pam Fjeld and is expected to draw attention to the work that Powell is doing to find the safest ways of remediating legacy nuclear waste sites and storing nuclear waste.

“I have been really fortunate with some of the successes we’ve had with the program,” Powell said. “This stands above everything because of the professional and personal relationships I’ve had with the Fjelds.”

Professorships help honor high-quality faculty members and serve as an enduring tribute to university supporters. As part of the professorship, Powell will receive financial support to help advance his scholarship.

Powell won the 2014 Governor’s Young Scientist Award for Excellence in Scientific Research. He is also the principal investigator on a $5.25-million grant that has brought a new “testbed” to Clemson for nuclear waste research.

With the testbed, researchers are able to test movement of subsurface radionuclides, which dictate how underground storage methods will perform. Part of what makes the testbed unique is that it allows for experiments on an intermediate scale in real-world conditions.

The project also includes new instruments allowing researchers to collect 3D data that visualize radionuclide movement in the environment.

“We’re testing waste disposal scenarios so that we can be highly confident of what will work in the real world,” Powell said. “This is a unique testbed unmatched in the country that is led by an outstanding research team of scientists and engineers in South Carolina.

“We’ve brought together some of the state’s top minds to work on this. Researchers from Clemson, S.C. State and the University of South Carolina are involved. The goal is to advance the science behind environmental monitoring, remediation and disposal of radioactive contaminants.”

David Freedman, chair of the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, said the research Powell leads is critically important for the nation, particularly for South Carolina.

“We’re continuing to produce nuclear waste, but there are still questions about what we’re going to do with it in the long term,” Freedman said. “Brian and his team are helping find answers and providing options for policymakers.”

South Carolina is home to seven nuclear power plants, and six more are close to the state’s borders. Two nuclear reactors are under construction in South Carolina and Georgia.

South Carolina is also home to Savannah River Site.

Several faculty members from University of South Carolina and South Carolina State University participate in the project. They include Travis Knight of USC and Musa Danjaji of S.C. State. The study is funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

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