NE Seminar: “Advancing Nuclear Fuel Technology with a Focus on Thermochemical Stability”


1:55 pm-2:55 pm
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Elizabeth Sooby, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Texas at San Antonio

Dr. Elizabeth Sooby is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Dr. Sooby is an expert in fuels synthesis and testing, particularly uranium compound fabrication and high-temperature steam oxidation testing. Prior to coming to UTSA in 2017, Dr. Sooby was appointed as a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory where she also held a Seaborg Postdoctoral Fellowship in Actinide Science following graduation with her Ph.D. in Physics from Texas A&M in December 2014. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Millsaps College in Jackson, MS. She is the principal investigator of the Extreme Environments Materials Laboratory, a unique facility she developed at UTSA over the last 4.5 years, which is a 2,000 square foot radiological laboratory space dedicated to nuclear materials fabrication and testing.


Both the evolution of commercial reactor fuel forms and the design-to-development of the next generation of reactors have sparked a renewed interest in the thermal stability of nuclear materials. Commercial fuel vendors are considering higher uranium density fuels to enhance fuel economy and better accommodate accident tolerant cladding, and the leading designs for small modular reactors are looking toward complex, particle fuel architectures.

A number of data gaps and even inconsistencies exist for these lesser-known fuel concepts, including but not limited to their performance during high-temperature transients.

Presented are the experimental approaches to precision, high-temperature testing of both fuel and moderator materials of relevance to the current fleet of reactors as well as proposed reactor designs. The microstructure evolution of these materials following exposure to high temperature oxidizing and reducing atmospheres will be presented along with the experimentally observed thermochemistry governing the dynamic response of nuclear materials to extreme environments.