Missouri S&T – News & Events – Riding the wave of nuclear fusion

Jack Fletcher, a senior nuclear engineer at Missouri University of Science and Technology, will graduate this spring and has already made his mark in the field. Fletcher, of St. Louis, spent the summer of 2021 working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program.

“I started doing research with a nuclear engineering graduate student in my freshman year,” says Fletcher. “When I was in sophomore year, I gave a presentation on this work at an American Nuclear Society conference attended by members of the Oak Ridge Thermal Hydraulics Group. They encouraged me to apply for an internship with their group that summer.

Fletcher applied to the SULI program last year, and the thermal-hydraulics group selected his application to work on a new project called Fusion Energy Reactor Models Integrator (FERMI). The project is funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, a branch of the US Dept. of Energy.

“They want to speed up the conceptual design of fusion reactors, which usually takes years,” says Fletcher. “I transformed a high-fidelity model of the affordable, rugged, and compact (ARC) fusion reactor into a one-dimensional version that could be run on a MacBook instead of a supercomputer.”

Fletcher worked with his design until it matched the performance of the high-fidelity model within a few percent, while using a fraction of the computing power.

He says the model demonstrates the capabilities of the FERMI project, which involves unifying simulation modules and performing optimization studies with multiple variables and objectives using machine learning.

“It’s an exciting time in the world of fusion,” says Fletcher. “I’m well placed in my career just as the merger seems to be taking off.”

Fletcher says that with climate change being what it is and the global need for renewable energy, nuclear power is attractive because it is extracted from minerals mined from the earth. He came to S&T because of the opportunities it offers – access to college, for example.

“I feel less removed from the faculty than I would at any other institution,” he says. “And we have resources like the American Nuclear Society, Women in Nuclear, and great lab facilities, including the reactor. If you’re a motivated student looking for those opportunities, this can really open doors for you.

In addition to his nuclear engineering studies, Fletcher is active in other pursuits at S&T, leading the Brass Choir, serving as president of the Lutheran Student Fellowship, and playing on the Ultimate Frisbee Team.

“Jack has been involved in research since his early days at S&T,” says Dr. Ayodeji Alajo, acting director of nuclear engineering and radiation science at Missouri S&T. “He produced scientific papers in thermal-hydraulics and high-energy emission tomography in his first year. He has a bright future ahead of him. »

After graduating in May, Fletcher will work at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and plans to begin a Ph.D. studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall of 2023.

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