The U.S. Department of Energy has tapped the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering to help improve nuclear power plant safety. The university was awarded a nearly $1 million grant to develop radiation-resistant fiber optic cable sensors capable of measuring properties such as temperature, pressure and hydrogen levels in a nuclear emergency, according to WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR news station.
Principal investigator and associate professor Kevin Chen was inspired by the nuclear meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which exploded after an earthquake and tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling capabilities of three reactors. The proposed fibers would improve the situational awareness that plants lack during these nuclear disasters, according to the article. University researchers are partnering with Corning Incorporated and Westinghouse Electric Company on the project, which should be ready for testing in two to three years.