College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison
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EPISODE: The Engineering Physics Department Newsletter


Fall / Winter 2003-2004
Featured articles

Following particle paths
in magnetic fusion experiments

Chain reaction: DOE grant aids infrastructure, educational upgrades
for reactor

Coating could take
burnables out of
nuclear fuel

Opposites attract:
Stable and unstable materials couple for
high performance

EP Department

Regular Features

Message from the chair

Faculty/staff news

New faculty: Todd Allen

Faculty retirement:
James D. Callen

Student news


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Portrait of Todd Allen

Todd Allen
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Decorative initial cap W t’s a great time to be a nuclear engineer,” says Todd Allen, because the Department of Energy’s Generation IV initiative, which seeks to develop advanced reactors within the next 20 or 30 years, is heating up, while operators of light-water reactors are studying ways to extend their existing plants’ lives. “It’ll be easy to get the students involved in interesting research projects and meeting people who will be their future employers,” he says.

Most recently the section manager for reactor materials at Argonne National Laboratory-West in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Allen joined the department this fall as an assistant professor.

As an undergraduate, the Michigan native attended Northwestern University on an ROTC scholarship. “I got interested in submarines and because all the submarines are nuclear, then I sort of got interested in nuclear,” he says. He received his BS in nuclear engineering in 1984 and joined the U.S. Navy, where he received additional nuclear training and then spent three-and-a-half years aboard the USS Florida, a submarine out of Bangor, Washington.

Back on land, he taught undergraduate physics at the U.S. Naval Academy for two years before pursuing his PhD in nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan. When he graduated, he joined Argonne as a member of its reactor materials research team. “My research background is in nuclear energy—specifically, materials for nuclear energy systems,” he says. “And a lot of it has to do with studying how radiation damages materials.”

Currently, he is leading a project with colleagues at the University of Michigan and Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Richland, Washington, to develop ways to make materials more radiation-resistant. The group is investigating techniques to change a material’s composition or the way it’s processed to prevent specific failures. “The idea is if it’s a replaceable component that right now has a life of a year, you can fix it so it has a lifetime of four years, which means you don’t have to buy as many components and you don’t have to shut down the reactor to take something in and out as often,” he says.

In addition to his work with reactor materials, Allen spent two years on the leadership team that worked on the Generation IV roadmap and was part of a group that supported a 10-country forum on the project. “It really upped my level of understanding of what the open issues are and put the materials research into much better context,” he says of the international experience.

On campus, he plans to split his focus between current and advanced initiatives. “I am trying to keep my hand in issues related to operational reactors, and also keep a hand in the things that are very advanced and trying to apply the lessons learned from practical things that guys have to deal with in a real plant as you’re trying to design new plants,” he says.

Allen, who will teach a senior reactor design course in spring and next fall will offer a reactor materials radiation damage course, hopes to expand his research interests to include societal and policy issues as well.

In their free time, he and his wife, Joanna—also an engineer—like to bike, travel, and spend time with their dogs, George and Hoover.


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Date last modified: Monday, 15-November-2003 15:43:00 CDT
Date created: 15-November-2003