Yan using BIM to study new way of
cooling nuclear power plants with ice


A Texas A&M architecture professor has teamed up with researchers at Idaho National Laboratory to investigate a new technology, ice thermal storage (ITS), for cooling nuclear power plants. If feasible, the ITS system could provide substantial operational savings and even benefit the environment.

Wei Yan, assistant professor of architecture at Texas A&M, is a co-principal investigator on the feasibility study funded by a $200,000 U.S. Department of Energy’s Lab Directed Research and Development (LDRD) grant. He’s researching the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in the early design, modeling, and estimating of ITS buildings. Yan’s research is supported by part of the LDRD grant through a subcontract with Idaho National Laboratory.

Yan said the research team is investigating alternative models for the application of ITS systems in nuclear power plant cooling. In one model, ice is manufactured at night while temperatures and electricity prices are low, then it is used during the day for cooling when temperatures and electricity prices are higher. Another option calls for ice to be produced during the winter months and used for cooling during the summer.

Yan’s research will be developed using building information modeling, or “BIM,” an emerging technology in architecture, engineering and construction.

“By modeling real world building objects into a central database employing a parametric approach, BIM enables design options, performance analysis, and cost estimating in the early design stage, which will greatly facilitate the research,” he said.

The researchers are also examining whether this new technology could reduce or eliminate the heat pollution generated by nuclear plants, eliminating one reason for environmental opposition to nuclear energy.

“Existing cooling systems in nuclear power plants release waste heat to cooling water that returns to water bodies in the natural environment,” Yan explained. “This heat pollution causes negative effects in the receiving aquatic ecosystem. Ice thermal storage cooling technology may help reduce this impact.”


- Posted: May 5, 2009 -

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