Complex Equipment Design for a Chemical Project

Dr. Sola Talabi on Custom Chemical Reactor

Providing Value through Tank Engineering Consultation

“We had a tight budget to work with, but we recognized the knowledge and expertise that Paul Mueller Company could offer to our project. You truly get what you pay for, and we are very happy with the value that we received.”

Dr. Sola Talabi,
Nuclear Power Consultant
Pittsburgh Technical LLC

The Challenge

In the Nuclear Power industry there has been anecdotal evidence, suggesting that smaller reactors are more effective at containing hazards. This evidence kick-started a movement towards Small Modular Reactor (SMR) designs, which can be easier to build and transport. But research was needed to verify its safety.

The Electric Power Research Institute and the Department of Energy requested proposals for the design of a small test reactor and an experiment to prove the theory. Dr. Sola Talabi with Pittsburgh Technical LLC and Carnegie Mellon University and his team were chosen to demonstrate the effectiveness of the SMR. Now, Dr. Talabi was searching to find an equipment engineering partner with the knowledge and skill to build exactly what he needed.

The Journey

Dr. Talabi started his search with a good list of reputable equipment companies. After reaching out to multiple suppliers on the list, Dr. Talabi was immediately impressed by Gary Martin, the sales representative from Paul Mueller Company.

“Paul Mueller Company was very responsive. After receiving such a high quality response in a timely manner, we knew we needed to work with this company.” said Dr. Talabi.

Creating an SMR vessel for this experiment was not an easy task. This piece of equipment had many specifications that were necessary in order to successfully test the vessel's safety. Dr. Talabi needed a model that could simulate an accidental nuclear reaction. In this simulation radionuclides - the hazardous particles in nuclear reactions - would start to escape. The test would determine if the SMR could self-contain these particles better than larger vessels. These scenarios needed to be analyzed through parametric testing, meaning metrics such as heat and pressure had to be highly flexible. On top of these specifications, Dr. Talabi and his team needed a way to observe all of these tests taking place inside the reactor. 

"Given the complex performance requirements, we knew we needed a very experienced fabricator and Paul Mueller Company was able to apply their vast expertise and consult on this project. I felt like we were working together as a team." said Dr. Talabi

The Solution

The Paul Mueller Company Chemical team was able to provide a specialized chemical reactor that met all of Dr. Talabi's needs. The equipment design for this research project included heat transfer that allowed it to reach up to 500ºF, 200 PSI, and inserts that would allow the tank to change volume. Multiple view ports with lasers were built in so the researchers could observe the simulated radionuclide particles inside the tank. The manufacturing team knew to use a specific type of glass on the ports that could hold high temperatures and pressures without breaking or fogging.

"While we didn't create his testing process we were able to apply our expertise in equipment engineering with Dr. Sola Talabi and understand all of his needs. We had a genuine interest in what he was doing and our input helped him refine his process for a successful project." said Gary Martin, Paul Mueller Company Sales Representative.

The Results

After about a year of tests and research with the Paul Mueller Company-built test reactor, Dr. Sola Talabi was able to provide proof that the Small Modular Reactors, are able to self contain radionuclide hazards better than larger ones. This evidence will be very beneficial as the nuclear energy industry grows. This increase in safety and mobility could result in Small Modular Reactors being utilized in higher population areas, that currently don't have access to power. The end goal is to make nuclear energy more accessible and deployable for special purposes including remote locations, emergency power and distributed generation in emerging nations.

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Chemical reactor in Carnegie Mellon research facility
Chemical reactor with ports
sola talabi with chemical reactor