Rapid Turnaround Experiments

Overview

Proposal Submittal & Review Schedule

Solicitation period opens6/3/2024
RTE Call Seminar6/10/2024 at 10 A.M. MDT
Individual Q&A Sessions
must be scheduled in advance (contact [email protected])
6/12/2024
Proposal due date6/27/2024

Call closes at 4 p.m. Mountain Time

Selection review completed8/1/2024
estimated
Proposals awarded10/1/2024
estimated

The NSUF mission is to facilitate the advancement of nuclear science and technology by providing nuclear energy researchers with access to world-class capabilities at no cost to the researcher. This mission is enabled by a consortium of partners that make available state-of-the-art experimental irradiation testing, post irradiation examination (PIE), and INL high performance computing (HPC), as well as technical and scientific assistance for the design and execution of projects. Access to NSUF capabilities is granted through competitive proposal processes.

The Rapid Turnaround Experiment (RTE) award process offers an avenue for researchers to perform irradiation effects studies of limited scope on nuclear fuels and materials of interest utilizing NSUF facilities. Completion of RTE projects is expected within 9 months of award. Prospective researchers are strongly encouraged to request samples from the NSUF Nuclear Fuels and Materials Library.

RTE proposals are typically solicited and awarded three times per year. They are reviewed and evaluated for technical merit, relevancy, and feasibility. The number of awards is dependent on the availability of funding. The RTE Technical Review Process provides further explanation of the review process. Proposals must support the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy mission.

NSUF will give special consideration to Principal Investigators (PI) from Minority Serving Institutions (MSI). For an institution listed in the MSI Directory, the NSUF will add five points to the proposal’s average technical score. For additional information on MSIs, refer to the MSI section below.





Rules for Proposal Submission

Failure to meet any of the rules listed below may result in disqualification of the proposal. 

Content: 

  1. The study proposed must be original and shall not duplicate any work currently funded by a DOE, or other Federal, program or project, including Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD).
  2. The scope of the RTE proposal must be unique and not overlap with any past, current or proposed scope in an open funding call. 
  3. The proposed scope of work to be funded by the NSUF must have the potential to produce data at the requested NSUF facilities that will lead to a scientific or engineering outcome suitable for publication that will be attributed to the NSUF.

Facilities: 

  1. While complying with all other rules, a proposal may request NSUF funding for use of NSUF capabilities at up to three partner institutions:
    • ONE partner institution for sample preparation and/or shipping; 
    • ONE partner institution for irradiation; and 
    • ONE partner institution for post-irradiation examination (PIE).
  2. Proposals requesting NSUF funding only for sample preparation and/or sample shipment will not be accepted.
  3. NSUF RTE proposals must focus on irradiated or radioactive materials or nuclear fuels research, including in-situ sensor performance characterization. Proposals can include limited non-irradiated structural or cladding reference samples, as appropriate.  (When requesting in-situ irradiation measurements, the same facility for irradiation and PIE should be selected.)

Funding:

  1. The NSUF will only support activities at, and shipping between, NSUF facilities. Shipping expenses from non-NSUF partners will not be covered by the NSUF and will require an external funding source.
  2. The NSUF does not provide funding to the PI to support salaries, tuition, travel, or other costs typically supported via NE Program R&D funds.
  3. Applicants must have a source of R&D funding that will fund all components of the proposed project not funded by the NSUF.  External funding should be reported with as much detail as possible.
  4. Completion of all NSUF funded work proposed must require no more than nine months from the date of award. 

Applicant:

  1. Only one principal investigator is allowed per proposal.
  2. A principal investigator may submit no more than one proposal per RTE call.
  3. A principal investigator may have only two active RTE projects.
  4. A project is considered active until a completion report is submitted and approved (please refer to completion report criteria for additional information).
  5. Proposals are welcomed from principal investigators affiliated with a U.S. university, U.S. government laboratory, U.S. entity or foreign entity incorporated in the U.S. 
  6. Proposals from principal investigators not from a U.S. institution will be accepted as long as the proposal includes a collaborator who is from a U.S. university, U.S. government laboratory, U.S. entity, or foreign entity incorporated in the U.S. This collaborator must have a significant role in the experiment or project that supports the RTE. NSUF will contact the U.S. collaborator to verify their role in the project. The roles and responsibilities for each U.S. collaborator should be clearly identified within the 2-page technical narrative.
  7. All proposals must include a 2-page (maximum) technical narrative as well as curriculum vitae (or equivalent) for the PI and all team members. Narratives exceeding the page limit will be redacted accordingly. All documentation is to be prepared using standard 8.5” × 11” paper with 1-inch margins (top, bottom, left, right) and a font size no smaller than Times New Roman 11 point.  Any pages exceeding the page length limit will be reviewed and not reviewed.
  8. Proposals must include all publications the PI and co-PIs have produced as a result of any and all previous NSUF funded experiments or projects (RTE, beamline, and CINR).
  9. Data generated from the work must be made available to the research community in a timely manner. The PI is responsible for the collection, management, and sharing of the research data through a data management plan.



Facility Guidelines for RTE Experiments

The included guidelines are designed to help researchers develop a proposal that can be executed within the RTE schedule and budget.  Applicants should work with each facility representative (NSUF Partner Institutions - NSUF (inl.gov)) to ensure that their proposed work (scope, number of specimens, etc.) can be accomplished within the RTE guidelines for that facility. The guidelines are based on the average cost of instrument time at each facility, on a typical work week, and on the assumption that only one instrument is used each day.

Estimated Facility Access Guidelines:

Institution Facility Irradiated Sample PreparationIrradiation PIEBeamline Allowed Time

Argonne National Laboratory

Proposals that request irradiation and PIE at IVEM should assume approximately one week of irradiation access and one week of PIE access to remain within the suggested guidelines.

Intermediate Voltage Electron Microscopy - Tandem Facility Ion Yes

2 weeks
Irradiated Material Laboratory Yes

Yes

2 weeks
Brookhaven National Laboratory NSLS II X-ray Powder Diffraction (XPD) Beamline

X-ray 3 days
Center for Advanced Energy Studies Microscopy and Characterization Suite Yes

Yes

3 weeks
Idaho National Laboratory Analytical Laboratory

Yes

2 weeks

Electron Microscopy Laboratory*

*Restricted access facility: U.S. citizenship required for on-site access.

Yes



Yes



2 weeks



Irradiated Materials Characterization Laboratory Yes

Yes

2 weeks
Fuels and Applied Science Building (FASB) Gamma Irradiator

Gamma

2 weeks
Energy Innovation Laboratory Irradiation Suite

Gamma

2 weeks
Hot Fuel Examination Facility

Yes

1 week
Advanced Test Reactor Gamma Irradiation Facility

Gamma

1 week
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Center for Accelerator Mass Spectroscopy

Ion

1 week
Los Alamos National Laboratory Lujan Center Beamlines

Neutron 2 weeks
Plutonium Surface Science Laboratory

Yes

2 weeks
Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory

Neutron (rabbit only) Yes

2 weeks
North Carolina State University Nuclear Reactor Program

Neutron Positron 2 weeks
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Low Activation Materials Development and Analysis Facility Yes

Yes

3 weeks
Irradiated Fuels Examination Laboratory

Yes

1 week
Irradiated Materials Examination and Testing Facility

Yes

1 week
Gamma Irradiation Facility (HFIR-GIF) Gamma

1 week
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Radiochemistry Processing Laboratory

Yes

2 weeks
Materials Science and Technology Laboratory

Yes

2 weeks
Pennsylvania State University Radiation Science and Engineering Center Neutron, gamma Neutron 2 weeks
Purdue University Interaction of Materials with Particles and Components Testing Facility

Ion

2 weeks
Sandia National Laboratory Ion Beam Laboratory

Ion Yes

2 weeks
Gamma Irradiation Facility

Gamma

2 weeks
Texas A&M University Accelerator Laboratory

Ion

2 weeks
The Ohio State University Nuclear Reactor Laboratory Neutron, gamma

2 weeks
University of California, Berkeley Nuclear Materials Laboratory Yes

Yes

2 weeks
University of Florida Materials Characterization Facility

Yes

3 weeks
University of Michigan Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory

Ion Yes

2 weeks
Irradiated Materials Testing Laboratory

Yes

2 weeks
University of Texas at Austin Nuclear Engineering Teaching Laboratory

Neutron Neutron 2 weeks
University of Wisconsin Characterization Laboratory for Irradiated Materials

Yes

2 weeks
Wisconsin Tandem Accelerator Ion Beam

Ion

2 weeks
Westinghouse Churchill Laboratory Services

Yes

2 weeks

For in-situ irradiation measurements (e.g., IVEM, MIBL, I3TEM and University of California-Berkeley), the same facility for both irradiation and PIE should be selected in the application.  

Neutron irradiation experiments that require the use of ATR, TREAT, HFIR or MITR in core positions do not qualify for an RTE award due to expense and duration of project.

A cost estimate will be developed based on the requested scope. This cost estimate will be used in evaluation of the proposal.  Controlling costs and scope among all proposals helps to ensure that the projects can be completed within nine months from award and helps to maintain fairness for all applicants. 

Failure to follow the guidelines, as well as excessively scoped proposals, may render your proposal “not feasible” based on costs alone. Proposals that utilize multiple facilities may result in an estimate that cannot be accommodated within the bounds of a RTE and thus deem the proposal “not feasible.” Principal investigators will receive project specific feedback if the proposal was not recommended for award when deemed “not feasible”. 

To maintain the goal of the rapid user facility access program, the progress of awarded RTEs will be periodically monitored by NSUF staff.  Any projects that are not making satisfactory progress or have exceeded nine months from the date of award will be subject to cancellation. 

Minority Serving Institutions

Information on Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) can be found at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/edlite-minorityinst-list.html. This information predominately covers institutions that have been awarded grants through the Department of Education and does not currently include all institutions that may meet the definition of an MSI.  

Also, a consolidated list of MSIs based on 2023 U.S. Department of Education data, as compiled by Rutgers University, is provided for your convenience at the following link: https://cmsi.gse.rutgers.edu/content/msi-directory. The Department of Energy does not validate the comprehensiveness of the list on this site.

During the recommendation process, NSUF will review each RTE proposal to see if the Principal Investigator (PI) is from an institution listed in the United States Department of Education directory. For those on the MSI list, five points will be manually added to the average technical score on the recommendation spreadsheet and duly noted in the recommendation provided to the NSUF Federal Program Manager.

RTE Completion Report

A completion report must be submitted by the PI or co-PI within four months of any completed RTE project. If no completion report is submitted, the RTE project will be considered active. A satisfactory completion report will contain the following:

  • summary of both the work completed and the data obtained. In addition, the PI should make appropriate project data available to the research community in a timely manner (see RTE rule #18).  Data storage is available through an NSUF data storage system called the Nuclear Research Data System (NRDS).  Contact Matt Anderson at: [email protected] for details and access.
  • description of the potential impact to the state-of-knowledge.

After submittal, a completion report will be reviewed by the NSUF Program Office staff. If the report is determined to be satisfactory, the project status will be changed to complete. If the report is deemed unsatisfactory, the report will be returned to the PI with comments that will need to be addressed prior to resubmission.

After approval, the completion report will go through a classification and export control review for external release. Once the completion report is approved for external release, it will be posted on the NSUF website under the PI’s project, where it will be accessible to the public.

Applicants will be allowed to prepare, but not submit, a proposal that, if awarded, would create a third active RTE project for a PI. On initiation of the proposal, applicants will be informed that submission of the proposal will not be allowed until a completion report for one of the active projects is approved. Completion reports must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the close of the call to allow time for review. Applicants are encouraged to submit completion reports well in advance of the close of a RTE call as iteration may be required prior to approval.

An example of a satisfactory completion report is available at this link.



Acknowledging the NSUF

  • NSUF projects: This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy under DOE Idaho Operations Office Contract DE-AC07-05ID14517 as part of Nuclear Science User Facilities award #_______.
  • HPC work:  This research made use of Idaho National Laboratory's High Performance Computing systems located at the Collaborative Computing Center and supported by the Office of Nuclear Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Science User Facilities under Contract No. DE-AC07-05ID14517.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many active RTEs can I have at one time?

A PI may only have two active traditional RTE Projects. RTE projects are considered active until a satisfactory completion report has been submitted and approved. If you currently have two active proposals during an ongoing call, a new proposal may be prepared and saved in the application. However, you will not be able to submit a new proposal until you complete at least one of your active projects (i.e., a completion report has been submitted and approved).

 

Once an RTE call is open, what assistance can NSUF provide me with my application?

The RTE Administrator, Anna Podgorney ([email protected]), can assist with submittal questions and issues. During an open RTE call, you should contact any of the NSUF facility contacts for assistance with proposal feasibility. NSUF facility staff and facility contacts cannot help with the technical aspects of a proposal in order to ensure fairness during the review process.


Can someone review my RTE proposal prior to submission? 

The NSUF Chief Scientists, Keith Jewell ([email protected]) and Rongjie Song ([email protected]), can provide general advice, but not a detailed review.  Continue to watch the NSUF website for updates on the RTE rules and guidelines and upcoming informational webinars and individual Q&A opportunities.

 

Is there a time or dollar limit on my award?

There is no specific target value for the RTEs. As applicants will not know the cost of their proposal, NSUF has posted a set of Facility Guidelines (https://nsuf.inl.gov/Page/rte) for traditional RTE experiments that are designed to help researchers develop a proposal that can be executed for within less than the suggested target. The guidelines are based on the average cost of instrument time at each facility. The guidelines are based on a typical work week at each facility and assume that only one instrument is used each day. If you request more than one NSUF facility for your project, please note that all facility costs are considered as part of the total target. It is recommended that you contact the specific NSUF facility or facilities you wish to use to help you develop a proposal that meets the dollar target guideline.


How do I know how "big" of an RTE I can propose? 

The NSUF lists RTE Facility Guidelines for all the facilities available in the RTE calls.  This is expressed in "weeks" or "days."  For the best results, an investigator should contact the NSUF partner facility point of contact when developing a proposal in order to match the right number of specimens and tests to the allowed days at each facility.  

 

How long is the RTE application?

The RTE application has 6 short sections. These sections include: principal investigator information, team member information, experiment details, technical abstract (less than 500 words), NE program relevance abstract (less than 500 words), and a proposal narrative (2 page limit).

 

Can the NSUF grant a no-cost extension to my project?

Per RTE guidelines, awarded traditional RTEs must be completed within nine months of the date of award. There is not a formal NSUF process to extend work beyond nine months. If a project extends beyond nine months, PIs should work with the NSUF RTE Administrator, Anna Podgorney ([email protected]), to ensure that a project is completed as soon as possible. NSUF may cancel a project if is not completed within the nine-month timeline.

 

What is the status of my RTE application?

The status of an RTE application can be found on the Proposal page. From there, check the status column in the "My Proposals" box.


If I resubmit a proposal after addressing reviewer comments, will the same reviewers be assigned to my proposal? 

Reviewers are assigned based on expertise, availability, and lack of any conflicts of interest.  There is no guarantee that the same reviewers will be assigned.   

 

Where can I find current RTE call information?

The RTE page is regularly updated. Please contact us at [email protected] if the page does not answer your question. You can also visit the Communications page to sign up for email notifications. 

 

I received the reviewer comments on my proposal and one reviewer appears very positive and the other did not.  How does NSUF deal with reviews that seem to disagree? 

NSUF leadership and the competitive awards team meet and evaluate all of the reviews, relevancy, technical, and feasibility, for each proposal.  If a set of reviews is in disagreement, NSUF assesses the quality of the reviews and may ask for an additional review in that area.  Two reviewers can legitimately disagree.  If both reviews are deemed to be high-quality, they may be allowed to stand, even if they appear to be very different.  If one of the reviews appears to be lacking, it may be replaced by a third review. 


Is there a way to submit a rebuttal for a rejected proposal?

There is no formal process. However, you may always apply in the next award round. 


I see that the high-flux NSUF reactors are not available for RTE calls.  How can I get my specimens irradiated and how can I ensure I'm choosing the proper reactor? 

These questions should be directed to the NSUF Chief Scientists, Keith Jewell ([email protected]) and Rongjie Song ([email protected]), who can provide further information and points of contact, as appropriate.


I have an idea for a novel material or material application.  Can I get RTE support to develop this idea? 

NSUF RTEs are intended to support testing and characterization of nuclear fuels, materials and sensors.  They are also small in scope and need to be accomplished in a few months after award.  Because of these restrictions, material development is most likely outside the scope of an RTE.  An investigator could certainly perform a test or series of tests on a novel material, but an NSUF RTE is not the proper tool to develop a fabrication technique, for example.

 

Is there a way to access the NSUF materials library outside of the RTE calls? 

The Nuclear Fuels and Materials Library (NFML) samples can be assigned based on discretion of NSUF program leadership.  Contact Kelly Cunningham ([email protected]) for details on the process and visit this page for more information.   


NSUF offers access to INL high performance computing (HPC) as part of the RTE call.  How do I get support for modeling and simulation (M&S)? 

RTE scope should focus on the experimental side and not focus on the M&S aspects.  NSUF can only provide limited staff support for M&S as part of a CINR award.  Consider using the Nuclear Energy Researcher Database (NERD) tool to find a collaborator that can help with M&S.   


My question wasn’t answered, who do I contact?

You can email [email protected] with any further questions.