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Michael Fox, PhD.

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Hydrogen Water Chemistry

While Dr. Fox was a Research Project Manager with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) one of his research areas was nuclear reactor water chemistry. In particular, the water chemistry of boiling water reactors (BWRs). The focus was on how water chemistry affected corrosion, which could have serious effects on reactor downtime.

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For example, the role of trace (ppb) levels ionic impurities, resin intrusions, deaeration during startups and electrochemical potential (ECP) were studied intensely in the research projects that Dr. Fox managed. Another area of research that required a multimillion-dollar budget was hydrogen water chemistry (HWC).

Essentially, hydrogen water chemistry (HWC) involves the injection of hydrogen gas into the BWR's feedwater. Once in the reactor the hydrogen gas would suppress the oxygen that was produced by radioalysis in the core, thereby reducing the probability of corrosion. Dr. Fox managed the first EPRI research project that helped qualify the benefits of HWC for BWRs and the nuclear power industry.

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When Dr. Fox left EPRI to become an independent consultant, he won a research grant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue his research in HWC. By this time it was becoming obvious that BWRs did not all respond the same to HWC and some BWRs required significantly more feedwater hydrogen than other BWRs to achieve the same corrosion benefits. This unique response to HWC forced each nuclear utility to perform a short-term test to determine how their specific BWR responded to hydrogen. These tests were called "mini-tests" and cost on the order of $1,000,000 each. Each mini-test involved the actual short-term injection of hydrogen gas into the reactor feedwater and expensive measurements to determine how the BWR responded.

In the course of his research on HWC, Dr. Fox discovered a method that could predict each BWR's unique response to hydrogen for a few thousand dollars worth of measurements during normal plant operation. In other words, Dr. Fox's model eliminated the need for the million-dollar mini-test.

While Dr. Fox was with Aptech Engineering Services, Inc., he prepared a Proprietary Report on his HWC Predictive Method that sold for about $25,000 each, but saved the utility $1,000,000 by avoiding the mini-test. After a relatively short while, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) funded a formal written report that was then provided to all interested BWR utility companies. That same EPRI contract was expanded to include Expert System Software that not only provided the desired HWC prediction, but also provided tutorial training on the intricacies of boiling water reactor water chemistry. Dr. Fox provided the scientific methodologies for that Expert System while a computer software expert provided the detailed computer programming. EPRI then provided the HWC Expert System to its member nuclear utilities.

Dr. Fox is a nationally recognized metallurgy expert, corrosion expert and failure analysis expert who has published numerous peer-reviewed, scientific papers in these fields. He worked for years as a bench scientist and a research manager in the fields of corrosion, metallurgy and failure analysis. While a research manager, Dr. Fox managed over $100 million worth of research in metallurgy, corrosion and failure analysis. As noted above, this research included the role of water chemistry on corrosion.