Student Innovators

TVA-sponsored graduate fellowship results in award-winning, first-of-its-kind research.

TVA Nuclear had a real-world problem—proving emergency power system output to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—and two graduate students helped solve it by creating a first-of-its-kind methodology that won first place in a local technology symposium and earned a coveted spot at an international power industry conference.  

Mark Bowman, senior program manager of Power System Analysis, had to prove to the nuclear regulator how a nuclear plant’s emergency power system’s output changes as a whole if the voltage or frequency changes on a generator. 

“In practice, it’s easy to give an answer based on years of testing experience, but on paper, it’s difficult to prove,” Bowman said. “There’s some misleading information out there, but there is nothing we needed to provide an adequate answer, so we enlisted the help of graduate researchers to create a solution.”

Two graduate students from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga created a methodology to statistically prove limits in a power system. 

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UTC Graduate Fellow Areeg Ahmed presents the research at the Technology Symposium in April 2019. The team also included student Anas Ali, Professor Abdelrahman Karrar and TVA employees Mark Bowman and Preston Cooper.

“It seems like an easy solution, but it’s a lot more complex than that when you think about the number of potential inputs needed to accurately calculate power system behavior,” Bowman said. “As we looked into it further, we realized that nothing else like this existed, so we were blazing a trail into industrial power system loading research.” 

The methodology will help TVA answer tough technical questions from the regulator, but it also has community- and industry-wide appeal — first as a symposium winner and then as a technical paper. 

“I’m proud of the work these students have done, and I’m glad TVA has been partnering with UTC these past nine years to provide opportunities for graduate research in areas that will ultimately improve the lives of people in the Valley,” Bowman said. 

In August, a technical paper drafted by UTC and TVA will be presented at the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting in Atlanta. The paper was selected as one of the top entries to be presented during a session.  

“Engineers often rely on their judgement and past experience to properly design a power system, but in a regulated industry, we can’t do that for the sake of public safety,” Bowman said. “This methodology is applicable to other areas, even outside the nuclear industry. I’ve personally been involved in briefing industry partners and others interested in the research.”