Architectural engineer helps reduce cost and enhance safety for constructing nuclear facilities Meet Ivan Trotsenko

Ivan Trotsenko

Ivan Lee Vladimir Trotsenko is a Department of Energy (DOE) Scholars Program alum and a current National Nuclear Security Administration Minority Serving Institutions Internship Program (NNSA-MSIIP) participant. He is conducting simulated experiments on steel plate composite construction and traditional reinforced concrete construction. (Photo Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Ivan Lee Vladimir Trotsenko’s late grandfather could imagine an idea in his head and, with his own two hands, see it come to life. He was a master craftsman who even designed and built his own house, and young Trotsenko was greatly inspired by his ingenuity. During high school, his art teacher noticed he had a special talent. Trotsenko not only excelled in math and science but also won awards for visual design and sculpture.

“My art teacher realized that I enjoyed drawing buildings and recommended that I become an architect,” said Trotsenko. “What I did was put both together and looked up architectural engineering. After looking into the degree, I realized that it perfectly described my grandpa. I wish he lived long enough to see what I do now.”

Trotsenko graduated with his bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering and successfully defended his thesis for his master’s degree in civil engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. In 2021 he participated in the Department of Energy (DOE) Scholars Program with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Today, Trotsenko is a participant in the National Nuclear Security Administration Minority Serving Institutions Internship Program (NNSA-MSIIP) and has again secured a placement with LLNL.

The NNSA-MSIIP provides paid opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at Minority Serving Institutions pursuing degrees in critical science, engineering, technology, mathematics and other disciplines that support the current and future missions of the NNSA.

Under the mentorship of Michael Ross, Trotsenko finds himself at the forefront of research relevant to nuclear safety and materials research. He is part of the Environment, Safety and Health’s Engineered Safety Department in conjunction with the Ceramics and Polymers Group in the Materials Engineering Division at LLNL. The focus of his research project is looking at stronger and more efficient construction methods for nuclear facilities. He’s analyzing the enhanced safety and cost benefits of utilizing steel plate composite (SC) construction to replace reinforced concrete (RC) in the construction of nuclear facilities.

SC constructions are both stronger and more cost-effective compared to RC constructions. SC constructions are strong, ductile and more resistant to natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. SC construction facilities can be built in less time compared to RC construction, saving up to six months of construction time and construction cost for a nuclear reactor.

LLNL and collaborators at Purdue are currently looking at ways to define and improve the strength of SC construction by analyzing and formulating equations relevant to designing and constructing nuclear facilities. Once they discover these formulas, the design code and guidelines can be updated to standardize and implement SC construction. Trotsenko’s part in testing the novel formulas is to translate Purdue’s experiments to a software quality assured (SQA) software called COMSOL and then compare their results.

“SQA demonstrates that the program is doing what you want it to do and there are no risks of errors arising due to the software,” explained Trotsenko. “Developing test plans, verification and validation, configuration management, documentation of input and outputs and other SQA steps is a lot. This process takes time and dedication to navigate successfully. SQA can enable use of newer software with more capabilities.”

Trotsenko designed an educational poster about the project, in part thanks to a workshop he attended. Additionally, he learned how to use beam physics, shell physics and concrete crack modeling, which are highly useful for an engineer. He is also learning skills in independent problem solving and finds that this skill is helping him complete tasks in a timely manner. Trotsenko’s favorite part so far has been working on site at LLNL during summer because it gives him a sense of teamwork.

“I would highly recommend the program to others for two main reasons. One is that I am able to use resources that I could have never used outside the lab, like one of the world super computers. Two is the people that I work with are amazing and supportive,” said Trotsenko.

After his participation is completed, Trotsenko plans to complete a doctorate in Computational Data Science and Engineering. From admiring the creativity of his grandfather to simulating the physics of construction, Trotsenko hopes his time as a participant will make a big impact on how we construct nuclear facilities in the future.

The NNSA-MSIIP Program is funded by NNSA and administered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for DOE by ORAU.  The overall research project, NSRD-36 Enhanced Nuclear Safety Using Modular Steel Plate Composite Design/Construction, is funded by DOE’s Office of Environment, Health, Safety, and Security (EHSS) Nuclear Safety Research and Development (NSR&D) program.