Peter C. Burns
Henry Massman Professor of Civil Engineering
When nuclear fuel is removed from a reactor, it is generally thought of as waste. Yet some 95 percent of the energy that was present in the spent fuel remains—and Peter Burns has devoted his career to finding better ways to recycle that used fuel, to more safely dispose of radioactive waste, and to clean up environmental problems resulting from Cold War-era weapons programs.
Burns is a world-leader in the study of actinides, the chemical elements (like uranium and thorium) that provide the fuel for nuclear energy. His discovery of an entirely new class of matter is helping scientists to better understand how radioactive materials behave, information that may lead to breakthroughs in the reprocessing of used fuels and the disposal of radioactive waste.
At Notre Dame, Burns directs the Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), one of 46 EFRCs established by President Barack Obama. With funding from the Department of Energy, he and his colleagues are furthering their research on creating sustainable energy through advanced nuclear systems.
The Massman Professorship was established by Henry J. Massman Jr. (’28). He and his wife, Cele, had three sons who were also graduated from Notre Dame: Henry J. Massman III (’53), John T. Massman (’56), and Robert J. Massman (’58).