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Training the Next Generation of Nuclear Energy Leaders

May 8, 2012 - 3:06pm

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University of Idaho professor Supathorn Phongikaroon works with a graduate student in the radiochemistry lab at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Phongikaroon has received $820,000 from DOE to study an applied technology to remotely analyze spent nuclear fuel. | Photo courtesy of the University of Idaho.

University of Idaho professor Supathorn Phongikaroon works with a graduate student in the radiochemistry lab at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Phongikaroon has received $820,000 from DOE to study an applied technology to remotely analyze spent nuclear fuel. | Photo courtesy of the University of Idaho.

The all-of-the-above energy strategy and the clean energy future rely upon all the resources America can muster, which includes next-generation nuclear reactors, and the next generation of people to design and build them.

To train and educate these future leaders of the nuclear energy field, the Energy Department is offering $47.2 million in competitive scholarships, fellowships, research projects and university research reactor upgrades.

With these awards, we’re supporting nuclear energy R&D and student investment at 46 colleges and universities around the country. These awards fall into two primary categories: upgrades for reactor equipment and research and development to address core challenges in the industry and for the Office of Nuclear Energy.

Our award to Purdue University covers the first category -- upgrades to reactor equipment at universities, for example. The project will allow researchers to replace their equipment with more modern technology, ensuring that students there have the best equipment and tools available to train on and to conduct this vital research.

The R&D awards specifically address challenges in four areas: Fuel Cycle Research & Development; Reactor Concepts Research, Development & Demonstration; Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling & Simulation; and Transformative Research.

At Oregon State University, for example, researchers will conduct experiments to enhance the safety and efficiency of small modular reactors (SMRs). The project will assess the impact of high-pressure steam condensation on steel containment vessels to be used for SMR designs.

Small modular reactors are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear plants and have compact designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, siting, construction and economic benefits. We recently announced $450 million to support first-of-its-kind engineering, design certification and licensing for up to two SMR designs. So, the work at Oregon State is supporting R&D into this promising technology.

By training and educating our future leaders, we’re also developing innovations that strengthen our competitive edge, create new jobs, and export opportunities for American-made technology, which is a critical factor in winning the clean energy race.

More for information on these awards, visit www.neup.gov

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