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What do you get when you combine energetic students with bright ideas and the catalyst of experts from the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) national labs and industry? Hopefully, in the not-to-distant future, an upended future in nuclear innovation.
That was the goal of the inaugural Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp, which took place at the University of California, Berkeley from August 1-12, 2016. There, 25 selected students gathered from across the world to learn ways to foster innovations in nuclear energy.
The program went beyond the traditional university education, with course sessions ranging from “Highlights and Challenges in Advanced Nuclear Technology” to “Finance and Funding for Long Lead, Capital Intensive Projects,” to “What is it Like to be in a Startup?” Also unlike other approaches, “creatives,” students in non-engineering fields such as journalism, policy and economics, were encouraged to attend, since their expertise will also be critical to the future of nuclear energy innovation.
Over the course of their two weeks in Bootcamp, students heard from nuclear experts at universities like MIT, the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the University of New Mexico; companies such as Exelon, Alphabet Energy and Google X; think tanks including Third Way and the Bipartisan Policy Center; and DOE national labs such as Oak Ridge and Idaho, as well as Berkeley Lab’s Cyclotron Road. Students also had the chance to interact with representatives from partners of the event including the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, Third Way UC Berkeley and DOE. John Kotek, Acting Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, provided the keynote. For more information, check out this video of their experiences, as well as this Facebook page.
Although Bootcamp is over, its graduates will have many other ways to create innovations in nuclear energy, especially while working with DOE.
For instance, in 2015, DOE announced the establishment of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), whose purpose is to, “provide the nuclear community with access to the technical, regulatory, and financial support necessary to move innovative nuclear energy technologies toward commercialization while ensuring the continued safe, reliable, and economic operation of the existing nuclear fleet.” GAIN is working closely with DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) and its Clean Energy Investment Center to provide a single point of access for users interested in a range of nuclear energy related capabilities and expertise. Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the nation’s lead nuclear laboratory, provides access to GAIN, and thereby to DOE’s world-class nuclear research resources at INL, as well as Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories.
For the graduates of Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp, the future is just opening. Thanks to the training they’ve had, and the DOE expertise and resources that offer, they’ll have the opportunity to drive innovations in nuclear energy, and help create a cleaner, and a brighter future for us all.
For more information about the Office of Nuclear Energy, please go to http://www.energy.gov/ne/office-nuclear-energy.
For more information about DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear program, please go to https://gain.inl.gov/SitePages/Home.aspx.
The Mission of the Office of Technology Transitions is to expand the commercial impact of DOE’s portfolio of Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment (RDD&D) activities over the short, medium and long term.