The U.S. Energy Department will invest $47 million in new scholarships and programs designed to broaden the nation’s nuclear workforce and stimulate energy research.
Tuesday’s announcement by Energy Secretary Steven Chu includes 143 awards for fellowships, scholarships and research and development grants to 46 colleges and universities, with nine of those awards going to Georgia Institute of Technology.
“These investments will help train and educate our future energy leaders, while developing the innovations we need to create new jobs and export opportunities for American-made nuclear technologies,” Chu said.
The Integrated University Program includes $5 million for 39 undergraduate scholarships valued at $5,000 apiece and 31 graduate fellowships valued at $50,000 per year for three years. Both are intended to offer students training that can lead to nuclear science and engineering careers.
Other components include infrastructure grants and a series of university-led nuclear energy research and development projects that will use the Energy Department’s national laboratories as partners.
Research awards earmarked for Georgia Tech include $784,689 for reactor fuel core design, $877,000 for studies of radiation damage in reactor vessels and $743,444 for nuclear energy modeling.
Georgia Tech was also designated as recipient of two scholarships, three fellowships and a $250,000 infrastructure grant to upgrade the neutron generator in the school’s radiological engineering lab.
Also named as recipients were the University of South Carolina, which will receive $430,000 for transformative research; and another South Carolina school, Francis Marion University in Florence, which will receive one scholarship.
Nuclear professionals are in high demand in the Southeast, and in the Augusta region in particular, because of expansions under way that will add two new reactors apiece at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia, and at SCANA’s V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina.
Savannah River Site is also home to numerous projects that require nuclear scientists and related technology skills.
The National Nuclear Security Administration’s $4.8 billion MOX plant under construction will dispose of weapons-grade plutonium by blending it into commercial reactor fuel. High turnover caused by increased competition for nuclear workers has already been cited as a concern for keeping that project on schedule.
The Savannah River National Laboratory and other SRS facilities are vying to host research for small modular nuclear reactor development, and the site is also home to an array of nuclear waste processing and cleanup work.