As the issue of nuclear power in the United States re-emerges, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has recently awarded $10 million to a consortium of four Big Ten schools recognized as leaders in the field of nuclear engineering. Among the institutions in the consortium are the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Illinois, Purdue University and Penn State (lead institution).
The five-year grant, awarded by the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, will be shared among participating universities to improve their education and research efforts, as well as foster collaborations among them.
With these resources, the universities will be able to develop new equipment and techniques, upgrade current nuclear reactors and enhance the safe, controlled environments in which the reactors are housed. The resources will also improve training facilities and increase access to the equipment. UW-Madison’s nuclear engineering program in the College of Engineering also plans to establish undergraduate scholarships for students interested in the field.
“Together, these four universities produce one-third of all graduates in nuclear engineering,” says Michael L. Corradini, chair of the Department of Engineering Physics and director of the Wisconsin Institute of Nuclear Systems. “By improving our labs and research programs, we can have an even greater impact on the field.”
At many of these institutions, nuclear reactor facilities are used to both train future nuclear engineers and to advance research in the field. Corradini says that one of UW-Madison’s goals during this grant is to improve its profile as a leading research facility while maintaining its educational mission.
A portion of the $1.97 million awarded for this year to the four universities will fund consortium-led mini-grants, enabling researchers in other fields who typically find that the cost of using nuclear reactor facilities exceeds their budgets.
Corradini says that UW-Madison professors in geology and physics have already expressed interest in establishing such grants.
In addition to these benefits, Corradini says, “The resources will allow us to create collaborations and coordinate research efforts in a way never before done.”
The DOE recently awarded similar grants to three other new nuclear engineering consortia, led by Texas A&M, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oregon State and the University of California-Davis.