WASHINGTON – Building on President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to continue America’s leadership in clean energy innovation, the Energy Department announced today more than $60 million in nuclear energy research awards and improvements to university research reactors and infrastructure. The 91 awards announced today will help train and educate the next generation of leaders in America’s nuclear industry as well as support new and advanced nuclear technologies from reactor materials to innovative sensors and instruments to more efficient manufacturing.

“By supporting cutting-edge nuclear science and engineering across our universities, national labs and industry, we can strengthen the foundation for a continuing important role for nuclear energy in America’s low carbon future,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Training and educating the next generation nuclear energy workforce plays a critical role in ensuring American leadership in the safe, secure and efficient use of nuclear power worldwide.” 

Preparing the Next Generation of U.S. Nuclear Energy Leaders

According to industry estimates, the U.S. electric power industry will have to replace nearly 100,000 workers – more than 25,000 of them in the nuclear industry – by 2015. In the next few years, about 30 percent of nuclear energy industry workers, many of whom joined the field in the 1960s and 1970s, will be eligible for retirement. Since 2009, the Energy Department’s Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) have awarded approximately $290 million to nearly 90 colleges and universities to train the next generation of nuclear engineers and scientists in the United States and continue American leadership in clean energy innovation. View an interactive map of NEUP awardees by location on Energy.gov.

As part of today’s announcement, the Energy Department is awarding nearly $42 million to support 61 university-led nuclear energy research and development projects to develop innovative technologies and solutions across three fields: Fuel Cycle Technologies; Reactor Concepts Research, Development & Demonstration; and Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling & Simulation.

These projects are led by 38 American universities and colleges in 28 states and the District of Columbia. For example, a project led by the University of South Carolina will develop an advanced nuclear fuel that operates at lower temperatures and stores less energy —helping further improve reactor safety and efficiency.  Another project, led by the Iowa State University, will help support design and component performance validation for advanced small modular reactors.

Through its Nuclear Energy University Programs, the Energy Department is also awarding approximately $5 million to 15 colleges and universities to support research reactor and infrastructure improvements – helping to upgrade the country’s existing fleet of research reactors and make them more efficient and in line with industry advances. These awards will also ensure that American universities have the best equipment and tools available to educate and train the next generation of industry leaders.

Additionally, Energy Department announced today $5 million for a multilateral nuclear energy research project to test the long-term behavior of advanced reactor materials under radiation. The project is led by the University of Michigan, in collaboration with six other U.S. universities as well as industry, national laboratory, and international partners in the United Kingdom and France. In addition to the Department’s investment, the United Kingdom will provide $1.5 million to support its project partners.

Pioneering Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies

Today, the Energy Department also announced over $9 million to support 13 research and development projects, through its Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies Program, to help solve common challenges across the nuclear industry and improve reactor safety, performance and cost competitiveness. These projects fall under three categories:

  • Advanced Methods for Manufacturing (total $1.2 million, 3 projects) to improve the production and design efficiency of nuclear plant components, including advanced concrete construction methods and joining processes that can be used in small modular reactor manufacturing.
  • Reactor Materials (total $7 million, 7 projects) to conduct research into advanced reactor materials for piping, wiring cladding and other related structures in nuclear reactors and across the fuel cycle.
  • Advanced Sensors and Instrumentation (total $1.2 million, 3 projects) to develop data analysis software and electronic sensors and instruments that can collect data and measurements from inside a nuclear power reactor.

Visit Energy.gov for more information on the Energy Department’s efforts to continue American leadership in low-carbon nuclear energy innovation.