UT Receives $1.7 Million to Train Nuclear Leaders and Conduct Research

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KNOXVILLE—The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is receiving more than $1.7 million from the US Department of Energy for scholarships, a fellowship, and research grants to train and educate the next generation of leaders in America’s nuclear industry.

The awards are part of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) and Integrated University Program (IUP) that will support nuclear energy research and development and student investment at forty-six colleges and universities nationwide. UT students were awarded more scholarship money than any other institution through the program.

Through the IUP, the department is awarding UT’s Department of Nuclear Engineering six undergraduate scholarships worth $5,000 each. One graduate student is also being awarded a fellowship worth $50,000 annually over three years and $5,000 towards a summer internship at a national laboratory.

With the support of the program, students will receive financial support to pursue a degree in the nuclear field and gain the skills and experiences they need to succeed in a nuclear science and engineering career. The selected students will study a breadth of critical nuclear energy issues, from fuel cycle sustainability to reactor efficiency and design.

Through the NEUP, researchers will receive about $1.6 million for two research projects to develop advanced nuclear energy materials aimed at making the next generation of reactors safer and more efficient, while also reducing design and engineering costs.

Yanwen Zhang and William Weber of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering will study fuel materials at temperatures and irradiation conditions that are relevant to operations and accident scenarios. Their research will provide a better understanding of the performance of fuel forms which is critical in an age of increasing energy needs and in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Weber, a Governor’s Chair for radiation effects on materials, will also investigate the structural and chemical response of used nuclear fuel and waste forms during interim storage and permanent disposal. If successful, this project will generate models that will allow scientists to predict how structures evolve overtime as well as the radiological safety and security of nuclear fuel and waste forms.

UT will also receive additional funds from the Georgia Institute of Technology for Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering Ivan Maldonado’s collaboration on a Georgia Tech-led project. Maldonado and his colleagues will examine new options for fuel and core designs in liquid salt-cooled reactors. They hope to develop a new, safer, and more efficient design.

The award announcement made by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu underscores President Obama’s commitments to keep college affordable, expand opportunities for American families nation wide, and promote education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.

“We must invest in the next generation of American scientists and engineers in order to fulfill our commitment to restarting America’s nuclear industry and making sure that America stays competitive in the twenty-first century,” said Secretary Chu.

Nationally, the Department of Energy is offering 143 awards for a total of $47 million as part of the NEUP and IUP.

For more information, visit the Department of Energy’s website.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460, wheins@utk.edu)

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