Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Skip to main content

Recommendations for the Future of Nuclear Education and Technology

October 28, 2002

Recommendations for the Future of Nuclear Education and Technology

Albany, N.Y. — Attendees at a major conference in the Capital Region convened to hammer out recommendations for solving the looming shortage of a qualified nuclear workforce and to strengthen collaborations between universities, industry, and government.

The conference, titled Universities, Industry, and Government: Partners for the Future of Nuclear Education and Technology, was sponsored by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

“The continued availability of an essential reservoir of qualified personnel is critical to ensuring nuclear safety and security, encouraging nuclear innovation, and making certain that the benefits of nuclear energy-related not only to power generation but also to nuclear medicine, industrial radiology, and a host of other nuclear applications — remain available for future generations,” said Rensselaer President Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, who is the former Chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “We must assure excellence in American research, teaching, technology transfer, entrepreneurship, and safety in the peaceful applications of nuclear energy. To do this requires the cooperation of leaders in government, industry, and academe.”

Panelists from the nation’s leading research universities, government agencies, national laboratories, and nuclear industries addressed nuclear workforce needs, R&D, national security, business partnerships, and the role of the regulatory community.

Conference participants broke out into three subject groups (in bold below) and identified key action items to foster collaboration. They include:

Educating tomorrow’s nuclear workforce: Chaired by Beverly Hartline, Deputy Laboratory Director, Argonne National Laboratory

* Encourage a larger on-campus presence of employers and employees from the nuclear workforce; encourage lab/industry employees to spend a term or year at a university; encourage engineers/managers to teach classes; encourage industrial members of advisory boards to take an active interest in curriculum content.

* Engage community colleges by inviting representatives to meetings such as this one; encourage 2-year technical terminal degrees in nuclear science, and encourage 4-year bridge programs.

* Develop better secondary-school curriculum/textbooks and innovative delivery of information about nuclear specialties such as health physics, radiochemistry, space power, and nuclear medicine.

* Expand joint outreach at the high school and community college level by university and industry representatives. Expand that to 2-year schools and use the Web, electronic media, and other forms of communication to reach a wider audience.

* Attract young women and minorities to “make a difference to society” using curriculum materials designed to bring a societal and human dimension to the nuclear sciences. Also, provide greater awareness of nuclear issues to in-service and pre-service teachers.

Collaborative approaches to address education and R&D needs: Chaired by Tom Isaacs, Director, Policy, Planning, and Special Studies, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

* Develop a one-stop Web site designed for an audience of potential employees/employers and students. The goal is to be an information repository for scholarship and career opportunities as well as to give an overall understanding of key nuclear related issues.

* Better communicate nuclear issues to the general community and to prospective students and faculty who will be the ones who will revitalize the pipeline.

* Articulate the scope of the nuclear footprint and the impact of the science across many disciplines (medical, energy, etc.).

* Encourage more and better funding for faculty research through potential joint faculty/junior faculty appointments between labs and universities, and programs designed to promote junior faculty and to encourage research interests.

* Support students through fellowships, internships, summer jobs, co-ops, mentoring, and part-time studies with the national laboratories and universities.

* Investigate international collaborations that unite universities, laboratories, private industries, and student liaisons.

Addressing the needs and adjusting the role of the federal government: Chaired by Robert Long, GPU Nuclear

* Call for increased support for nuclear science and technology from the National Science Foundation by naming a program officer at the NSF as an advocate and naming an AAAS/ANS fellow to work at the NSF.

* Draft executive letters of support to the NSF and to the Vice President regarding the need for increased funding for nuclear research. The letters would be signed by representatives from the energy industry, the semiconductor industry association, engineering deans, deans of arts and sciences, and national lab directors.

* Develop a program to demonstrate nuclear engineering science and technology as essential to societal needs. The program would be directed to federal agencies using and funding the research, Congress, and the public.

* Organize an Interagency Panel for Nuclear Science and Technology (NS&T) to identify all agencies that use NS&T and to develop broad interagency support and encourage communication among agencies.

* Foster international cooperation needed to attract students, assure retention of the knowledge base, and encourage international educational experiences.

The panelists and presenters included:

* David Christian, senior vice president, Dominion Generation;

* Joe Colvin, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute;

* Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

* Dr. Thomas Magnanti, dean of the School of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology;

* William Magwood IV, director, U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Science, and Technology;

* Dr. Mohan Mathur, president, University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering;

* The Honorable Dr. Richard Meserve, chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission;

* Dr. James Stubbins, University of Illinois, president of the national Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization.

Contact: Megan Galbraith
Phone: (518) 276-6531
E-mail: N/A


Reeve Hamilton
Director of Media Relations and Communications

(518) 833-4277

For general inquiries:

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.