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'U' receives $1.3 million for nuclear energy research and education

By Josh Qian, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 10, 2012

The University recently received $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy that will be put toward educating future leaders of industrial energy efficiency.

On Tuesday, the DOE announced the 46 higher-education institutions from across the nation that will be receiving a grant as part of their Nuclear Energy University Program and Integrated University Program. The programs are intended to promote energy research and development projects at a university level.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the 46 higher education institutions that will each receive part of the $47-million grant.

In DOE's press release, Chu said the awards are part of the Obama administration’s efforts to keep college affordable for students.

Chu added that these investments will help train future energy experts and create the innovations for job growth and export opportunities for nuclear technologies designed on U.S. soil.

The nuclear engineering and radiological sciences department at the College of Engineering will be the direct recipient of the federal funding granted to the University.

Ronald Gilgenbach, chair and professor of NERS, said the department is pleased that the DOE has the funds to aid the study of advanced nuclear reactors and to support the next generation of nuclear engineers at the University.

“The DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program will provide some $0.8 million funding for the research program of Dr. Zhijie Jiao and Prof. Gary Was to study accelerated aging of materials for advanced nuclear reactors,” Gilgenbach said.

Gilgenbach added that University engineers would use particle accelerator beams to simulate the radiation damage of materials for new types of nuclear reactors.

“This technique provides a means to generate the amount of material damage in hours or days that would take many years to accumulate in an actual reactor,” Gilgenbach said.

The NERS department was also awarded about $0.5 million for scholarships and fellowships to support undergraduate and graduate education in nuclear engineering.

James Duderstadt, president emeritus and professor of science and engineering, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily that the NERS department has not only ranked number one in the nation since 2009, but it is also very likely number one in the world.

“This (funding) will be very important in sustaining its leadership, attracting and supporting outstanding students, and contributing to the nation,” Duderstadt said.

Rackham student Timothy Grunloh, a graduate student research assistant at NERS, said three graduate students will be funded by the grant for three years for their nuclear energy projects involving the improved modeling of reactors.

“Government funding such as those through NEUP are hugely beneficial for any sort of research process, and the money bestowed upon the NERS department will be aimed at refining nuclear power as a cost effective, clean and, most importantly, safe energy source,” Grunloh said.