- Posted June 18, 2014 by
Escalating Costs for University Nuclear Research
Universities have significantly reduced infrastructure and investment to support experimental research in engineering. One reason for this is that computation has become increasingly capable and provides a substitute for many experiments. However, fundamental limits on computation still require the use of empirical models and data that can only be derived from experiments. During a panel discussion at the 2014 American Nuclear Society (ANS) Annual Meeting, Per Peterson, nuclear engineering professor at the University of California-Berkley, explained that, “universities remain a critical source of innovation in experimental methods and diagnostics.” He added that they “...educate the next generation of experimentalists.”
Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) at the U.S. Department of Energy funds nuclear energy research and equipment upgrades at U.S. universities and also provides scholarships and fellowships to participating students. In 2013, NEUP funded 16 infrastructure grants totaling about $5 million, with major nuclear research reactor upgrades at Texas A&M University and Pennsylvania State University. There are currently 25 university nuclear reactors that are used for research and education. Some are at risk for being shut down because of the lack of funding and support.
Ralph Butler, director of the University of Missouri research reactor suggests that universities form a regional network of training at research reactors so that students studying nuclear engineering at schools without reactors can obtain hands-on experience. This would place more value on existing reactors and attract funding from the universities, government, and nuclear industry.