As Nuclear Plants Age, UT Gets Funds for More Nuke Research

The University of Tennessee is one of more than a dozen schools that will get federal money for research into how to make new nuclear plants more efficient.

While progress on new reactors is slow—and the current crop is aging—officials at the Department of Energy says the US will need more nuclear scientists in the future.

It’ll be years before any of the nuclear reactors in the pipeline start churning out power.

Meanwhile, scientists are still dealing with issues created by the plants that are currently online. The biggest is finding a permanent home for the toxic waste created in nuclear reactions.

Deputy energy secretary Daniel Poneman says younger nuclear scientists will have to find ways to deal with these issues before nuclear power can grow again.

“We’ve got to get that piece of the equation right for nuclear to flourish. Frankly, bringing young students in with fresh ideas and newly-trained expertise can be part of the solution set.”

The Energy Department grant will fund six students at UT Knoxville who will study ways to reduce engineering costs in new reactors.

Similar grants will go toward research at Purdue and the University of Michigan, where students are looking for ways to convert nuclear waste into useable fuel for the nation’s new nuclear plants.

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