Last week POWERnews reported that the U.S. Department of Energy had awarded $40 million for preliminary work on the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP). That was Monday. On Friday, the DOE issued two requests for applications (RFA) for scholarships and fellowships as part of its efforts to recruit and train the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers.

The DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) will provide approximately $5 million for scholarships and fellowships for students enrolled in two-year, four-year, and graduate engineering and science programs related to nuclear energy at accredited U.S. universities and colleges.

Though all sectors of the power industry are feeling the stress of an aging workforce and too-few new, skilled employees, the nuclear sector is particularly hard-hit because of the decades-long hiatus since the last nuclear plant was built. (See these articles on the aging workforce and the challenges of recruiting new employees to the power industry in POWER’s April 2008, July 2008, and November 2008 issues.) In the interim, the chilly climate for nuclear power has served as a deterrent to choosing nuclear engineering for many potential plant staff. If the U.S. hopes to ramp up construction and operation of nuclear plants, it will need to either hire from abroad or develop American talent, and fast.

“As we work to expand nuclear power in the United States to meet our climate and energy challenges, it’s critical that we have a skilled workforce who can lead in the future,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “Through the Nuclear Energy University Programs, we are training the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers who will help move the nuclear industry forward.”

The RFAs include an RFA for Scholarships and an RFA for Fellowships. The Scholarship and Fellowship Program aims to attract the brightest students to science and engineering disciplines related to nuclear energy, such as nuclear engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemistry, health physics, nuclear materials science, radiochemistry, applied nuclear physics, and nuclear policy at universities and colleges located in the U.S.

Two-year programs that lead to a certificate or minor are also included, such as nuclear power technology, nuclear maintenance technology, nuclear engineering technology, and radiation protection technology. Undergraduate scholarships will average $5,000 per year. Three scholarships may be awarded up to $25,000 to distinguished undergraduate students. The maximum award for fellowships will be $50,000 per year over three years.

Students must matriculate at an institution that is participating in the program to be eligible for either scholarships or fellowships. Two-year or four-year U.S. universities and colleges that are not on the current list of participating institutions listed in the RFAs may apply to a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to administer scholarships and fellowships through Grants.gov under FOA # DE-FOA-0000176 that was issued on March 4, 2010.

Students need to apply to the Scholarship and Fellowship RFAs by April 26, 2010, through the Nuclear Energy University Programs website to be considered for an award. The DOE anticipates notifying students by June 2010 of its selections with awards planned for July 2010.

Source: DOE, POWERnews