As interest soars in the potential of nuclear power to produce electricity without greenhouse gases, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Engineering is rapidly expanding its curriculum to provide the next generation of nuclear engineers.
Beginning in the fall of 2009, the VCU School of Engineering will launch a new program leading to a master’s degree in mechanical and nuclear engineering. Simultaneously, an undergraduate track in nuclear engineering will be added to the mechanical engineering program.
“Taken together, we will have the most complete offering of nuclear engineering education in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Russell Jamison, Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Engineering. “Programs like these will give our graduates more employment opportunities in a difficult economy.”
Interest in the programs is strong both among prospective students, as well as currently enrolled students.
Nuclear power currently produces about 20 percent of the electricity in the United States. But across the country, more nuclear power plants are being proposed as the nation struggles to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
The American Nuclear Society has estimated that 700 nuclear engineers need to graduate every year to support the potential demand. Currently, only about a third of that number is available.
Dominion, one of the nation’s leading producers and transporters of energy, is partnering with VCU to develop the university’s nuclear engineering programs.
Richmond-based Dominion says the pipeline of nuclear engineers coming through VCU will ensure the company’s capacity in the years ahead to be a leader in providing safe and reliable nuclear-generated electricity to its customers.
The university’s nuclear programs also will provide current Dominion employees with an avenue to advance their educations in a growing field.