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University of Utah Ramps up Nuclear Engineering Studies to Fill Growing Demand for Talent in Energy Disciplines

July 21, 2008 –The University of Utah, with one of only 29 nuclear engineering programs remaining in the U.S., will use a $1.5 million gift from the EnergySolutions Foundation to establish a Presidential Endowed Chair in Nuclear Engineering in its College of Engineering. 

The U is currently conducting a search for a faculty expert in nuclear engineering to enhance its scholarly research in nuclear studies.  In addition, the curriculum will be expanded with new courses, and a new minor in nuclear engineering is being developed — in response to students’ requests — for those who are pursuing degrees in the core engineering disciplines.  The U has traditionally offered both masters and PhD degrees in nuclear engineering, a program that was first added to the curriculum in 1954.

This gift will add to the U’s existing strengths and national reputation in a broad portfolio of energy research, including fossil fuel production and utilization, geothermal and waste energy usage, and growing efforts in alternative energy such as alternative natural gas, fuel cell technology, solar energy, and energy efficiency research.

“We are committed to improving the available supply of clean, efficient and environmentally responsible energy,” said Michael K. Young, University of Utah President.  “The EnergySolutions Foundation Presidential Endowed Chair will enable us to bring to bear the University’s resources and talents in helping to solve the nation’s energy challenges and increase the supply of professionals for all nuclear industries.”

According to Steve Creamer, EnergySolutions Chairman and CEO, and a director of the EnergySolutions Foundation, “Nuclear energy is a clean, safe, reliable and non-carbon emitting source of energy.  EnergySolutions’ mission is to help the United States achieve energy independence, reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment. In order to accomplish these goals, America needs more nuclear professionals. We are pleased to support the University’s efforts to advance research and prepare more qualified people for service in the nuclear industries.”

The goal of the U’s program expansion is to help address the critical shortfall in qualified professionals for nuclear industries including, power generation, extraction and storage of nuclear materials, health care and related industries.  The US currently uses more than 780 billion kilowatt hours per year of electricity generated by nuclear power plants – about one fifth of the total amount (4 trillion kilowatt hours) consumed in the US.

Dean of Engineering Richard B. Brown said, “The nation is facing a crisis in the shortage of nuclear industry professionals.”  According to a 2007 report by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), “The nuclear energy industry expects a significant number of experienced workers to retire in the next five years and has undertaken a comprehensive program to recruit, train and educate new workers.” The same report notes the decline in the number of nuclear engineering programs from about 65 in 1980 to about 29 currently.  An earlier NEI study estimates that demand for nuclear engineers will be about 150% of the supply through the end of the decade.

“By graduating more students with experience in nuclear engineering, we will be providing important professional opportunities for students in a highly competitive industry, while addressing industry needs,” said Brown.

Regionally, the shortage of nuclear engineering professionals is exacerbated by the demand for engineers across all disciplines.  Brown is focused on increasing the number of engineering graduates for all local industries and reports a 66 percent increase in the number of engineering degrees compared with 1999.  “Support from local industry has been critical to our success,” said Brown.

EnergySolutions is a full-service nuclear fuel cycle company headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The company currently employs some 5,500 people in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, including approximately 1,150 scientists and engineers and more than 400 nuclear safety professionals. For more information on EnergySolutions and its Foundation, visit