Missouri S&T hosts symposium on future of nuclear power

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On April 23, 2021

Student using S&T's nuclear materials optical table

Data collected using modulated photothermal radiometry indicate how radiation damage modifies the thermal conductivity of metals and alloys used in nuclear reactors. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T.

As the United States moves toward greater use of renewable energy, nuclear industry experts gathered to discuss the role of nuclear power in America’s future during a virtual symposium hosted by Missouri S&T on Friday, April 30.

“Some of the top minds in the industry shared their vision for the future of nuclear energy,” says Dr. Richard Wlezien, vice provost and dean of S&T’s College of Engineering and Computing. “The symposium is a perfect fit for S&T, the home of the first on-campus nuclear reactor in Missouri, as we celebrate our new department of nuclear engineering and radiation science.”

Nuclear power is not often included in discussions about alternative energy sources but accounted for more than half of the nation’s carbon-free electricity in 2020 and a fifth of overall power generated in the United States in the past 20 years, Wlezien says.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently recognized Missouri S&T’s nuclear engineering program with a $168,500 award for one scholarship and one fellowship. The undergraduate scholarship provides $7,500 to help cover education costs for the upcoming years, while the three-year graduate fellowship provides $52,000 each year to help pay for graduate studies and research. It also includes $5,000 to fund an internship at a DOE national laboratory or other approved research facility to strengthen the ties between students and DOE’s energy research programs.

“Our students will create tomorrow’s cutting-edge solutions in nuclear energy, and we are grateful for this support from DOE,” says Dr. Ayodeji Alajo, associate professor and interim chair of nuclear engineering and radiation science at Missouri S&T. “The DOE award and the symposium are high points in the celebration of our students and our new department.”

The symposium opened with remarks from Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani and Alajo. Two panel discussions – “Why Nuclear?” and “Emerging Technologies: Opportunities and Risks” – featured experts who have years of varied experience:

Tom Voss, retired president and CEO, Ameren Corp.
Robin Stubenhofer, vice president of engineering, Honeywell, Kansas City National Security Campus
Ben Masters, research physicist, Engineer Research and Development Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
John Gahl, professor of electrical engineering and computer science; adjunct professor of biomedical, biological and chemical engineering, University of Missouri-Columbia
Jess C. Gehin, associate lab director – nuclear science & technology, Idaho National Laboratory
John Warmack, founder, Warmack and Co.
Jim Kennedy, president, ThREE Consulting
John Kutsch, executive director, Thorium Energy Alliance

“Nuclear energy is the reliable renewable and plays an important role in our nation’s energy independence,” says Wlezien. “Missouri S&T is proud to have hosted this symposium, and we hope to continue the conversation with similar gatherings in the future.”

About Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,600 students and part of the four-campus University of Missouri System. Located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 99 different degree programs in 40 areas of study and is ranked by CollegeFactual as the best public university to study engineering. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.

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