Swanson School Nuclear Engineering Program Wins $400,000 Grant From NRC

Issue Date: 
November 2, 2009

The Swanson School of Engineering’s nuclear engineering program won a coveted $400,000 grant from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to back two graduate fellowships, which will help bolster the academic research component of Pitt’s nearly three-year-old program. As the only nuclear engineering track in Western Pennsylvania, the program already is noted for teaching and training aspiring engineers in nuclear operations and safety by working closely with the region’s uniquely high concentration of nuclear engineering experts at such companies as Bechtel Bettis, Westinghouse Electric Company, and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, which operates the Beaver Valley Power Station nuclear power plant in Shippingport, Pa.

The NRC grant will support two PhD students with $50,000 a year for four years; the students will be enrolled in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science’s (MEMS) doctoral program. Under the guidance of MEMS professor and William Kepler Whiteford Faculty Fellow Jorg Wiezorek, the students will work to develop a more quantitative and mechanistic understanding of the degradation of the austenitic stainless steels used in constructing nuclear reactors. Graduate fellows will collaborate with Westinghouse and have access to the unique materials-testing facilities of Westinghouse’s Science and Technology Center. Fellowship applications will be accepted and reviewed until the positions are filled.

The fellowship grant marks the third time the NRC has recognized Pitt’s nuclear engineering program with substantial funding. In August 2008, the program received grants totaling $650,000 to bolster its undergraduate and graduate certificate programs. Since 2007, the NRC has provided $400,000 to create a distance-learning portion for the graduate certificate, a unique aspect of Pitt’s program that is geared toward students across Pennsylvania and offers further education to nuclear engineers already in the workplace. Directed by Larry Foulke, a noted 40-year veteran of the nuclear industry, Pitt’s program was established to answer the growing demand for nuclear engineers.