The ANS Education, Training and Workforce Development Division hosted a webinar titled “Securing a Strong Workforce for the Next Generation of Reactors” on March 16. The webinar covered actions being taken to prepare the future nuclear workforce for the construction and operation of next-generation reactors in the late 2020s and early 2030s.
The speakers: Webinar moderator Daniel Carleton, project manager at Terrestrial Energy USA, noted that in order to meet U.S. energy and security needs for “clean, carbon-free, baseload energy that is economically competitive, it is critical to have a nuclear workforce with the capabilities and expertise required for the construction and operation of advanced reactors.”
Kathryn Huff, senior advisor in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Energy, emphasized the need to grow the nuclear workforce during this “critical moment for nuclear energy.” She discussed efforts of the Biden administration and Congress related to this challenge, including the provision of $62 billion for nuclear over the next five to 10 years through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. “We’re going to need at least 1,000 new Department of Energy employees,” she said. “Every dollar that we spend in government to enable the demonstration and deployment of technologies creates a need for new workers.”
J. Wesley Hines, head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, spoke about “high impact practices” in the university curriculum that positively affect students’ future careers. These practices include undergraduate research, internships and co-ops, senior design, studying abroad, and community-based learning.
Hines further discussed actions taken by UT to better prepare students to work in the nuclear industry, including the development of four minors in nuclear engineering to give students additional academic experience and expertise so that they can be more competitive in the job market. Those minors are in the fields of cybersecurity, nuclear decommissioning and environmental management, reliability and maintainability engineering, and nuclear safety.
Nicholas Touran, manager of digital engineering at TerraPower, spoke about TerraPower’s initiatives to ensure the availability of the workforce needed to build and operate new power plant designs, such as the company’s partnership with a construction contractor to build a plant, its internship program and on-the-job training, and its outreach to universities and the community. He recommended a number of steps that universities could take to secure a stronger nuclear workforce, such as conducting intersectional studies on plant construction and deploying realistic reactor engineering simulators.