New Nuclear Efforts Lead to A&M Institute

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Nuclear power appears to be in the cards for Texas, and Texas A&M appears to be at the forefront of the creation of new jobs.

The recently established Nuclear Power Institute is the result of a year's worth of preparation by numerous A&M System officials, many in the renowned A&M engineering department.

The basic premise is to seek out the next generation of engineers needed to run what will be numerous new nuclear power plants in Texas in the next decade.

Currently, there are four nuclear plants, but at least six, if not ten, will be built and operational in the next ten years. An estimated 500 people are needed at each facility.

Add to that the fact that the current crop of engineers are rising in average age, and a new generation is needed.

The NPI will work with community colleges and high schools to promote careers in engineering so the new facilities will have the best and brightest running them.

Texas A&M's nuclear engineering program is the largest in the country.

The following is a press release from Texas A&M concerning the creation of the Nuclear Power Institute:

A new statewide Nuclear Power Institute headquartered at Texas A&M University plans to make sure the growing Texas nuclear power industry has the engineers and technicians it will need as it expands in the coming decades.

Establishment of the institute, a cooperative effort of Texas A&M's Dwight Look College of Engineering, the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), and other organizations around the state was approved Thursday (Dec. 6) by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents during its meeting in College Station.

In particular, NPI activities will support statewide recruiting efforts for nuclear power-related programs. The partnership includes Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Prairie View A&M University, as well as several community colleges, the Texas State Technical College, the Texas Workforce Commission, civic leaders and high schools.

Plans presented to the regents call for the Nuclear Power Institute to manage a statewide effort to provide more than 2,000 engineers and technicians needed to staff and operate at least six new nuclear power plants in Texas scheduled to go into operation over the next 10 years.

Electric power experts say nuclear powered electric generating plants offer the best chance of meeting Texas' growing appetite for electric power, expected to grow by at least 20 percent over the next decade. Nuclear plants can produce this needed electricity without contributing to the production of greenhouse gases.

"The Texas A&M University System is uniquely configured with the ideal combination of education, research and service agencies and universities to lead this effort," said Dr. G. Kemble Bennett, vice chancellor and dean of engineering. "The institute will make a significant impact upon the workforce and economy of the state and nation."

The staff needed to operate the additional reactors and generating plants will include technicians with two-year technical degrees, nuclear engineers and engineers in other engineering specialties.

The NPI will oversee expansion of curriculums in high schools, junior colleges and four-year institutions to prepare graduates to enter nuclear power-related fields. The institute also will develop recruiting programs aimed at attracting students into fields that would prepare them to enter the nuclear power industry.

"The Texas Engineering Experiment Station is the right organization to bring together academic education and training and the nuclear power industry," said K. L. Peddicord, a professor of nuclear engineering at Texas A&M and director of TEES.

The STP Nuclear Operating Company, Luminant (formerly TXU) and the Exelon Corp. have announced plans to open six new nuclear power plants in Texas over the next decade. Several more may follow.

"The next years will be an exciting time for nuclear power in Texas," said Peddicord. "We're glad to be part of it."