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An Interdisciplinary Nuclear Power Operations Course Co Developed With The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Curriculum Development and Teaching Models in NRE

Tagged Division

Nuclear and Radiological

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.204.1 - 14.204.10



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Paper Authors

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Keith Holbert Arizona State University

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Jeffrey Goss Arizona State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Interdisciplinary Nuclear Power Operations Course Co-Developed With The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station


The development of an entire online course on interdisciplinary nuclear power operations is described herein. This course is a unique industry-university team-taught course in cooperation with the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS), and is part of a new graduate-level certificate program in Nuclear Power Generation at Arizona State University. The course objective is to instill the fundamental concepts and importance of nuclear safety to engineers and scientists in a variety of disciplines. The course content and lessons learned are reported.


The U.S. Congress and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have recognized that the United States is at the onset of a nuclear power renaissance. As of December 2008, the NRC has received 17 applications for construction and operating license (COL) applications for a total of 26 reactors; current expectations are that the NRC will receive 6 more COL applications for an additional 9 reactors (for a total of 34 units) over the next two years1,2. This revival in nuclear power plant construction is being spurred by increased electricity demands and the incentives in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 3 as well as concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on foreign energy resources. As NRC Chairman Dale Klein has noted, the nuclear workforce is graying, and the NRC is poised to hire hundreds of new employees in preparation for the expanded workload, including the staffing of the recently added Office of New Reactors 4. Others have also noted the staffing shortfalls in the nuclear industry 5 as well as the electric power industry in general. In fact, estimates are that 50% of the utility engineering workforce will retire within 10 years 6.

In recognition of the nuclear revival, the NRC initiated a grant program to support the educational infrastructure necessary for the nation to safely move forward with its nuclear energy initiatives. The NRC is funding the development of a new course at Arizona State University (ASU) in cooperation with the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS)—the nation’s largest nuclear power plant. PVNGS was also one of the last nuclear plants to be constructed in the U.S., and therefore has some of the more modern facilities in operation. This unique industry-university team-taught course focuses on Interdisciplinary Nuclear Power Operations. The course draws upon the expertise of plant personnel in dealing with day-to-day operations, whereas faculty are more accustomed and adept at classroom teaching and educational pedagogy. As a distinctive course for which lecture materials must be developed, the plant personnel are assuming the lead on enumerating and detailing the critical topics and information to be covered. University faculty are then converting the experiential knowledge into suitable classroom materials, including exercises, case studies, design projects, etc., and ensuring that the requisite academic rigor is present. To create real-life examples that are integrated into the online content, video footage is shot at PVNGS, edited in production studios at ASU, and then packaged as distributed media for synchronous and asynchronous online delivery.

Holbert, K., & Goss, J. (2009, June), An Interdisciplinary Nuclear Power Operations Course Co Developed With The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4582

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