June 15, 1997
June 15, 1997
June 18, 1997
2.414.1 - 2.414.4
The Future of Accreditation of Nuclear Engineering Programs
David M. Woodall Chair, ANS Accreditation Policy and Procedures Committee and Associate Dean of Engineering, University of Idaho
While graduates of university nuclear engineering (NE) programs have continued to enjoy good employability during recent years, there have been declining enrollments in undergraduate nuclear engineering programs at U.S. universities. Such declines are symptomatic of the decline in engineering enrollment across all curricula during the past five years, but may also reflect the public perception that nuclear power is a dying technology. The reality is rather dramatically different, in that the U.S. presently produces over 20% of its electricity from nuclear power, and many countries around the world generate a much higher fraction. There has been no new nuclear plant ordered in the US during the past fifteen years, but by contrast the world demand for nuclear electric power is accelerating.
Utility production of nuclear electricity in the U.S. is under competitive pressure from alternative technologies, including coal and natural gas. The pressure from natural gas is especially intense due to the availability of inexpensive natural gas used to fuel high efficiency, combined cycle gas turbine generators. There is also competitive pressure due to the deregulation of the electric utility industry nation-wide. This will lead to a head-to-head competition in production costs of electricity, with only the most competitive technologies surviving. In preparation, utilities are down-sizing their staffs and minimizing the cost of operation and production at each of their facilities. This has led to a decrease in demand for new nuclear engineers in the nuclear utility industry. With the decrease in funding for the national nuclear weapons production complex since the end of the cold war, another avenue of employment for nuclear engineers has been curtailed. Finally, the lack of political will in this country to resolve the nuclear waste storage issue has left the public with the perception that there is no acceptable solution. While Europe and Japan are well on their way to the long term storage of spent nuclear fuel waste, the US vacillates on storage options and plans another in a long series of studies.
Under the pressure of declining enrollments and the opportunities offered by faculty retirements to reallocate faculty positions to more compelling technical areas, many nuclear engineering departments have in recent years been abolished. The nuclear engineering faculty have often been merged into larger departments and programs have usually been retained, but sometimes only at the graduate level. Some examples of universities with well-recognized nuclear engineering departments which have undergone such a transition during the past five years include the University of Arizona, Iowa State University, Georgia Tech, Kansas State University, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, University of Virginia, and Pennsylvania State University. A number of smaller nuclear engineering programs have simply been
Woodall, D. M. (1997, June), The Future Of Accreditation Of Nuclear Engineering Programs Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. https://peer.asee.org/6586
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