Dipping a bundle of yarn into the ocean and pulling out
uranium sounds easy enough. This method of extracting
uranium from seawater, an effort led by Chien Wai, emeritus
chemistry professor at the University of Idaho, has created quite
a splash with its promising results. But while the process itself
may be fairly straightforward, reaching this point of success has
taken a significant amount of time and effort
Through the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP), NE
integrates university-led innovation into its technical missions
by way of a competitive grant process. Established in 2009,
NEUP funds two types of grants: Research and Development
(R&D) and Infrastructure. Infrastructure grants have been
integral in strengthening the nuclear energy research
capabilities of universities across the country. This support is
often in the form of laboratory equipment.
The Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy (DOENE) established the Nuclear Energy University Program
(NEUP) in 2009 to place its university support under one
umbrella. NEUP funds nuclear energy research and equipment
upgrades at U.S. colleges and universities and provides
student educational support. In addition to NEUP, DOE-NE
administers the Integrated University Program (IUP), which
works to attract qualified nuclear science and engineering
(NS&E) students to nuclear energy professions. The program
provides undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships
leading to a major or minor degree or certificate in the fields or
disciplines of NS&E relevant to the DOE-NE mission.
NC State has been awarded 10 NEUP grants for research reactor and infrastructure improvements totaling over $4 million. These grants have allowed the NRP to add state-of-the-art equipment, including two facilities that are the only ones of their kinds in the United States – an intense positron beam and an ultra-cold neutron source. These grants have also funded upgraded power of the PULSTAR reactor, the establishment of a hot cell capability, new reactor control console instrumentation and monitoring equipment, and other improvements that allow for greater research capabilities.
The Consolidated Innovative Nuclear Research (CINR) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) consists of three research and
development (R&D) components. The Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) awards competitively funded research and
development opportunities in two main areas—fuel cycles and reactor concepts. The Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies
(NEET) Crosscutting Technology Development (CTD) program funds research that complements NEUP R&D. Programs partner
with the Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF) program to provide R&D funds with access to one-of-a-kind facilities to enable
research not typically available to university and industry researchers.
Dr. Colby Jensen grew up on a farm outside the small town of
Preston, Idaho, physically close to Idaho National Laboratory
(INL) and yet a world apart in many ways. He had no ambition
to one day work as a researcher at the lab; in fact, he had little
knowledge of the lab despite living just a few hours away. But
after going away for college and eventually earning his Ph.D.,
Jensen realized that INL was exactly where he wanted to work.
The Fouride High Temperature Salt-Cooled Reactor or FHR, was designed through NEUP's first Integrated Research Project (IRP). DOE-NE has supported university development of this reactor design with dozens of projects since 2011. Kairos Power spun off of these projects in 2016 to be the first nuclear start-up to demonstrate the reactor design.