New nuclear energy course offered to grad students

The class will focus on fuel production and repossessing, not on weapons.

An updated course about the production and use of nuclear fuel will give next semester's graduate engineering students an opportunity to learn new thinking about the basics of this emerging alternative energy source.

The course is titled Nuclear Fuel Cycle and covers the process of creating nuclear fuel from the mining of uranium to the disposal of nuclear waste. The class will emphasize fuel cycles used for producing energy and reducing weapons proliferation.

MU nuclear engineering professor Charles Riggs, the course's instructor, said the course includes discussion of new methods of producing nuclear power, such as updated techniques in uranium mining. He said the class is particularly important because of the recent push for alternative fuels supported by presidential candidates.

"The prospects for nuclear power are still good," Riggs said. "Due to a lack of interest over the last 10 to 15 years, a void has been created for new engineers."

Riggs said students will learn about the reprocessing of nuclear waste to be reused as fuel, a process currently used in France. The two-and-a-half hour lectures will also talk about the characteristics of different nuclear reactors.

Nuclear Engineering professor Tashar Ghosh said the course is particularly important because of concerns about global warming from energy sources that produce carbon dioxide. He said the discussions of reprocessing address the biggest concern with nuclear power: its toxic waste. But as U.S. demand for energy grows, simply storing waste will be unsustainable, Ghosh said, and instead it can be reprocessed to make even more energy from the same materials.

Mark Prelas, research director for the Science and Engineering Institute, said knowledge of nuclear fuels and nuclear reprocessing will determine whether the U.S. energy industry keep up with its counterparts in other nations that are building up their nuclear capacity.

"We've always had a nuclear fuels course on the books," Prelas said. "But this one is particularly good because it addresses some of the more recent thinking. Nuclear power is really global now. Whether the U.S. decides to build nuclear will determine if the U.S. stays competitive."

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