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1 INTRODUCTION STUDY GENESIS AND BACKGROUND From 1960 to 1975, U.S. nuclear engineering education expanded in response to growth in the nuclear power industry. However, since the late 1970s, this educational infrastructure has contracted with the significant decrease in U.S. orders for nuclear power reactors (U.S. NRC, 1980; Campbell, 1988), a slower growth of electrical power demand than projected, and unfavorable and uncertain economics in the current regulatory environment. Enrollments in nuclear engineering programs have dropped and several nuclear engineering programs have closed (Table 1-1~. From a peak of about 850 in 1980, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded has declined to less than 500 in 1988. A decline in government support has also led to reductions in scholarship, fellowship, and research funds, and prevented timely replacement and upgrading of equipment; an increasing portion of research equipment has become obsolete. Nevertheless, a widespread perception among students that the demand for nuclear engineers is declining is not correct. Nuclear engineers are not only in demand by the civilian power industry, but are also needed in the federal government, especially in the Department of Energy (DOE). In addition to the traditional R&D needs of national laboratories, the cleanup of sites of the DOE complex, for example, will require much expertise in nuclear engineering. Additionally, nuclear engineering training is suitable~~~-for work in fields beyond reactor engineering, such as applied physics, accelerator physics and engineering, radiation physics, nuclear medicine, and fusion. Given the nuclear engineering enrollment trends, what will happen to fields that require nuclear engineers in the future? For example, total U.S. electricity consumption has been increasing and will probably continue to increase (EIA, 1990~. In addition, as existing nuclear electric power plants age, life extension or replacements will be required. Further, environmental, 11
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12 TABLE 1-1 Programs with Nuclear Engineering Majors and Options, 1975-1989a Program Schools offering a nuclear engineering mayor Schools offering only an option in nuclear engineering 1975 1980 1985 1987 1989 50 44 44 41 39 20 19 21 20 18 Total programs 70 63 65 61 57 a Data represent both undergraduate and graduate programs. SOURCE: Data provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Research, Division of University and Industry Programs and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. economic, and national security concerns could increase the need for nuclear- generated electricity as part of the U.S. energy mix. If an increased demand for such electricity leads to new power plant orders in the 1990s, will appropriately trained nuclear engineers be available for the plants' timely and economic operation? Will nuclear engineers be available to meet the national needs of DOE? Will they be available for the wide array of other technical areas? SCOPE AND TASKS OF THE STUDY To address these issues about the decline of nuclear engineering education and its national implications, the committee undertook several tasks (see Appendix A for the complete statement of task): o Characterizing the status of nuclear engineering education in the United States o Estimating the supply and demand for undergraduate and graduate nuclear engineers in the United States over the near- to mid-term (5 to 20 years) o Addressing the spectrum of material that the nuclear engineering curriculum should cover and how it should relate to allied disciplines o Recommending appropriate actions to ensure that the nation's needs for nuclear engineers at both graduate and undergraduate levels are satisfied over the near- and mid-term.
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13 Part of the committee's formal charge was to "examine the curriculum used in France, Japan and other countries, as appropriate, for strengths that might be applicable in the United States." The committee made an effort early in the study to obtain data on curricula in foreign countries. It soon became obvious that this task required time and resources well beyond those of the committee. Preliminary data indicated that the educational systems are so different that the curricula could not be readily evaluated for the U.S. education system. For some background see Rydberg (1988) and IAEA (1980, 1986~. The committee also recognizes that continuing education is important, as outlined in a recent report (NAE, 1988~; this subject is not addressed here. ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY AND REPORT Beyond reliance on its members' expertise, the committee invited a number of experts to provide briefings on pertinent issues (see Appendix C). The committee was divided into three panels: one to evaluate the status of nuclear engineering education, a second to study the educational needs of the next generation of nuclear engineers, and a third to project the supply and demand for nuclear engineers for the next 5, 10, 15, and 20 years. The three panel reports provided material for the integrated final report here. This report consists of seven chapters. Chapter 2 provides a brief background description of the nuclear technology field, how it has evolved, and how the nuclear engineering profession has evolved with it. Chapter 3 analyzes and projects the U.S. demand for nuclear engineers. Chapter 4 gives a detailed summary of the current status of nuclear engineering education. Chapter 5 evaluates trends in the educational system and their relevance to the future supply of nuclear engineers. Chapter 6 identifies changes in nuclear engineering education to address the imbalance that appears to be emerging between supply and demand. Finally, Chapter 7 summarizes the report and provides recommendations. The appendixes contain some background information. Appendixes A to D provide the statement of task, committee members' background, study activities, and acknowledgments. Appendix E describes the demand model used in Chapter 3. Appendix F contains more detailed tables and data on the supply trends in education discussed in Chapter 5 and information gathered from the committee's questionnaire to nuclear engineering departments; Appendix G contains the questionnaire. The reader should note that the DOE data base on nuclear-related activities is maintained by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). T the text, references to either the ORAU data or the DOE data are synonymous.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: