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Posted on Thu, May 20, 2010 : 1:26 p.m.

University of Michigan lands $4.3M from Department of Energy to develop nuclear energy technologies

By Nathan Bomey

The University of Michigan will receive a $4.3 million injection of funds to pursue new nuclear energy technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy announced this afternoon.

The funding comes through the DOE's Nuclear Energy University Program, which aims to develop next-generation nuclear fuel and reactor technologies. U-M is among 23 lead research universities awarded $38 million through the initiative.

"We are taking action to restart the nuclear industry as part of a broad approach to cut carbon pollution and create new clean energy jobs," U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. "These projects will help us develop the nuclear technologies of the future and move our domestic nuclear industry forward."

U-M, which last decade decommissioned its Ford Nuclear Reactor, conducts nuclear energy research through the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute. The university boasts a roster of several advanced nuclear energy scientists.

Phoenix Reactor Becker 1 RC.JPG

A view into the University of Michigan's Ford Nuclear Reactor, which was decommissioned last decade. The university is now researching new nuclear energy technologies.

File photo |

The university's funding is split into five segments for projects that will take three to four years:

--$1,181,379, $996,581 and $406,712 for separate research projects designed to develop next-generation nuclear reactors. This part of the DOE initiative includes a focus on improving fuel efficiency in nuclear reactors, reducing nuclear waste and researching ways to create smaller nuclear reactors.

--$931,603 to research better ways to store, recycle and dispose of radioactive waste materials.

--$798,943 for "blue sky" projects focusing on futuristic nuclear energy technologies.

“We believe this will help us develop the nuclear technologies of the future and help us move our domestic nuclear energy industry forward,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman told reporters in a conference call.

The funding marks another major influx of alternative energy research dollars for the university. In 2009, the DOE established an Energy Frontier Research Center at U-M to research new solar energy technologies. The university received a five-year, $19.5 million grant to launch that initiative.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


5c0++ H4d13y

Fri, May 21, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

@David Briegel of course you stopped buying petroleum products decades ago so you're hands are clean :p

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Fri, May 21, 2010 : 6:10 a.m.

Anony. - is right on target. Can the UofM ENSURE that their Nuc studies students will not graduate and end up in an Al Queada Program? Recall the group of Middle-eastern physicians in England who tried to blow up the London Subway last year - who thought to suspect them? College education ain't what it used to be. And as for disasters - earthquakes/forest fires/ tornadoes/ volcano's/ Naggin floods etc. are all disasters too, is the damage that much differnet - oil spills are bad but I think if they oil companies did not have to drill a mile' below the surface this particular oil spill would not have happened. Remember - a BOAT load of other countries are dilling in Gulf too, and under much less regulations then US based drillers.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 9:33 p.m.

I was referring to the fact that the U of M seems to be more interested in educating Iranian and Chinese nationals in nuclear technology than it does in educating state residents or american citizens. The fact that any Iranian citizen would be admitted to a nuclear energy program at any american university is ridiculous. Regarding oil spills, the problem isn't drilling for oil, it's inadequate regulation and inadequate safety protocols. This whole gulf oil leak thing could have been prevented with the right procedures and technology, but the regulations haven't kept pace as maximum drilling depth has increased. It's the US government's negligence and failure as much as it is the fault of the companies involved. As you should know based on a certain Russian reactor incident, nuclear energy can easily be a disaster too. The solution is proper regulation and safety protocols, not getting rid of nuclear energy.


Thu, May 20, 2010 : 9:24 p.m.

Back in the 50's, UM had the first academic research reactor. As what I can only describe as a religious anti-nuclear cult stifled nuclear energy in the US, UM's capabilities in the field degraded and the reactor was decommissioned. I am not that impressed with the very modest return to the field just announced (and apparently limited to federal grant funds). The US, which invented nuclear reactors, is no longer in the forefront. The field is now led by France and Japan where the industry continues to advance. They have solved the technological problems of radioactive waste (by recycling in properly designed reactors, not by burial). The stumbling blocks to nuclear energy in the US are political, not technological.

David Briegel

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 9:16 p.m.

Gee, don't they just need another tax cut? That would fix everything. This could have been ANWAR! Over regulation? Obviously they were pushed way PAST their limits! Corporate responsibility is an oxymoron! Can't afford mass transit? Only in the civilized world is that possible.


Thu, May 20, 2010 : 8:45 p.m.

Mr Briegel I'll gladly go on record, clearly, unoquivocably: Drill, baby, drill. Is this an horrible accident? Sure. Will there be environmental consequences? Absolutely. Want to crawl back into the stone age? Nah. The reason for such deep drilling in the first place was overregulation that pushed drilling to its limits (and perhaps beyond). Meantime, this nuclear development is way overdue. It's very hard to argue against zero emmisions. And, yeah, it takes all kinds of cement and such to build these things, and that creates some kind of pollution, but you can't have omelettes without cracking some eggs.

David Briegel

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 8:20 p.m.

We are "dumping our fossill fuels" right straight into the "Gulf of Texaco" as we speak! Aren't we just the best? I demand that every single person who spewed "drill baby drill" as though they had a clue, be made to watch the "gusher" for an extended period of time until they "come clean" and comment as a member of the sane and civilized world! That might be quite a challenge for most!! As for nuclear, I hope UofM can find a way to dispose of the waste.


Thu, May 20, 2010 : 7:48 p.m.

@ Anon... uh what? thanking them for cleaner air/less pollution around the world? we'll all thank them of course. we need to catch up with the last 50 years of the rest of the civilized world, dump our dependancy on fossil fuels that are dangerous to procure and use and install efficient high speed mass transit systems (run on clean nuclear energy).

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 4:26 p.m.

I hope the governments of China and Iran (among others) will be sending "thank you" letters to the DoE.