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4 THE STATUS OF U.S. NUCLEAR ENGINEERING EDUCATION This chapter focuses on some features of U.S. nuclear engineering education a: gleaned from a committee survey (see Appendix G for the questionnaire and Appendix F for results). These features include faculty age structure and research interests, undergraduate and graduate programs, levels of financial support, student-faculty ratios, and status of university reactors. NUCLEAR ENGINEERING FACULTY Age Distribution and Experience Faculties of the academic departments in which nuclear engineering is taught are generally weighted heavily toward the senior ranks. Such departments developed between 1955 and 1970, with faculty appropriate to relatively high enrollments and the expectation of further growth. The accident at Three Mile Island and subsequent adverse publicity apparently led many prospective students to choose other career options. A decrease in enrollments largely halted the addition of junior faculty to many departments and resulted in the present distribution of nuclear engineering faculty by rank: (1) full professors account for 67 percent; associate professors for 21 percent; and assistant professors for 12 percent. Furthermore, 23 percent of these faculty are over 60 years of age and approaching retirement. These experienced faculty are responsible for teaching related to nuclear reactors and their replacement requires recruiting similarly qualified individuals. Because such engineers are also very attractive to industry and government, there will be stiff competition for their services. The slow pace of recruiting junior faculty in recent years is 35
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36 reflected in the fact that only 17 percent of present faculty are 40 years of age or less (Figure 4-1~. 45 40 35 IL o 30 25 ~ 20 m He 15 10 5 o ~1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 30 40 50 AGE 60 FIGURE 4-1 Distribution of nuclear engineering faculty by age. SOURCE: Committee survey (see Appendixes G and F) 70 The age of the faculty raises concerns about the degree of innovation and the reference to contemporary issues in present coursework. Although no specific problems were identified by the committee, such concern may be warranted any time the influx of new individuals and ideas into a faculty group is restricted over an extended period of time (Figure 4-29. Of course, faculty members' interest in recent issues varies and, in some cases, older faculty do involve themselves with new areas of research. The concern for the relatively older average age of the nuclear engineering faculty becomes particularly serious when one considers the difficulty of their replacement. First, it should be apparent from the
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37 45 40 35 LL o ~ 20 As 30 25 15 10 FIGURE 4-2 SOURCE: Committee survey. 0 10 20 30 40 YEARS OFTEACHING Experience of nuclear engineering teaching faculties. information presented elsewhere in this report regarding the capacity of the nuclear engineering programs, and the need for nuclear engineering graduates at the various degree levels, that the present number of nuclear engineering faculty will have to be at least maintained and more likely increased to meet future needs. However, the time required to bring an aspiring entry level student through the bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. levels, and be qualified as a nuclear engineering faculty member is at least 8, and perhaps lo, years. Twenty-three percent of the present faculty in graduate nuclear engineering departments will, if they are replaced upon retirement, be drawn from students who have been or are currently in nuclear engineering programs. for another 30 percent of the faculty will be drawn from that group of students entering in the next five years. The reductions in the number of nuclear engineering departments and the sizes of their faculties that have occurred over the last lo years have not only reduced the capacity to meet the Replacements
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38 industrial and governmental demand for nuclear engineers in the future, but have also failed to take into account that about 15 percent of Ph.D. graduate production will be required to replace retiring faculty over the next 10 years. Comparison with Other Disciplines The distribution of ages of faculty in other disciplines are available from 1987 survey data by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU, 19879. At that time, the average age of nuclear engineering faculty was 8 to 10 years greater than that of faculty in mechanical, electrical, chemical, and, in fact, all other engineering disciplines. For example, the median and mean ages for all engineering were 46.0 and 46.8, respectively, while for nuclear engineering the median and mean ages were 58.0 and 55.0, respectively. Faculty Research Interests Reported research interests of nuclear engineering faculty in different age groups were examined, to identify the emergence of new research foci or the decay of former strengths. Some older faculty members are involved in newer areas of research interest, reflecting their willingness to grow with the evolution of the discipline. This tendency makes the identification of trends difficult. Analysis is further complicated by the tendency of new specializations to develop special nomenclatures as they evolve to address new technologies and as they seek the "buzzwords" that seem to be required to reassure sponsors of the timeliness of research. Thus, it has been necessary to group the numerous research topics identified by individual departments into a more compact set. A total of ten categories of research were selected to cover the field: 0 Reactor physics and shielding o Computational methods and artificial intelligence o Reactor systems analysis and design o Thermal hydraulics o Reactor safety o Reactor operations 0 Radiation effects o Materials and nuclear fuels 0 Biological effects, waste management, and the environment 0 Fusion and plasma physics. The first eight categories are referred to as "reactor-related disciplines" in this report. For each heading, the ages of those faculty claiming research activities in those areas were noted. The comments that follow are based on the resulting profiles of each research area.
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39 1. Younger faculty tended to identify themselves with a larger number of research areas. Thus, the research population distribution in general did not reflect the age distribution of the total faculty population. This might suggest that younger faculty are being asked to cover more topics; it could also reflect greater research activity. 2. For most research areas, there is a continuing level of interest, suggesting little tendency to abandon some traditional areas. The specific areas where this tendency is noted include reactor physics and shielding, reactor systems analysis and design, fusion, materials and nuclear fuels, and waste management. Interest also exists in computational methods and artificial intelligence. Among the topics of materials, nuclear fuels, and waste management, there is some indication that the emphasis of younger researchers is on waste management, with fuels and materials more commonly the declared interest of older faculty. 3. Reactor safety interests the older faculty, thermal hydraulics, the younger faculty. Recognizing trends in recent years, this difference could be a semantic one. 4. In some areas, emerging trends raise some concerns. Young faculty who identify reactor operations as their research interest are few. Only 15 percent of those with this interest are less than 40 years of age; 33 percent are over 55 years old. 5. Radiation effects research is receiving less attention from nuclear engineers. Currently, most of the effort in this area is in electronics, where electrical engineers dominate. NUCLEAR ENGINEERING ENROLLMENT AND DEGREE TRENDS Undergraduate Programs Undergraduate Enrollments Based on DOE data maintained by ORAU, total enrollment in junior and senior classes in nuclear engineering has steadily declined since 1970 (Figure 4-3 shows the trends since 1978~. Spring 1980 B.S. graduates are identified by many as the "Chernobyl Class," reflecting the impact of that accident on the number of declared majors. The interest of entering students in nuclear engineering has increased in the last two years by as much as 50 percent, according to some institutions. It is too early to assess the success rate of these students, who are not yet reflected in these data (which covers only graduates in nuclear engineering).
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40 At the undergraduate level, about 98 percent of the nuclear engineering students are full-time students. The enrollment of women in undergraduate nuclear engineering has remained constant at about 8 percent of the total over the last five years. Over the last decade, the enrollment of foreign nationals has dropped from about 7 percent of the total to the present level of about 2 percent. 1.2 1.1 1.0 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 _ Seniors S ~ 1 1 ~ ~| Juniors 1 ~ O L I I I I I I I I I I I 78 80 82 84 86 88 YEAR FIGURE 4-3 Total enrollment in nuclear engineering junior and senior classes. SOURCE: DOE Data, (U.S. DOE, 1984~. Undergraduate Degree Awards The award of B.S. degrees in nuclear engineering and in other engineering fields with nuclear engineering options has shown a steady decrease over the last decade. ORAU data are graphed in Figure 4-4. Even fewer graduates are expected for 1988 and 1989, about 400 graduates for each of these years.
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41 9oo 800 ~ 700 O 600 en IL 500 ~ 400 LO o cry 300 LU m 200 100 o 1 1 77 79 81 83 85 87 YEAR FIGURE 4-4 Total undergraduate degree awards in nuclear engineering, 1977-1987. SOURCE: DOE Data (U.S. DOE, 1984~. Employment of B.S. Graduates in Nuclear Engineering Figure 4-5 shows the first-job employment distribution for B.S. graduates in nuclear engineering between 1983 and 1988. Nearly one-third enter graduate studies, 20 percent are employed by utilities, and significant numbers by reactor vendors, the military, national laboratories, and others. The employment base is relatively diverse.
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42 Other (1 5.5%) Utilities (20.3%) "'"I'm Military (10.1%) L ~ ~ - ^ b ~ Graduate School r L , b ~ 1 ~ ~ (27. 8%) ~ 1 ~ ~ ~ < ~ 1 \ ~ ~ ~ a, rLr ~ `1 ~ `,~ `~ ~ L\ :< 7 (i, ~ ~ ~ 7 ~ 7 Jo Reactor Vendors (8.0%) Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2.8%) National Laboratories DOE contractors & DOE Consul ants (5.0°/O) (1 0.5%) FIGURE 4-5. First-job employment distribution for B.S. graduates in nuclear engineering for the past five years. SOURCE: Committee survey. Capacity of Undergraduate Programs The estimated maximum capacity of existing undergraduate programs is based on the assumption of no change in the number of faculty, but with additional support through proportional increases in operational resources for
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43 laboratories and classes. Thus, the addition of class sections and the teaching of additional classes both semesters is not considered in the estimate, since either of these alternatives would require the addition of faculty. The estimate of capacity is based on respond-in" institutions answers to the committee's questionnaire and by raising estimated class sizes to 20. Based on these assumptions, the entry class capacity of present undergraduate nuclear engineering programs is 800 students per year. This figure corresponds to all entry class enrollments reported by ORAU for as recently as 1985. As nuclear engineering programs contract, and in some cases are eliminated, their ability to expand readily will be diminished. Graduate Programs Graduate Enrollments Enrollments in graduate nuclear engineering programs reported by ORAU are shown in Figure 4-6. In the past 10 years, the number of M.S. degree 1.1 1.0 0.9 08 07 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.2 0.1 _ Masters _ - O 1 1 1 78 80 82 YEAR 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 84 86 88 FIGURE 4-6 Graduate student enrollments in nuclear engineering programs, 1978-1989. SOURCE: DOE Data (U.S. DOE, 1984).
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44 candidates has decreased by about 255. The impact of the Three Mile Island accident is perhaps recognizable in the plot. There has been a slight increase in the fraction of women students in the master's programs, from eight percent in 1982 to nearly 10 percent in 1987. Enrollments of foreign nationals in M.S. programs have remained steady, at 30 percent. The number of Ph.D. students has remained very nearly constant, at about 600, with perhaps a slight increase recently. The fraction of the enrollment by women Ph.D. students has grown steadily from 5 percent in 1982 to 9 percent in 1987. Ph.D. enrollments of foreign nationals have constituted between 45 and 50 percent of all Ph.D.s over the past decade. Figure 4-7 shows the distribution of undergraduate majors of students entering nuclear engineering graduate programs over the last five years, for Electrical Engineering Ci il (4.9%) Engineering (0.2%) Other Engineering (4.4%) Chemical Engineering (2.9%) I\Aath (1.2%) Mechanical Engineering (1 3.8%) Other (3.1%) =:: Chemistry (1 .4%) Nuclear . . Engineering (54.9%) FIGURE 4-7 Weighted distribution of undergraduate majors for students entering nuclear engineering graduate programs. SOURCE: Committee survey.
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45 all schools responding to the questionnaire. While 45 percent of the graduate students in nuclear engineering were undergraduate majors in other fields, obtaining an undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering is still a strong preference. The most noticeable shift in recent years is the increased number of mechanical engineering undergraduates that go on to graduate studies in nuclear engineering. Undergraduate physics majors have traditionally been a source of graduate students in nuclear engineering. Graduate Degree Awards DOE data on the number of M.S. and Ph.D. graduates in nuclear engineering are shown on Figure 4-8. There has been a steady decrease in M.S. degrees awarded in recent years following the drop by approximately one-third in 1979-1980. Ph.D. awards have remained steady, at about 100 per year throughout the decade. f : ~ 400 co LU ~ 300 LL] LL o ~ 200 m it 100 o . IT Masters of Science S Doctorates - · ~ 1 1 77 79 81 83 85 87 YEAR FIGURE 4-8 M.S. and Ph.D. graduates in nuclear engineering. SOURCE: DOE Data (U.S. DOE, 1984).
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46 Employment of M.S. and Ph.D. Nuclear Engineers Figure 4-9 shows the first-job employment distribution for M.S. and Ph.D. degree recipients over the last five years. The large sector marked "other" in part reflects the large nonresident enrollment in graduate programs in . nuc ear engineering. Utilities (1 4.0%) National Laboratories DOE contractors & DOE (1 8.0%) Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1.1%) Consultants (8.3%) Reactor Vendors (5.8%) Academic (7.5%) FIGURE 4-9 M.S. and Ph.D. nuclear engineering graduates' first-job employment distribution for the past five years. SOURCE: Committee survey.
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47 Capacity of Graduate Programs The current total graduate enrollment is about 1400--while a decade ago it was 1,648. The committee estimates the capacity of existing graduate programs to be from 1,650 to 2,000 students. The former number is based on a student-to- faculty ratio of 7:1. The latter estimate is based on scaling up enrollment to 30 students per class, which is assumed to be possible with current faculty resources. However, this last figure may be too high in that the greatest faculty load in graduate programs is directing research for theses and dissertations. On the other hand, for the first two years or so of graduate study, many students do not require research direction. For this reason, the estimate covers a broad range and an accurate assessment will require a more detailed analysis for each institution. FINANCIAL SUPPORT It is difficult to identify the exact funding levels for nuclear engineering research for academic departments. The fiscal year used differs from campus to campus. Further, some institutions are reluctant to identify the exact amounts of funding by government agencies and industry organizations. With these uncertainties acknowledged, total funding for the 1988-1989 calendar year is estimated at approximately $43 million, distributed as shown in Table 4-1. TABLE 4-1 Percent of Funding and Amount of Funding (millions of dollars) from Various Sources for Departments of Nuclear Engineering Funding Source Percent of Funding Amount of Funding National Science Foundation 12.3 5.29 National laboratories 6.3 2.71 Department of Energy 43.9 18.88 NASA 18.7 8.04 Electric Power Research Institute 4.7 2.02 Nuclear Regulatory Commission 1.0 0.43 Industry 6.8 2.92 Foreign institutions 1.2 0.52 Other 5.1 2.19 SOURCE: Committee survey.
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48 Based on this total funding, an average faculty research support level would be about $180,000. However, the distribution of funding among institutions is uneven and much research funding is in multidisciplinary programs. Some faculties receive research funds several times this average, while others receive very little. Moreover, in many of the large research projects, postdoctoral researchers and members of research staffs play major roles. Some of this funding is not allocated on the basis of a competitive process. There are research laboratories and institutes in some universities that receive industrial funding, which is then allocated to research projects. The industry category refers, for the most part, to funding for specific problems. Areas that receive research support cover a broad span of activity (Table 4-2~. Again, identifying research areas by category is complicated, both because of many disciplinary designations (such as materials, thermal TABLE 4-2 Percentages of Total Research Funds for Various Areas Research Area Percent of Funds Amount of Funds (million dollars) Basic nuclear sciences 11.3 4.86 Civilian nuclear power 14.6 6.28 Space nuclear power 2.0 0.86 Medical applications 3.8 1.63 Materials sciences 10.9 4.69 Energy research 0.5 0.22 Fusion and plasma physics 44.0 18.92 Environmental assessments 2.7 1.16 Other 10.2 4.38 SOURCE: Committee survey. hydraulics, dosimetry, radiation transport, plasma physics, and reactor physics) and because of broad project definitions (such as fusion, waste management, environmental effects, civilian nuclear power and space power) adopted by funding agencies and thus by principal investigators. The activity in fusion and plasma physics is the largest (about $19 million), mainly because of very sizeable programs in those areas at two of the institutions in the survey. One institution has $11 million, the other $5.5 million, in fusion and plasma physics research. In these two institutions, those programs involve nonteaching professional staffs and faculty
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49 and students from other academic disciplines inside and outside the engineering community. Fusion and plasma physics research funding at other institutions is about $2.7 million, with one institution at $0.5 million, and at several others $0.2 to $0.3 million. Perhaps a more representative figure for total research support would be determined by considering fission systems and the related engineering research. This figure of about $24 million would reflect research on fission energy production systems, materials, and basic nuclear sciences. The commitment of university funding to the support of nuclear engineering programs varies widely by program. Low enrollment is the norm for many of the programs, so an evaluation of average program costs, which attempts to be reflective of enrollment, has been made. This evaluation examined the degree programs and groups of one or more nuclear engineering options available in other engineering discipline programs in U.S. universities. Total enrollment in all of the programs, counting juniors and seniors and all graduate students, is 2,603. Fifty percent of the nuclear engineering students are enrolled in 14 of the 64 programs or option groups, 90 percent are in 40 programs or option groups. There are 20 programs and option groups with fewer than 20 students enrolled. In computing the averages of committed resources, these 20 smallest programs are not included. With respect to the level of support the nuclear engineering programs receive, comparative numbers are very difficult to determine. Institutional support includes a wide variety of categories, including operations, supplies, facilities, capital equipment, staff salaries, travel, and so forth. Research support covers all categories (fission, fusion and plasma physics, materials, etc.), but in many cases includes nonteaching faculty, interdisciplinary efforts, and other such cases. Department staff are typically not separated into instructional and research categories, or by research specialties. Thus, "averages" can only be representative of resource availability and do not necessarily meet any criterion for full consistency. Table 4-3 shows level of support for the "high," "median," and "low" institutions. "Low" institutions are those with the lowest level of support among those 40 programs that account for 90 percent of the enrollment. UNDERGRADUATE CURRICULUM Results of the committee survey indicate that the educational requirements for undergraduate nuclear engineering degrees are fairly standard from institution to institution. About 130 to 135 semester hours are required for a four-year program. In addition to the usual first and second year courses in English, social sciences (including economics), and humanities, there is strong emphasis on basic sciences and mathematics. Many of the courses are determined by university policy that establishes minimum course requirements
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50 TABLE 4-3 Levels of Institutional and Research Support (in dollars) Type of Institution Institutional Support Research Support (per FTE faculty) (per FTE faculty) High 117,000 667,000 Median 87,000 214,400 Low 38,500 20,000 NOTE: "FTE" stands for "full-time equivalent." High is the highest value among institutions; low is~the lowest. for bachelor's degrees. It is in the last two years of study that specialized courses are taken. This curriculum is increasingly driven by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) requirements and by policies of the particular college of engineering or department. It includes courses required for a general engineering education and special courses providing basic background in the performance and design of nuclear power plants and other systems. In the basic engineering sciences, considerable variation exists among schools but, in general, the curriculum includes courses in mechanics, material and thermal sciences, electricity and magnetism, and computer programming. For the most part, these basic engineering requirements are taught by faculty members outside the nuclear engineering department or program. However, it is the committee's opinion that experienced nuclear engineering faculty members are essential for the most effective teaching of advanced undergraduate courses, such as applied nuclear physics, reactor theory, reactor engineering and design, the nuclear fuel cycle, radiation effects, systems design, and thermal hydraulics. In addition, the nation's larger undergraduate programs offer elective courses in such areas as fusion technology, safety analysis, nuclear instrumentation, and in some cases, medical issues related to nuclear processes. In general, the survey indicated that curricula meet the needs of employers, although more training in reactor systems engineering and biological effects of radiation may be desirable. Tables F-21 and F-22, -Appendix F. show undergraduate required courses for nuclear engineering and compare their overall content to other engineering disciplines. Note that the nuclear engineering program credit requirements are more evenly spread among the basic and engineering sciences. Also, more physics credits are taken.
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51 THE GRADUATE CURRICULUM U.S. master of science programs in nuclear engineering typically require 30 to 36 semester hours, including minor courses from other engineering and science programs and sometimes a thesis. They commonly take about two years. In some of the new waste management programs, minors in water resources or hydrology can be selected. The doctorate requires a dissertation based on at least one and one-half to two years of research and additional formal work beyond the master's in the major and minor disciplines. Institutional requirements are generally stated in terms of semester hours of major and minor subjects. Advanced courses in reactor theory and design, thermal hydraulics, computational methods, radiation transport, nuclear instrumentation, and safety analysis are common in core curricula at the beginning graduate level. The more advanced graduate courses vary greatly from program to program and often bear little resemblance to the more traditional reactor-oriented nuclear engineering courses. Research activities in nuclear engineering programs are quite varied and reflect research funding rather than the classic view that nuclear engineering research focuses on civilian nuclear power. Funding of traditional reactor-oriented research represents less than 15 percent of total academic nuclear engineering research funds (see Table 4-2~. Driven by the availability of research funds, nuclear engineering as a discipline has evolved and broadened to encompass the utilization of nuclear processes and nuclear forces in diverse engineering applications, not just fission power. Research and teaching in such areas as basic nuclear science, fusion research, environmental engineering, nuclear medicine, and general materials science are common. Since research is both a training tool for graduate students and a mechanism for faculty members to further knowledge, the content of advanced courses usually reflects faculty members' active research. These trends in graduate education and research are having a profound effect on nuclear engineering education and will be addressed in more detail later in this report. STUDENT-FACULTY RATIOS Nationally, the total size of the undergraduate nuclear engineering student body is somewhat small relative to the total faculty of approximately 200 full-time equivalents (FTE). With about 1200 juniors and seniors in the country (U.S. Department of Energy, 1989), the student-to-faculty ratio in nuclear engineering is about 6 to 1 (see Table 4-4 -for a finer breakdown). This suggests modest growth is possible in undergraduate nuclear engineering enrollments with present faculty size. Over a short period, a 40- to 50- percent increase could perhaps be achieved. At the graduate level, the student-to-faculty ratio is comparable to other engineering disciplines. The graduate student population is
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52 approximately 1,400, resulting in a student-to-faculty ratio of 7 to 1 without faculty increase, which suggests graduate enrollments could be increased slightly. Table 4-4 also shows a breakdown of student-to-faculty ratios, and also faculty teaching loads, by type of institution. These data are averages and fail to distinguish FTEs devoted to teaching and those associated with research. A realistic analysis of growth potential should be made for each institution with a detailed calculation of how FTEs are distributed among teaching and research. In this regard, comparing nuclear engineering enrollments per FTE faculty with those in other disciplines at the same institutions is more instructive than comparing nuclear engineering departments at different institutions. This takes into account characteristics of a given university that exist across departments. In fact, there are large differences in enrollments per FTE faculty and, hence, the capacity for increased enrollments is related to the unique characteristics of individual institutions. TABLE 4-4 Student-to-Faculty Ratios and Faculty Teaching Loads, by Type of Institution (per full-time equivalent faculty) Type of Undergraduate Nuclear Graduate Nuclear Student Credit Institution Engineering Students Engineering Students Hours Taught High 13.0 11.0 393 Median 4.0 5.1 192 Low 1.3 3.9 82 NOTE: High is the highest value of the institutions; low is the lowest value. Values are per academic year. The institutions with either high or low undergraduate nuclear engineering student enrollments are not necessarily those with the same pattern at the graduate level. The three institutions with the most student credit hours taught per FTE faculty have nuclear engineering faculty that take core engineering or science teaching assignments outside the nuclear engineering program. The technician support level varies widely by program. Where a reactor is available, some technical support staff are normally needed. Where there are large research efforts, larger technical staffs are absolutely necessary. Finally, if the nuclear engineering program is embedded in a larger academic department, the devotion of personnel to nuclear engineering support is hard to determine. These points also apply to secretarial and clerical support.
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53 UNIVERSITY REACTORS A nuclear reactor is a resource that can play an integral role in the formulation of courses in many nuclear engineering programs and helps students gain an important understanding of the complexities of nuclear power processes. In particular, a reactor can provide the basis for much of the experimental laboratory experience that students receive. Most reactors located in educational institutions today are simple, and their operation is basically determined by the dynamics of the nuclear fission process and the chain reaction. The effects of other phenomena, including the thermal hydraulic behavior of the system, pressurization of coolant, and so on, are either not present or only so in terms of net properties like the average temperature of the moderator. Thus, the student in the educational reactor laboratory has the opportunity to examine and understand the dynamics of fission without the complications of many transient phenomena that pertain to power generation systems. Further, the opportunity to work with radioactive materials that show relatively low levels of activity, to develop an understanding for the principles of safe material handling and material containment, provides valuable training. Finally, the use of the nuclear reactor in support of research in a wide variety of other disciplines provides the young engineer experience with the interdisciplinary role that nuclear engineering can play in the technical community and with the challenges and satisfactions of successful interdisciplinary activity. A detailed study of the use of university nuclear reactors was conducted by the National Research Council (NRC, 1988~. Two decades ago, about 76 reactors were in operation in universities in the United States. That number has declined: in May, 1987, only 40 university research reactors were in operation. Twenty-seven of these were located at universities that offered nuclear engineering degrees or options in nuclear engineering (ANS, 1988~. Currently, only 21 reactors are operating at universities with nuclear engineering degree programs or options. In addition, there are 7 reactors at institutions that do not have nuclear engineering programs. The reactors and their operators are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; thus, some professional nonacademic staff are usually required. Operation of these reactors can impose additional costs that may be attributed wholly or in part to maintaining the nuclear engineering program. These costs include personnel, equipment, operations, and insurance. In some institutions, the reactor budget is included directly in the nuclear engineering academic budget. In others, usually where the reactor and associated facilities are larger, the reactor is budgeted as a separate item. There are advantages and problems in both approaches. In the former, a higher cost of instruction is calculated. If it is budgeted as a separate item, it may be vulnerable to reduction since no academic programs are directly
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54 associated with it. This attitude is misleading because reactors support many disciplines in the university community (NRC, 1988~. Judging by the past attrition of reactors and the role that university reactors have played, the committee believes it desirable to integrate the reactor into the undergraduate laboratory program and to encourage the wide availability and use of the reactor by researchers from the entire campus community. NUCLEAR ENGINEERING AS A SEPARATE DISCIPLINE Nuclear engineering undergraduates generally receive a more balanced exposure to basic and engineering sciences (physics, including nuclear physics, materials science, thermodynamics and fluid mechanics, and electrical and electronic systems) than engineers in other disciplines. For example, many electrical engineers no longer take thermodynamics or fluid mechanics, and many civil engineers take limited physics offerings beyond mechanics and introductory electricity and magnetism. The need for breadth in the nuclear engineering curriculum becomes obvious when one examines the various roles that the nuclear engineer may play. Nuclear safety, fusion and plasma physics, nuclear waste management, and nuclear plant operations involve mechanical, thermal, fluid, electrical, and materials science, and statistics and logic for accident progression and probabilistic risk assessment methods. The committee believes that nuclear engineering programs are important to meet the needs of the discipline. They can also serve as the route for many engineering students to gain the breadth of understanding necessary to handle other engineering problems and the environmental, safety, and social impacts of engineering activities. INSTITUTIONAL FACTORS The assessment of the availability of resources to departments of nuclear engineering can provide insight about the level of commitment being maintained by the institutions. In making the assessment, the influence of several somewhat independent forces should become evident. Each is identified and its influence analyzed. Programs in nuclear engineering can be expected to have a higher unit cost in dollars per student credit hour taught or degree granted than other programs in engineering. Since enrollments are small, the number of student credit hours generated per faculty contact hour is low. Costs arise from faculty contact time, while resources are allocated based on student credit hours. The relatively senior average age of the nuclear engineering faculty means that salaries are higher. Thus, the average cost of a unit of faculty effort is generally higher in nuclear engineering departments.
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55 An important influence on the resources available to a nuclear engineering department is its location. Many programs are in colleges of engineering of the first rank. At least 15 of the programs listed in the DOE data base on nuclear engineering programs are in colleges that are be included in virtually any listing of the top 25 U.S. engineering schools. The engineering programs in these schools are relatively better supported than those in most other schools. The number of students enrolled in a program also significantly influences available resources. Funding allocation is increasingly based on enrollments, which results in small programs getting lower allocations to support faculty, equipment, operations, travel, and other expenses. Specialization While degree requirements are similar for the institutions surveyed, there is considerable variation in their areas of special strength (see Table 4-5~. Not all of the programs are alike in terms of their research activities and there are considerable differences. Note that only one institution has an accelerator, for example. One might ask the question as to whether the instructional directions are complemented by the research activities at each institution. TABLE 4-5 Numbers of Institutions with Given Areas of Strength Area ~_ _ Reactor engineering Systems analysis and safety Artificial intelligence Advanced reactors Radiation transport Radiation effects Nuclear materials Radiation detection Health physics Criticality safety Waste management Fusion and plasma physics Accelerators SOURCE: Committee survey. Number of Institutions 10 10 2 5 7 6 4 5 5 4 7 10 1
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56 FINDINGS In summary, the committee arrived at the following findings: o Undergraduate senior enrollments in nuclear engineering decreased from 1,150 in 1978 to about 650 by 1988. Enrollments in master's programs peaked in the late 1970s, at about 1,050 and have steadily declined, to about 750 in 1988. Since 1982, the number of students enrolled in doctoral programs has remained relatively steady at about 600. o Declines in nuclear engineering enrollments have limited the addition of junior faculty members, leading to high proportions of older faculty. O The number of young faculty that identify "reactor-related" research as an area of interest is lower than among older faculty. O The content of the nuclear engineering curriculum is basically satisfactory, with the exception that more training in reactor systems engineering, biological effects of radiation, and communications skills seems warranted. 0 The current size of the nuclear engineering faculty is adequate. At the graduate level, the student-to-faculty ratio is about the same as for other engineering faculties. Faculty levels are also adequate for the present number of graduate students. However, timely replacement of faculty nearing retirement will be necessary to maintain stable programs. o The number of university reactors has significantly declined over the past two decades. These research reactors are important assets to the nuclear engineering programs that have them and can substantially add to the undergraduate and graduate educational experience.
Representative terms from entire chapter: