Logo: University of Southern California

New Directions in Nuclear Energy

Faculty and students meet with NRC official to examine changing priorities in global energy demand

April 23, 2008 — Civil, environmental, chemical and industrial engineering faculty and students, led by Professor Najmedin Meshkati, met April 21, 2008 with special guest Jack Grobe, associate director of engineering and safety systems for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Meshkati invited Grobe to the USC campus for a day of meetings and technical discussions of major issues facing the country’s nuclear energy industry. 
Participants, seated in front, left to right: Leah Wickstrom, a junior ISE major; Alison Lind, a junior CEE major. In the back, standing, left to right: Robert Coovert, Exelon Generating Co., Jack Grobe, NRC, Vitebi School Professor Najmedin Meshkati, Blake Smith, a freshman ISE major, and John Franklin, a junior ISE major. 

Grobe briefed the group on NRC’s new directions and priorities for research and practice, which could have a profound impact on engineering teaching, research and the job market in the United States and around the world, Meshkati said.

The nuclear power industry is at a pivotal time in its history, Meshkati said. According to recent news reports by the Nuclear Energy Commission, 17 companies or groups are vying for applications to build as many as 31 new reactors.  As a result, the industry anticipates that between four and eight new U.S. nuclear plants will be operating by 2016.  

That rate of growth is comparatively low, however, next to other countries around the world, such as China, India and other developing nations. In the rest of the world, the rate of building and bringing new reactors online has been much more rapid.   

During his visit, Grobe had lunch with 15 faculty, students and industry representatives in the President's Club in the upstairs Commons dining area and met with several faculty individually, including Nobel laureate George Olah of the USC College Department of Chemistry; Isaac Maya, nuclear engineer and research director of USC’s national Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE); and Meshkati's other guest, Robert Coovert, human performance manager for Exelon Generating Company.

Meshkati invited a group of Viterbi School students interested in the nuclear energy industry to discuss their research projects with the guests during an afternoon session.