Nuclear Research Gets Second Helping of Funding

Thursday, June 25 2009

June 25, 2009

Written by Ken Kingery

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho will receive $177,000 for nuclear research infrastructure and $20,000 in student scholarships, thanks to continuing support from the Department of Energy.

The funds come from the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) awards, which distributed approximately $44 million nationally for research and development in May. The second round of grants supports students and the purchasing of laboratory equipment.

The $177,000 grant will enable the purchase of equipment to study graphite and other new materials for use in the next generation of nuclear reactors. The student scholarships will be given to four undergraduates in the College of Engineering – $5,000 each – to conduct research in the same field.

“These awards represent the recognition of these students’ outstanding scholarly performance while underscoring the strong tradition in nuclear engineering at the University of Idaho,” said Gabriel Potirniche, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who will work directly with three of the students. “Without a doubt, we will hear about these students and their academic performances in the future.”

The award comes on the heels of an outstanding performance by the state of Idaho in procuring a large percentage of the NEUP Research and Development awards in May. The state received $5.82 million, second to only North Carolina by $125,000. Within the state, the University of Idaho leads the way by heading five projects totaling $2.85 million – the fourth highest of any university in the country – while providing support for three more projects totaling $1.1 million.

The new equipment and scholarships will help support those projects.

Specifically, the additional funds will purchase a furnace for graphite, a thermo gravimeter, a gamma detection system, infrared sensors and a data acquisition system. Students and faculty alike will use this equipment to study the use of graphite and other new materials in pebble bed reactors, one of the six classes of theoretical nuclear reactors being investigated for future plants.

“The world is undergoing a nuclear renaissance, spurred by the growing demand for energy and the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Fred Gunnerson, director of the University of Idaho’s nuclear engineering program. “Students, such as those selected for this scholarship, are needed by the nation to join the future technical workforce and help address our energy challenges of the 21st century. I’m very proud of them.”
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit

Media Contact: Joni Kirk, University Communications, (208) 885-7725,

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit