A nuclear industry-funded group known as Clean Energy America is traveling the country, promoting the field to engineering students. Nuclear industry veteran Chuck Conlen, volunteers for Clean Energy America and recently visited a classroom at Iowa State University.
The group launched its lecture program about three years ago, and Conlon explains why. “There isn’t a real natural feeder system of young professionals into the industry,” Conlon says,”The universities largely across the U.S. either pared down or eliminated their nuclear programs because there was a lull in nuclear development for three decades.”
Iowa State for example dropped its program when the industry declined. Now they’re phasing back in a minor in nuclear engineering.
Senior Aaron Kilstofte of Gutenberg in northeast Iowa is already interviewing for energy-related jobs, and says having a class or two in the nuclear field is opening some doors. “When I mention I am taking courses and learning nuclear fundamentals companies are very enthusiastic
Across campus, environmental activist Gavin Moore, a senior in environmental studies from Ankeny, calls nuclear power efficient but dangerous. He says he’s not surprised to see Clean Energy America on campus.
“Obviously in the aftermath of a terrible world tragedy in Japan Fukumi Daishi the American nuclear industry energy is going to have to do quite a bit of PR to try to smooth over American hearts and minds and that starts with college students who are looking at career paths,” Moore says.
Moore’s group known as ActiveUS has been trying to convince I.S.U. to wean itself away from coal-fired plants, and Moore says he educates fellow students about the disadvantages of nuclear every chance he gets.
Chuck Conlon says that’s a good thing. He says people are asking the right things, as he says determining whether or not nuclear is safe is one of the first fundamental things they can do before they can appreciate the benefits of it.
Clean Energy America heads to Iowa City today for an engineering class at the University of Iowa.