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Fed lab chief: Need for new nuclear industry researchers

April 11, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The director of the Savannah River National Laboratory said the United States needs to maintain an education system for training new nuclear researchers who can replace those leaving the workforce.

Director Terry Michalske spoke of his concerns this week during a meeting of the South Carolina Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council. He oversees a facility that sits in South Carolina near the border with Georgia.

“What I’m most concerned about is that we have academic programs that align people in the nuclear sciences. That’s the real challenge,” Michalske said, according to The Augusta Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1Jzz27Q). “In fact, it’s an assignment I have from the Secretary (of Energy) right now, to assess ‘what does the future look like for our ability to maintain a nuclear science and technology component in this country?’ And that’s probably the thing I’m worried about the most.”

While the Aiken County complex does not have trouble attracting young researchers with doctorates, Michalske said the nuclear industry as a whole needs to prepare for the future.

“It’s really important for us to get the students in early, to get interns, post-docs,” Michalske said. “What happens is, once they get in here, they say, ‘This is really challenging and interesting stuff.’ But you wouldn’t know that (because) it just doesn’t seem that interesting.”

The Savannah River facility was created in 1951 to produce the basic materials needed for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. From 1992 to 2004, it was known as the Savannah River Technology Center, focusing on environmental remediation, tritium processing and nonproliferation.

Now the site is one 17 national labs in the U.S. Department of Energy and works on multiple fields, including national security, environmental stewardship and clean energy. Michalske said the lab hired about 80 new employees last year and now has a workforce of 832 people.

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Information from: The Augusta Chronicle , http://www.augustachronicle.com

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