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Midlands Tech partners in NSF grant for nuclear training

Staff Report
Published August 16, 2011

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $3.1 million grant to establish the Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training, linking seven Southeastern states including South Carolina.

Midlands Technical College will lead South Carolina’s efforts in a collaboration that seeks to meet the critical demand for skilled nuclear technicians in a unified, systematic way, Midlands Tech said in announcing the grant.

Key supporters of the initiative in South Carolina include: Cayce-based South Carolina Electric & Gas Co.; Aiken, Denmark, Florence-Darlington and Orangeburg-Calhoun technical colleges; and Spartanburg Community College.

RCNET comprises 15 colleges, three universities, and 27 industry partners across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

RCNET’s goals include creation of a comprehensive curriculum for technician tracks, developing or enhancing training programs at the regional colleges, providing career paths to higher education and undergraduate research, and providing remote access to training components. This regional center will serve as a training resource, curriculum repository, and expertise resource, while improving communications and collaboration, the organizers said.

In the past five years, 21 applications for 30 new reactors have been submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Half of the applications for new reactors are in the Southeast, and four of the first to be permitted since 1979 are under construction in South Carolina and Georgia.

“The new activity coupled with a nuclear workforce that is close to retirement age has created a timely and critical need to train a twenty-first century nuclear energy workforce,” Midlands Tech said.

Midlands Tech estimates that over the next two decades, nuclear workforce needs will exceed 40,000 trained personnel, and more than half of this need is in the Southeastern United States.

A single new nuclear plant employs 2,000-3,000 people during construction, creates 400-700 permanent positions, and corresponds to approximately $430 million for the local economy, Midlands Tech said.

“By coordinating and supporting a network of dynamic training facilities capable of scaling up to meet the energy industry’s needs, RCNET will reduce the shortage of technicians and operators,” Midlands Tech said.

MTC currently works closely with SCE&G, the Shaw Group and Westinghouse in preparing students for employment at the V.C. Summer site in Fairfield County.

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