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University of Michigan Tops List of D.O.E. Grants for Nuclear Research

June 7, 2010

LANSING, Mich. - An uptick in public interest toward nuclear energy may be helping university researchers fund more projects in that field. The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded two dozen universities almost $40 million for such research. University of Michigan professor of nuclear engineering Gary Was says his school is getting the largest amount of grant money in five different areas of research.

"In some of these grants, we're looking at developing new materials that can withstand more aggressive environments. Some are aimed at operating the current reactors more efficiently or extending their life, their operating life."

Was says Congress should be increasing funding for all forms of energy research. He says the Gross Domestic Product value of energy is similar to the value for health care, but he says there's a huge funding disparity, despite the nation's current emphasis on alternative energy.

"It's just striking how far we are below where we should be. And when I say we should be, if you look at federal funding for, say, health care, there's ten times as much going into research as there is going into energy research."

There are more than a hundred nuclear plants in the United States, many of which are reaching the end of their life expectancy.

Conservation organizations such as the Michigan Environmental Council say reducing demand and developing green technology such as wind and solar should be a higher priority than increased nuclear capacity.

Amy Miller/Lori Abbott, Public News Service - MI