NMSU awarded US$4.8 million to expand research in radioactive waste management

Category: News
Published: 2024-04-01
NMSU awarded US$4.8 million to expand research in radioactive waste management

NEW MEXICO – The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has awarded a US$4.8 million grant to New Mexico State University to expand research and workforce qualification in the field of radioactive tank waste management.

Over three years, the grant will support NMSU’s College of Engineering, Business and Arts and Sciences, as well as grant partners at the University of Texas at El Paso, Georgia Institute of Technology, Savannah River National Laboratory and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

NMSU Associate Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering Catherine Brewer leads the new project titled “Evaluation of New Materials and Processes for the Treatment of Radioactive Tank Waste: Workforce Development in f-Element Chemistry, Nuclear Chemical Engineering and Supply Chain Management,” also known as the NuChemE Pipeline.

Brewer, detailed that the goal of the project is to provide students with the knowledge, experiences and personal interactions that will help them consider and prepare for careers at DOE.

“Part of that preparation is familiarization with the f-elements (elements in those two rows below the Periodic Table such as uranium, plutonium and rare earth metals) and the steps of the nuclear fuel cycle, from extraction of raw materials to management of spent nuclear fuels,” Brewer said.

Satyajayant “Jay” Misra, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering, said the fellowship will give students experience they will need in their future careers.

Other NMSU faculty involved in the NuChemE Pipeline project are Paul Andersen and Sergio Martinez-Monteagudo, associate professors of chemical and materials engineering; Cory Windorff, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Frank Ramos, professor of geological sciences; Lambis Papelis, professor of environmental engineering and director of the Carlsbad Environmental Research and Monitoring Center; Victor Pimentel, associate professor of management; and Faruk Arslan and Donovan Fuqua, associate professors of accounting and information systems.

“The partners in this project will allow students to experience and participate in the development of new chemical separations, new process engineering technologies, and an often neglected aspect of STEM research that is of critical importance for real-world application, f-element materials supply chains,” Brewer added.

“The NuChemE Pipeline initiative is aimed at improving the capability and diversity of the workforce in radioactive repository waste management. Through capacity building, cross-disciplinary training and hands-on experiences, the project aims to strengthen the skills needed for this task,” said Jay Gogue, NMSU Acting President.

Overall, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management awarded a total of $25 million in grants for the Minority Serving Institute Partnership Program, aimed at fostering diversity and sustainability within the STEM workforce.

This funding will benefit seven institutions across the country, including NMSU. Each of these institutions will collaborate with at least one additional university and one DOE facility to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM education and career development.