Monroe County Community College, in partnership with DTE Energy, will launch its own nuclear engineering technology program in the fall, MCCC President David E. Nixon announced at a news conference in the atrium of the college’s La-Z-Boy Center.

A nuclear engineering technology program has been available to MCCC students in conjunction with Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio and DTE Energy since 2008; however, LCC has housed the program and served as the degree-granting institution.

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Nixon and Jack Davis, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at DTE Energy, signed an Agreement of Understanding authorizing the two organizations to jointly participate in the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program to develop future employees for the U.S. nuclear power industry.

By signing the Agreement of Understanding, MCCC and DTE Energy agree to align MCCC’s new nuclear energy technology program with the initial training programs offered by DTE Energy and accredited by the National Nuclear Accrediting Board. 

Under the terms of the agreement, MCCC will develop and maintain – in conjunction with DTE Energy — an associate of applied science degree in nuclear engineering technology that will enable graduates to seek employment as nuclear engineering technicians in various sectors of the nuclear industry.

MCCC will provide faculty and resources to offer all courses needed to complete the program and ensure that it is in compliance with state regulations and accreditation requirements. DTE Energy will serve as the principal point of contact for the review of technical content of the curriculum. The company may provide additional resources to support the program, such as laboratory equipment, supervisors for internships and more.

Last February, U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Dearborn) announced that MCCC had received a $200,000 federal earmark to begin the process of starting its own nuclear engineering technology program. Dingell sponsored the earmark in the U.S. House of Representatives. The award was administered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement for Postsecondary Education.

“This program is good for the college, good for DTE Energy and good for jobs,” said Jack M. Davis, DTE Energy’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. “The nuclear industry needs well-trained employees, not only to replace those currently in the field, but also in the future. That’s why this is such a forward-looking program.”

Grace Yackee, vice president of instruction, said the program will utilize a learning approach that emphasizes both theory and hands-on skills necessary to function in the technical environment of the nuclear industry. It will stress effective oral and written communication, as well as related mathematics, science and technical skills.

Parmeshwar (Peter) Coomar, dean of MCCC’s Industrial Technology Division, said that the program prepares students to become highly-adaptable energy technicians skilled in the generation, transmission and distribution of power and provides continuing education and training for the upgrading of worker skills and certification.
Students will be required to meet or exceed a grade of B (80 percent) or higher in each course containing core fundamentals and discipline-specific learning objectives to receive a certificate from the National Academy for Nuclear Training Branch — a credential recognized across the nuclear industry — in addition to a diploma.

According to Nixon, MCCC’s goal has always been to develop its own nuclear engineering program that would allow for unlimited growth to meet demand and local employer training needs, as well as the potential to share the curriculum with interested community colleges.

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“We originally partnered with LCC in 2008 to meet an immediate need for nuclear engineering technicians as expressed by community partner DTE Energy,” Nixon said. “Now, through the collaboration of MCCC and DTE Energy, and with the help and backing of Congressman Dingell, we are proud to announce that our ultimate goal of housing our own nuclear engineering technology program is being met.”

According to Yackee, as nuclear energy output increases at the same time there is a projected shortage of nuclear professionals, the demand continues to grow for a highly educated workforce to design, build and maintain a dependable infrastructure to support nuclear energy needs.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the U.S. will need 44 percent more electricity by 2020. To help meet this demand, the nuclear energy industry has calculated that 60,000 megawatts of new nuclear power plant capacity will be required by 2020.

Many of today’s nuclear experts are part of the generation that pioneered nuclear energy’s peacetime use in the 1960s. These professionals are now retiring, and qualified applicants are needed to take their place. According to the NEI, about 30 percent of the nuclear energy workforce will retire within five years.

The energy industry has been designated as a target high growth industry, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. This means that it is projected to add substantial numbers of new jobs to the economy or affect the growth of other industries; or it is an existing or emerging business being transformed by technology and innovation requiring new skill sets for workers.

In February 2010, President Obama announced funding to break ground on the first new nuclear power plant in the U.S. in nearly three decades.

“The need for nuclear engineering professionals could be even more pressing in Monroe County because DTE Energy is seeking a license for a possible second nuclear plant – Fermi 3,” Nixon said.

Nuclear engineering technology graduates are trained to work at any domestic nuclear power plant and can expect a starting annual salary of $40,000 to $60,000. There are more than 100 nuclear power plants in the U.S.

The new nuclear engineering technology program at MCCC builds on an already-established partnership between the college and DTE Energy to increase the availability and visibility of alternative and renewable energy in the region and prepare individuals for employment opportunities in the field.

In September, Detroit Edison, a subsidiary of DTE Energy, announced the signing of a 20-year agreement that will provide the utility’s customers with renewable energy generated from the sun. A 500-kilowatt, $3 million photovoltaic system is being installed on the east side of the MCCC campus and will be operational in the spring.

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In May, the DTE Energy Foundation announced a $45,000 grant and additional in-kind donation of solar equipment to MCCC in support of curriculum development to establish an academic program that would encompass solar, wind, hybrid and hybrid/electric technologies. The company donated existing infrastructure that was still viable for instruction, including 26 working solar panels, various inverter controllers and disconnect switches, and racking and framing hardware.