May 13, 2008
Dear Friend of Idaho State University:
The decision last week by AREVA, a world leader in commercial nuclear energy, to build a $2 billion uranium-enrichment plant in Idaho's Bonneville County could have important mutual benefits for the French company and Idaho State University.
AREVA may be unfamiliar to many Idahoans. But at Idaho State University, which has nuclear science and engineering programs as well as programs for energy-systems engineering technicians, AREVA is a longtime friend and partner.
Idaho State University serves some 2,400 students at University Place in Idaho Falls, where our diverse catalog of certificates and degrees includes programs for nuclear-industry workers. The proposed plant would be built 18 miles west of Idaho Falls, headquarters for the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory.
AREVA is particularly well-known in our College of Technology and College of Engineering. In 2006, AREVA provided important support for Technology's successful grant applications for $2.6 million in combined funding from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Labor.
That money helps fund Technology's new Energy Systems Technology and Education Center (ESTEC). The center provides the kind of skilled technicians that a diversified energy industry requires, including the commercial nuclear-power industry.
Our College of Engineering is in the third year of administering a five-year, $250,000 scholarship grant from AREVA for students in nuclear engineering.
Engineering's Dr. George Imel, chair of the nuclear engineering department, brings 11 years' experience working in France's Cadarache Center, one of the world's foremost nuclear-research laboratories. He is well-connected within the French nuclear establishment. He teaches at ISU – Idaho Falls as well as the main campus. He also is an associate director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, an Idaho Falls-based public-private partnership that includes Idaho State University.
It can be difficult for researchers in academia to stay current in their disciplines when certain knowledge is proprietary to commercial companies like AREVA. The relationships that ISU has already developed with AREVA could open those doors.
Government and academia have been important components of nuclear power research and development in eastern Idaho for half a century. The AREVA plant—and the vendors, suppliers and spinoffs that would follow—would need an array of well-educated employees. Thanks in no small measure to our relationship with AREVA, Idaho State University is poised to meet that need.
Arthur C. Vailas, Ph.D.
President, Idaho State University