The Catholic University of America

March 9, 2010

CUA Introduces New Master’s Degree in Nuclear Environmental Protection
Program Builds on Renaissance of Atomic Power


Ian Pegg

Beginning in fall 2010, The Catholic University of America will offer a new Master of Science in Nuclear Environmental Protection program that will prepare graduates for careers in the midst of the nation’s renewed commitment to nuclear power.

CUA’s one-year degree program, which can also be completed part time in two to three years, focuses on the nuclear fuel cycle, waste management and environmental protection. Degree recipients will be trained for jobs related to the new nuclear powers plants now being proposed for construction.

In the degree program’s curriculum, waste management deals with the disposition of used nuclear fuel rods, including interim storage, transport, and methods for secure final storage, as well as the potential role of recycling spent fuel. Environmental protection addresses the processes, procedures and technologies required to minimize the consequences of those actions on the environment.

“To my knowledge this program is unique in providing a holistic look at nuclear technology while focusing on the crucial environmental issues that have been a recurring concern in pushing nuclear technology forward,” says Ian Pegg, professor of physics and director of the Vitreous State Laboratory (VSL), the CUA research center in which the degree is supported.

As part of a federal government initiative to strengthen America’s nuclear educational infrastructure, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission awarded VSL $240,000 to develop the curriculum for this new degree.

Societal concern about energy sustainability and global warming has led to renewed focus on nuclear power, now being touted by many experts as one of the more promising near-term, low-carbon energy sources.

The degree program is open to applicants with a science or engineering background, including working professionals in industry or government agencies such as the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Navy’s nuclear program. The program’s courses will be offered in the late afternoon and evening in order to be accessible for working professionals.

“The new master’s degree in nuclear environmental protection leverages VSL’s internationally recognized expertise in the field, and it also comes at a perfect time, when the United States is contemplating building a new generation of nuclear power plants that will require just the kind of training the program will be offering,” says L.R. Poos, dean of CUA’s School of Arts and Sciences.

Nuclear environmental protection has long been the Vitreous State Laboratory’s vocation and, over the past decade, the laboratory has received more than $70 million in sponsored research and development funding for the treatment and safe storage of nuclear waste.

As part of the program, each student will conduct a final project, participating in research at VSL or — via an internship — at a private company, U.S. government entity, or foreign company or agency. These research and internship experiences are natural lead-ins for job opportunities, says Pegg.

“Students in the new M.S. program will be involved in experiential learning — not only taking classes, but also participating in ongoing VSL projects closely connected with the nuclear industry,” says Pegg.

Catholic University actually has a history of education related to nuclear power, as it offered a master’s degree in nuclear engineering that was only discontinued in the early 1980s because the United States stopped building new nuclear power plants at that time.

In addition to addressing the nuclear waste that will be created by the nation’s new and existing nuclear power plants, the graduates of the new M.S. program will be equipped to take part in the huge ongoing cleanup of the nuclear wastes created from 1943 through the 1980s when America was manufacturing its arsenal of atomic bombs. CUA’s Vitreous State Laboratory is playing a leading R&D role in that government-sponsored cleanup.

For more information about the degree program, visit

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