Khalifa University nuclear engineering students get a glimpse of Penn State's nuclear reactor
In 2008, United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced a peaceful civilian nuclear energy program and four years later it became the first country in 27 years to start constructing its first reactor.
Realizing the need to educate future engineers who would have the skills necessary to sustain the UAE’s nuclear initiative, Khalifa University hired Philip Beeley to establish a nuclear engineering program in 2009.
Beeley and four of his nuclear engineering master’s students came to Penn State’s Radiation Science and Engineering Center (RSEC) in late May and early June as part of a two-week field trip. Kenan Ünlü, director of the RSEC and professor of nuclear engineering, organized the field trip. During their time at the RSEC the Khalifa students engaged in hands-on activities, such as operation of the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor, neutron activation analysis, neutron imaging and a nuclear security search system exercise; attended lectures on radiation detection and measurements, nuclear security, and safety and safeguards; and toured various campus facilities and laboratories including the Materials Research Institute and Advanced Multi Phase Flow Laboratory. Their field trip also included tours of Westinghouse in Pittsburgh and meetings with officials at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC.
While at the University Park campus, Beeley also met with Amr Elnashai, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering.
“Dean Elnashai is very committed to helping Khalifa University establish itself as a nuclear research university in the academic arena,” said Beeley.
“Khalifa University is already having a tremendous effect on the quality and quantity of engineering graduates in the United Arab Emirates, and the whole region. By supporting KU, Penn State Engineering is helping advance an emerging society and region with great promise and prominence. On the other hand, nuclear energy is becoming of increasing importance in a world concerned about the environment. The intersection of the above two considerations makes our cooperation with KU one of our top strategic global priorities,” said Elnashai.
Ünlü, who is currently helping to enhance Khalifa University’s nuclear security curriculum, said he and Beeley are brainstorming additional collaborative initiatives involving teaching and research. In addition to returning to Penn State every year as part of the field trip, another potential option is to establish an exchange program for nuclear engineering students at the two universities.
“Emirates students can benefit from their experiences here in a nation that has been in the nuclear business longer than any other nuclear nation. American students could also benefit from coming to a young country such as UAE, where we have the first nuclear power program to be developed in the last 30 years,” said Beeley.
Reflecting on their field trip to Penn State, Beeley noted, “Because the nuclear program in the UAE is so new, we don’t have a research reactor or the long history of nuclear engineering excellence like Penn State does. Thanks to Dr. Ünlü, our students had an opportunity to see the breadth of what could be available to them. They were very impressed.”