The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) has received a $105,804 grant from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to provide scholarships to 15 students pursuing the college’s Energy Systems Technology (EST) associate degree program. CSM was one of six community colleges in the nation and one of two academic institutions in the state of Maryland to receive NRC funding, according to a news release.

“These scholarships provide a great way to get an education in the engineering technology field through our award-winning, hands-on program,” said professor Bernice Brezina, CSM’s Business, Technology and Public Service Division chairwoman, in the release. She added that while the nuclear industry is unique to our region’s economy and work force needs because of Exelon Generation’s Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant (CCNPP) in Lusby, there is a demand to fill jobs nationally in the nuclear industry, making these 15 scholarships all that more valuable.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), 23,000 jobs will be added to the nuclear field within the next five years. In addition, nuclear worker salaries are 36 percent higher than the average local salary.

“We are extremely lucky to have support for a program like this in our community,” Calvert Cliffs site vice president Mark Flaherty said in the release. “The world is focused on the carbon-free production of energy and having support for education and training in these fields is the foundation for the future. Being able to hire local employees who have been involved with Calvert Cliffs throughout their CSM associate degree program allows them to hit the ground running once their program is complete, not only in Southern Maryland but throughout the country.”

Since the program’s inception, Exelon has hired 21 students from the EST program. Those 21 CSM alumni have gone on to build careers with Exelon in the fields of electrical, instrument and control and mechanical maintenance, as well as in support of nuclear operations. CCNPP leadership also hosts a 10-week summer program for CSM student interns to rotate through numerous departments at the two-unit plant as part of the EST curriculum.

This is the 10th year that CSM and Exelon — a Fortune 100 energy company doing business in 48 states, D.C. and Canada — have partnered to provide the EST program and seek NRC grants to support scholarships. The program began when NEI asked nuclear power companies to find a community college partner to develop a curriculum for training nuclear technicians because of an “inadequate pipeline of workers and the graying of the baby boomers,” according to the grant request submission. Then owner of the CCNPP — Constellation Energy Nuclear Group — provided CSM with more than $300,000 in equipment and scholarships to get the program started at CSM’s Prince Frederick Campus.

Assistant professor and program coordinator Armando Hernandez is also the senior lead mechanical maintenance technical instructor at Calvert Cliffs. He said that the EST program has evolved over the years to continuously meet the industry’s highest standards, but the program now also incorporates technologies like hydro, solar, wind, geothermal and fossil fuels.

To apply for EST scholarships, incoming CSM students must qualify with a minimum 3.0 GPA in math and science; maintain a 2.5 GPA once enrolled at CSM; must be a full-time CSM student; U.S. citizen and serve six months in nuclear-related employment if offered at the time of graduation. The scholarship covers tuition, books, supplies and dedicated tutoring.

The NRC awarded 51 grants this summer to 40 academic institutions in 25 states, totaling more than $15 million. The funding is focused on developing individuals with the skills and competencies necessary to accomplish nuclear safety, including health physics, radiochemistry, probabilistic risk assessment, seismology and other nuclear related areas.

To learn more about the EST program, go to CSM online at http://stem.csmd.edu/. To learn more about the NRC-specific scholarship, or any scholarship at CSM, go to https://www.csmd.edu/costs-aid/credit-costs-aid/scholarships-financial-aid/scholarships/scholarship-finder/.