Eight university students from Ukraine recently completed their nuclear energy internship program with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  

The program was implemented through Argonne National Laboratory and is designed to assist Ukraine’s nuclear power industry in growing its nuclear energy workforce. 

The two-year internship program was tailored to Ukrainian university graduate students pursuing nuclear energy-related degrees that specialize in areas such as small modular reactors, accident tolerant fuels, and misconceptions of nuclear energy. 

The students were originally supposed to spend the first summer in the U.S. taking extra courses and the second summer working with U.S. nuclear energy companies. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the program was reconfigured so students could complete all of the necessary work in Ukraine. 

However, despite these challenges and travel restrictions, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine was able to recently send eight graduates from the three cohorts to the United States for a short visit.

The students met with government officials, took abbreviated courses at Argonne National Laboratory and toured various lab facilities to learn more about U.S. reactor technologies–specifically boiling water reactors and new small modular reactor designs.  

“It was an incredible time,” said Ivanna Lukovets, a 2022 summer intern of the program. “At the university, I mainly learned VVER reactors and almost nothing about new technologies like SMRs, boiling water reactors, and other new concepts in the field. This summer internship changed the direction of my life.”

“This nuclear Internship program is important for the Ukrainian students,” said Dr. Igor Bodnar, the principal project manager for the internship program at Argonne National Laboratory. “It helped them receive the most up-to-date information on advanced reactor technology, particularly U.S.-designed SMRs, which as we hope will be as important element of the future Ukraine energy infrastructure.”

Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors generate more than half of the country’s electricity, but the plants are old and so is the country’s aging nuclear workforce. Ukraine’s entire fleet of reactors is based on old Russian VVER pressurized water reactor technology. Six of the reactors were seized by Russian forces during the war and placed in cold shutdown. 

The grad students returned to their country to continue their studies and careers in Ukraine’s nuclear energy program as they work to pursue new technologies independent of Russia.  

The U.S.-Ukraine nuclear energy internship program was funded by the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Office of International Cooperation.

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