KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As Governor Bill Lee works to position Tennessee as a national leader for nuclear energy advancement, Roane State Community College is launching a Nuclear Technology Program.

The program was made possible with a $100,000 contribution from UT-Battelle, LLC, which manages and operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy.

The program will begin in Fall 2024 and between 10 and 20 students are expected in the first class. Roane State says the program will give students a “hands-on experience typically unavailable until a graduate joins a company and begins job-specific training.”

“There is no better place in the country to advance nuclear energy and technology than East Tennessee,” Roane State President Chris Whaley said. “This generous contribution will allow us to launch a program that will meet a need for skilled technicians for a variety of sites and industries.”

The money from UT-Battelle will be used to buy instruments, sources, and tools for the college’s Nuclear Measurements Lab.

Students in the program will receive an associate degree or a certificate in Nuclear Technology. The goal is to prepare students for a broad range of activities including medical isotopes, fissile material handling, waste handling and disposition, and support for companies and sites developing nuclear reactors and fuel.

“When companies talk about locating in Tennessee, at the top of their list is ‘workforce,’” said Jeff Smith, interim president and CEO of UT-Battelle and interim director of ORNL. “They want to know that if they come here, they’ll be able to find the employees they need.”

The program will provide instructions on how to use various radiation instruments, how detectors respond to different types of radiation, how to capture and process data from these instruments to draw relevant conclusions, and the practical applications of these instruments in relevant professions.

“This investment of resources is not only meaningful for us in the resources themselves, but also the expertise ORNL will provide to make sure the equipment is exactly what students need, exactly what they’ll see when they get out in the workplace,” Whaley said.

The announcement of this program comes after Lee signed a new executive order to create the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council. The council will help build on the state’s legacy in nuclear innovation and push for continue to push for investment to create a nuclear energy ecosystem for the future in Tennessee. In addition, the TVA recently launched its New Nuclear Program to develop and fund new small modular nuclear reactors.