ORISE offers scholarship opportunities to students pursuing careers in STEM

Nuclear Power: A Safe Future

There has been a significant increase in usage of nuclear power plants in the past 60 years, which comes along with an increased need for attention on nuclear safety. The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is hosting a problem-based challenge for undergraduate students. The challenge for undergraduates is to develop a plan to improve nuclear safety for the future. Your proposal could win you a $5,000 scholarship! The deadline for this competition is Wednesday, October 31, 2018, and winners will be announced late-November.


1st place:  $ 5,000 scholarship
2nd place:  $ 3,000 scholarship
3rd place: $ 1,000 scholarship

The Challenge:

The demand for energy is constantly increasing, and nuclear power can help meet that need. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects a 48% increase in world energy consumption between 2012 and 2040. In 2017, about 20% of the electricity generated in the United States was produced from nuclear sources. While nuclear power is considered safe to generate when proper safety measures are in place, an accident due to unforeseen circumstances can have grave consequences if not contained. Major steps have been taken both at the domestic and world-wide level to ensure nuclear power is harnessed in the safest manner possible. The International Atomic Energy Agency was established by the United Nations in 1957 and continues to act as an auditor of nuclear safety world-wide today. Domestically, nuclear power safety is overseen by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, established in 1975. It is a field that is constantly evolving and improving. As nuclear power is something we will need to meet the ever increasing demand of energy, it is necessary to continue to identify potential future threats to nuclear power safety and how to mitigate these threats.

Your task: Identify a potential future threat to nuclear power plant safety and propose a plan to mitigate it. You must provide supporting evidence in your proposal for why the plan for mitigation would be effective.


  • You must be an undergraduate student currently enrolled at a college or university who will also be enrolled at a college or university next year.
  • A proposal shall include 1) a detailed explanation of the future threat and plan to mitigate 2) supporting evidence for why the plan for mitigation would be effective.
  • A proposal can be in the format of your choice: paper, video, presentation, etc.
  • Think about how the world, climate, technology, etc. are changing and how nuclear power safety may need to adapt with these changes.
  • You can read a brief synopsis of past nuclear power accidents here.
  • Proposals must be submitted on the following form: https://orausurvey.orau.org/n/NuclearSafetyComp.aspx
  • Proposals will be graded based on this rubric.
  • We are looking for ingenuity in solution and presentation.

How to Enter:

  • Radiation Exposure: What Not to Fear

    Despite living in a world of constant radiation exposure, people have a negative association with the word “radiation.” In March, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) hosted a problem-based challenge for undergraduate students. The challenge for undergraduates was to develop a strategic communication approach for the general public on the everyday occurrences of radiation, the benefits, risks, and safety of all types and uses of radiation.

    Congratulations to our scholarship winners!

    1st place: Julia Trainor, Syracuse University, #RadiationReimagined: Strategic Communications Report

    2nd place: Cole Maguire, University of Texas at Austin, Radiation and Its Communication to the Public

    3rd place: Ian Wietecha-Reiman, Penn State University, Radiation Exposure PSA Proposal: Using the Internet to Placate Fears