During a visit to South Carolina State University on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm announced $3 million in funding to be directed toward the production of the next generation of engineers and scientists dedicated to producing clean energy sources. 

Granholm was joined by Congressman and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn during a tour of the university’s Engineering & Computer Science Complex, where she was greeted by students enrolled in S.C. State’s nuclear engineering and cybersecurity programs.

“One of the reasons why I’m really proud to be here today is because I am announcing a funding opportunity for $3 million through our little Office of Carbon Management and Fossil Energy which is directed toward HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions,” she said.

“This funding opportunity is for a set of technologies that actually decarbonize power, that takes coal waste, for example, combines it with, say, algae and produces plastics, or sequesters the carbon pollution. So those series of technologies is going to be very important in addition to the nuclear technology that you are already an expert in,” Granholm said.

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“Universities, HBCUs, MSIs who are interested in this funding would have to make an application. So the guidelines are on the (DOE) website in terms of timing,” she said.

S.C. State Interim President Alexander Conyers said he was pleased with the secretary’s visit.

“South Carolina State is the only HBCU in the nation with a nuclear engineering program, as well as the only university in South Carolina with a nuclear engineering program. Today we’re proud of the fact that we have graduated over 100 nuclear engineering students who are currently contributing to the nuclear engineering space throughout our country with private and federal entities,” he said.

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Granholm said, “It’s very relevant for our energy system because in South Carolina, 55% of your energy is from nuclear power. The reason why that’s important is because nuclear power emits no carbon pollution which causes, of course, climate change.”

“Fifty to 72% of all of the clean energy in the country is produced by nuclear power. So it is a huge part of the solution of getting to what President Biden would like to get to, which is 100% clean electricity by the year 2035. When I say clean, I mean zero carbon-emitting,” she said.

Granholm said the funding will help create the scientists and engineers needed to help the nation meet its clean energy goals and other strategies put forth through the passage of the nation’s bipartisan infrastructure law.

“We have got to hire a whole series of engineers and scientists as we strive to meet our clean energy goals. Congressman Clyburn was instrumental in passing that bipartisan infrastructure law. That bipartisan infrastructure law for the Department of Energy means $62 billion for pushing out all of these technologies that have been described,” Granholm said.

The DOE has announced a goal of hiring 1,000 people for a Climate Energy Corps, which would help the government fulfill the mandates of the bipartisan infrastructure law.

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“So that’s one of the reasons I’m so glad to be here and why I was making such a big push for your students to apply at https://www.energy.gov/CleanEnergyCorps to be able to get access to the expertise that is clearly so evident right here,” Granholm said.

“We need to make sure that we’ve got a workforce of scientists and engineers that look like America. We need to expand the diversity of our talent pool. We will not be able to achieve our goals if we are missing chunks of society.

“So we want to make sure that we include and really focus intentionally on expanding access to scientists and engineers of color, which is why we really want to partner with HBCUs for that hiring opportunity, as well,” she said.

Students gave Granholm a lesson in what they were already working on, including everything from ways to prevent cyberattacks in smart farming to ways to quicken the revision process for obtaining a nuclear reactor license.

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“Those students were amazing. It was so exciting for me because we are looking at the very problems that they are addressing. They had it. They knew exactly where they were going, they knew all of the very technical aspects of their work, they were confident,” Granholm said.

“This is one of the reasons why I was feeling so strongly about encouraging them to think about service in the federal government. Whether its cybersecurity or nuclear or any other aspect of technology, we are looking for exactly what they have to offer,” she said.

“That was definitely good to hear,” said Kristin Barrett, a senior computer science major with a concentration in cybersecurity.

“I think the visit was really it was something that we were looking forward to. I think that meeting with them and showing them what we had been working on was a great experience for all of us,” the 21-year-old from Yorktown, Pennsylvania, said.

“I’ll be graduating in December, but I still hope to find an internship that will lead to a job after I graduate. I’m really just looking around. I really would like to work for the government,” she said.

Clyburn said, “I often think about the future of this great state that I love dearly. When I think about the future of the state, I think about the future of the students who are growing up here.”

He noted that it was former S.C. State President Andrew Hugine who spearheaded the effort to make a nuclear engineering major at the university a reality.

“It was his vision that the students graduated from here should be a part of the future. That’s when this nuclear major was envisioned by him. It was not easy. A lot of the forces that be did not want to see that major come to this institution,” Clyburn said.

“Not only did it get accredited, but it’s been reaccredited, and it’s producing some of the most outstanding nuclear engineers in this country. That’s why the secretary’s announcement today is so important. It helps this school meet the challenges of the future in preparing these young people,” the congressman said.

Clyburn continued, “I want to thank the secretary for the faith and confidence that she’s placed in this institution and other HBCUs. There are more than 100 of them around this country. There are eight here in South Carolina, seven in my congressional district. So I am very proud of this visit today.”

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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