Tricounty News

Ridgewater receives scholarship funding

Nuclear Regulatory Commission awards $90,000 grant to Ridgewater to fund scholarships for new program

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has awarded Ridgewater College a $90,000 Trade School and Community College Scholarship grant. The grant will be used to support the first year of a newly developed diploma program at the school aimed at training non-destructive examination technicians in the nuclear industry, with the majority of dollars dedicated to student scholarships.

The new Fast-Track Ultrasonic NDE diploma program, developed in partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), is a 68-credit diploma program, which includes 48 credits of newly developed curriculum and 20 credits that are already established within the existing nondestructive testing program offerings. Most of the NRC grant will be used to fund up to 10 scholarships for students entering the program (estimated to cover 65 percent of tuition, fees, and books), in addition to helping to offset some program operating costs, such as personnel and equipment. Scholarships will be distributed through the Ridgewater College Foundation.

The Fast-Track program was developed by EPRI to combat the anticipated shortage of level II NDE-UT technicians capable of serving the nuclear industry in the United States. EPRI led an industry-funded project to develop a performance demonstration training curriculum with the goal of accelerating the qualification and certification of nondestructive evaluation (NDE) professionals. The Fast-Track curriculum is consistent with the needs of NDE professional organizations, meets all regulatory requirements, and utilizes state-of-the-art technology and training. Ridgewater College is one of two academic institutions chosen to pilot this program, and was chosen because of its status as a leading NDE academic institution.

Program curriculum will focus on nuclear applications and will provide students a minimum of 1,050 hours of hands-on ultrasonic examination experience utilizing discrimination techniques. The hands-on experience will involve examination of a collection of flawed mock-up PDI samples provided by EPRI. Students will commit to a full academic schedule that will include 30 hours per week in the lab to accumulate the necessary experience with pressurized water reactor (PWR) and boiling water reactor (BWR) nuclear power plant inspections.

Ridgewater College's Nondestructive Testing program has a rich 35-year history of training nondestructive testing technicians. Graduates have gone on to successful careers in a variety of industries, including fossil and nuclear power generation, petro-chemical plants and pipelines, manufacturing, and aviation.

Ridgewater College is a community and technical college with campuses in the central Minnesota communities of Willmar and Hutchinson. The college serves more than 3,300 full-time equivalent students through its nearly 100 academic programs. The institution is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.