Limerick Generating Station.

Limerick Generating Station.

POTTSTOWN PA – To fill what is anticipated as a long-term need for technicians in the nuclear power industry, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) in a press conference Friday (May 15, 2009) announced it would partner this fall with Exelon Corp.’s nuclear division and Lakeland Community College in Ohio to offer an associate’s degree in nuclear engineering technology.

Exelon, which operates its Limerick (PA) Generating Station (LGS) less than seven miles from MCCC’s West Campus, 101 College Dr., said it expects to hire more than 200 nuclear technicians at Limerick alone during the next 10 years. Other power plants have similar projections.

The average starting salary for a nuclear technician is $22-$25 per hour, or $50,000 annually, Exelon representatives said.

About half of the nuclear engineering workforce is poised to retire during the next five years, according to industry statistics. That fact, coupled with a U.S. Department of Energy estimate that electricity use will increase by 20 percent by 2030, has sent educational institutions and nuclear energy plants forming partnerships to train a new generation of nuclear technicians.

“Our college is in sync with the workforce and educational needs of our community,” said MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout. “As a result, we are able to change and adapt rapidly to accommodate shifts in the employment market … (and) student, industry and community demand,” she said.

The degree program will be possible under an MCCC agreement with Lakeland. Local students will enroll in Lakeland’s nuclear engineering courses online. Its laboratory components will be taught by MCCC faculty members at the college’s Central Campus in Blue Bell PA. MCCC faculty will also participate in lectures and assist Lakeland’s faculty. The LGS will provide industry experience and knowledge.

“Being able to share that experience is a great way for us to give back to our community,” said Limerick Site Vice President Chris Mudrick.

Students will enroll in 25 credits at Lakeland, but will pay MCCC tuition prices. The remaining 44 credits required for the associate’s degree are covered by courses already offered locally. Scholarships that cover student-paid costs for the Lakeland courses are available through 2011 under a federal Department of Labor grant, according to college Communications Director Alana Mauger.

Lakeland’s program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the key accreditation body for engineering, she added. For more information, call Tom Tucker, the college’s assistant professor of engineering technology, at 215-641-6469.