Nuclear power is an essential tool in the fight against climate change – producing massive amounts of energy without any greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, deploying nuclear power at scale worldwide represents the most efficient path to deep decarbonization. Despite this potential, the nuclear power industry is hindered by social, political, and economic challenges in many parts of the world. The Nuclear Energy Grand Challenge is a series of prize competitions organized by the Energy Impact Center to spur a new approach to nuclear power deployment on a time frame that can make a difference. The pilot competition is currently underway at the University of Michigan.


The Nuclear Energy Grand Challenge: Reimagining Nuclear Waste engages collegiate innovators and entrepreneurs to tackle one of the most unique challenges facing the nuclear energy industry – the perception of nuclear waste. The nuclear industry has historically responded to calls against its “waste” by offering solutions around concentrating, storing indefinitely, and separating it from humans, which only further—albeit counterintuitively—deepen the public’s distrust, misunderstanding, and wariness of the energy source at large.

Over the 2019–2020 academic year, interdisciplinary student teams are being challenged to create business plans to productize this incredible asset, and incentivize the creation of new markets that re-imagine how we manage and utilize spent nuclear fuel. Students  have the opportunity to receive expert feedback on their proposals through a series of facilitated workshops and one-on-one mentorship with UM faculty and industry leaders.


The competition will conclude with a live pitch competition on April 10, 2020. Teams will be judged on their proposal's overall product desirability, technical analysis, customer validation, go-to-market strategy, and legal/regulatory evaluation. The winning team will be awarded a $17,000 cash prize.

University of Michigan students interested in participating in the competition can learn more and register here:

Project Lead: Michelle Brechtelsbauer,

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