Officials on Thursday cut a ribbon to celebrate the revamped Framatome Nuclear Technology Academy, a program at Lynchburg’s Central Virginia Community College aimed at educating students to be nuclear technicians. From left: Virginia Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg; Framatome CFO and upcoming CEO Katherine Williams; Craig Ranson, senior vice president of the Installed Base Business Unit at Framatome; John Capps, president of Central Virginia Community College; Bif Johnson, president of the CVCC Educational Foundation Board of Directors; and Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg. Photo by Matt Busse.

The nuclear energy company Framatome will invest $400,000 over four years to relaunch its Nuclear Technology Academy, a collaboration with Central Virginia Community College to educate students to become nuclear technicians.

Through the program, students can earn an associate of applied science degree in nuclear technology with a mechatronics track. They’ll split their time between the classroom and working at Framatome while earning full-time pay with benefits, said Craig Ranson, senior vice president of the Installed Base Business Unit at Framatome.

The Framatome Nuclear Technology Academy has been operating since it initially launched in 2004. But the program previously was restricted to current Framatome employees and now is open to all students, CVCC President John Capps said.

Ranson said the program has been reworked to better balance students’ classroom time and on-the-job time, to offer students more competitive pay, and to offer graduates opportunities for full-time, rather than part-time, jobs at Framatome.

“These students have the opportunity to come out completely debt-free with a job. And that’s awesome,” Ranson said at a Thursday news conference announcing the relaunched program.

Framatome, which was called Areva before it rebranded in 2018, is a France-based company that employs more than 16,000 people worldwide, including 1,320 in Lynchburg, the site of its North American headquarters.

Framatome designs and maintains large nuclear reactors, providing control systems and other equipment, fuel and maintenance services. In addition to servicing existing nuclear reactors around the globe, its current projects include building the two European pressurized water reactors for the 3,200-megawatt Hinkley Point C nuclear power station under construction in Somerset, England. 

Framatome says it modernized its program with CVCC because it expects the demand for skilled nuclear technicians to increase to meet U.S. and international energy needs.

Katherine Williams, Framatome’s chief financial officer who will become its CEO on July 1, said Thursday the nuclear industry offers “tremendous opportunities.”

“We are giving young people the opportunity to make a difference, to help us keep the lights on, to help us help North America grow, and even internationally,” Williams said. “We have the technology. We simply need the workforce, the resources, people who are committed and are willing to make the effort through this program to get trained, and then we will take it from there and give you lots of opportunities.”

The Framatome Nuclear Technology Academy will have 30 students in its fall cohort, and Ranson said officials hope to have 30 students in the program at all times.

Graduates who become nuclear technicians could perform work such as non-destructive examination of nuclear materials, supplying nuclear reactors with fuel, and maintenance and upgrades at nuclear power plants, Ranson said.

A job posting for a Framatome Nuclear Technology Academy Technician, available via Framatome’s website, lists the starting pay at $20 per hour, with benefits and possible performance incentives or annual bonuses.

At Thursday’s news conference — which culminated in officials ceremonially cutting a ribbon that was held in place by two robotic arms — Capps praised the strong relationship between the school and Framatome.

“The significance of that relationship is reflected in CVCC’s nuclear technology degree, the only degree of its type in the state of Virginia,” Capps said. “It’s reflected in the fact that the college has trained over 100 nuclear support technicians whom Framatome has deployed worldwide.”

The news conference was held at CVCC’s Framatome Technology Center, and Capps noted that Framatome had secured the naming rights to the building, which opened in 2004, through a donation of $1 million — the largest in CVCC’s history. 

Framatome’s support of the school continues to the present day, Capps said.

“Ultimately, it underscores Framatome’s dedication to safe and economical low-carbon energy, the type of clean, sustainable energy that our country and our world desperately need,” he said.

Matt Busse is the business reporter for Cardinal News. Matt spent nearly 19 years at The News & Advance,...