Nuclear Energy Generation Inspires AUSI Intern Gus Lewis

Nuclear Energy Generation Inspires AUSI Intern Gus Lewis

Are nuclear microreactors a viable means of energy production in comparison to more conventional energy generation methods? That is the research topic that Gus Lewis will investigate during his ACEP undergraduate summer internship.

Lewis, a third-year electrical engineering student at UAA, is working on a project modeling nuclear reactors this summer under the mentorship of David Denkenberger. They are looking at the UAF campus and how nuclear power could be used, as well as how nuclear microreactors could work in locations like Red Dog Mine and other remote communities.

“We have been modeling how cost effective implementing a nuclear reactor would be at UAF,” said Lewis of his project. “Of course, it would not be economical to install a multimillion-dollar reactor on top of an already-existing UAF power plant, so we took the approach of whether it would have been economical at the time the power plant was constructed a few years back.” 

Preliminary economic models are pointing to yes, Lewis said, but there's still a bit of work to be done (and more info on how nuclear prices turn out) before he and Denkenberger can be sure. 

Lewis was born and raised in Anchorage. In addition to pursuing electrical engineering, he is minoring in mathematics and physics. His journey started in civil engineering until he grew interested in energy production. Nuclear energy has been a surprising research avenue.

“For me, nuclear was never on my radar as a possible career path,” Lewis said. “While I'm still not sure if it'll ever play a role later in life, at the very least this summer I am just trying to absorb as much information about nuclear power as possible. I think it could be a real solution for several locations around Alaska where other renewable energy forms wouldn't be as effective.”

There's not much free time outside of school for Lewis during the semester, but he and his roommates enjoy playing basketball to determine who'll be responsible for completing the more undesirable chores around their apartment.

For more information on this project, please contact David Denkenberger at

​​The AUSI program is generously funded by a grant from the Office of Naval Research, though Lewis’ project is funded by the U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center.

For more information on the AUSI program and its various projects, please contact Jeff Fisher at and visit


Gus Lewis shows off a dolly varden he caught fishing this summer. Photo courtesy of Gus Lewis.