The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced more than $60 million in research grants to further nuclear energy infrastructure. The recipients included 68 projects from all across the country -- all of which were selected based on potential for scientific breakthroughs toward energy security and reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. "I remain convinced that nuclear energy will continue to be an important part of the nation's energy portfolio, accounting for more than 60 percent of carbon-free electricity in the United States today," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in a statement. "These awards provide essential funding for nuclear energy-related research and thereby support the long-term health of our domestic nuclear energy industry." The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) applauded the continued efforts by DOE to recognize and further nuclear innovation. "NEI commends the Department of Energy for continuing to invest in America's nuclear future. The FY15 research and development announcements will help pave the way for groundbreaking research that will support advanced reactors, including small reactor technology, and used fuel management," Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, NEI's senior manager for Strategic Workforce Planning, told FierceEnergy. "NEI also applauds the department for recognizing that its investment must extend beyond that for four-year institutions. This year's awards for the first time seed investment in America's community colleges." More than $31 million of the grants were awarded to 43 different university-led nuclear energy research and development projects across 23 states. The goal of the grants is to develop innovations through its Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). They also granted $3.5 million to nine universities for research reactor and infrastructure improvements, including upgrades to many of the United States' 25 university research reactors. "With these awards, the Department continues its successful nuclear energy research collaboration with the United Kingdom (UK)," DOE said in a statement. "Four of the NEUP projects include UK research collaborators who will receive an additional £1.7 million ($2.6 million) from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences." DOE will also be granting $13 million to four Integrated Research Projects to research solutions to high priority nuclear energy research challenges, the development of accident tolerant fuel options for near term applications, benchmarking for transient fuel testing, and approaches to dry cask inspection and nondestructive evaluation. Another $8.5 million from DOE is being given to 10 research and development projects in support of the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies Crosscutting Technoprojectslogy Development Program -- a program that looks to address varied nuclear energy challenges. $1 million will also be given to DOE national laboratories for infrastructure enhancement to further reactor materials and research. "For the first time, the Department has also fully integrated its competitive nuclear energy research award process with its competitive process for providing no-cost access to state-of-the-art experimental neutron and ion irradiation testing, post-irradiation examination facilities, synchrotron beamline capabilities, and technical assistance for design and analysis of experiments via its Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF)," DOE said in a statement. "As a result, the Department has competitively selected and will fully fund the cost of access to NSUF capabilities to support three university-led and one national laboratory-led projects that will investigate important nuclear fuel and material applications. The value of the unique facilities access announced today exceeds $3 million."