Atoms for Humanity Summit 9/3-5; Purdue Univ & Third Way

By Daniel Yurman

What role can nuclear power play in getting humans to Mars or eliminating climate change? Nuclear energy has an increasing role in medicine and safety and security. Industry leaders, policymakers, and innovators will convene at Purdue for a three-day event: What if Nuclear Innovation Could Change the World? taking place on Sept. 3-5.

With nuclear power taking center stage in a growing national conversation about climate change, Purdue University–in partnership with Third Way, one of the nation’s leading think tanks focused on energy policy–is convening industry leaders, policymakers and innovators for the Atoms for Humanity Summit at the Purdue campus on September 3-5.

The three day Atoms for Humanity Summit will be anchored by two Keynote Speakers and Two Headliner events. A complete list of featured speakers and panelists is available online.

In addition, there will be two days of in-depth breakout sessions exploring the future of nuclear power in the context of the four Purdue Ideas Festival themes: health, space exploration, AI and robotics, and sustainability.

Keynote Speakers

  • U.S. Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Sept. 5. “America’s Role in the Nuclear Future.” Moderated by PBS science correspondent Miles O’Brien.
  • Naomi Hirose, executive vice chair for Fukushima Affairs Tokyo Electric Power Co., 3:30-5 p.m., Sept. 4, “Fukushima Forward.”

Headliner Panel Topics & Speakers

Sept. 3, 4-5:30 p.m., “Advancing Nuclear.” In the face of an accelerating climate crisis, nuclear power is at a crossroads. While the industry is an important source of carbon-free energy in the U.S., old plants are getting shuttered and new plants are struggling to gain financial footing. Enter next-generation nuclear. Innovations driven by advanced materials, super computing and modular construction – along with government and venture funding – is making a new era for nuclear power possible. A powerful lineup of industry and government movers and shakers, as well as advanced nuclear innovators, will provide a glimpse of the future.

  • Mark Peters – Director, Idaho National Laboratory
  • Chris Levesque – President and CEO, TerraPower
  • Tomás Díaz de la Rubia – Vice President for Discovery Park, Purdue University

Sept. 4, 10:30 a.m. to noon, “Next Gen Nuclear: Space Exploration.” Not since the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of the Cold War-era race with the Soviet Union, has the quest for exploration beyond Earth been as starry-eyed and urgent. NASA, along with billionaire and venture-backed startups, has its eyes set on the moon and beyond as global competition heats up. This session will focus on how nuclear energy is necessary to provide power for a lunar outpost and to propel future space missions farther and longer than ever before.

  • Therese Griebel, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs
  • John Dankanich – Chief Technologist, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Miles O’Brien – PBS Science Correspondent and Executive Producer of The Nuclear Option for NOVA

Sept. 4, 1:30-3 p.m., “Next Gen Nuclear: Climate and Clean Energy.” What is nuclear energy’s role in a world weaning itself off carbon? That question has become an essential element of the growing debate over how to mitigate the near- and long-term effects of global warming. A panel of leading global experts will bring context to a debate that has become more public and more urgent.

  • Leslie Dewan, Founding Principal, Nucleation Capital
  • Ian Hamilton, Founder and CEO, Atlas Energy Systems
  • Chris Colbert, Chief Strategy Officer, NuScale Power
  • Jackie Kempfer, Clean Energy Policy Advisor, Third Way

Additional Headiner Sessions

Sept. 5, 10:30 a.m. to noon. “Next Gen Nuclear: Medicine and Health.” About one-third of all procedures used in modern hospitals involve radiation or radioactivity. This session will focus on the successes and challenges facing the field of nuclear medicine. How is the recent restructuring of the Tc-99m radioisotope market playing out domestically? How are nuclear diagnostics and treatments advancing personalized medicine? And how can fusion research spin out health applications?

Sept. 5, 1:30-3 p.m. “Next Gen Nuclear: Safety and Security.” The digital revolution – not just software and hardware, but big data, artificial intelligence and robotics as well – is transforming the nuclear power industry. Purdue is home to the PUR-1 reactor, now upgraded with the first fully digital instrumentation and control system in the United States. In this session, leading experts will discuss how digital technology promises to revolutionize the industry.

All of these panels will feature top-notch experts alongside leading researchers and students from Purdue University. Moderated by award-winning PBS science reporter Miles O’Brien and Third Way clean energy policy advisor Jackie Kempfer, themes and topics to be explored during these sessions include:

  • What is nuclear power’s role in the climate and clean energy debate?
  • How close are we to scaling next generation nuclear innovations?
  • How will NASA power deep space exploration and colonization with nuclear power?
  • What role will nuclear play in the future of personalized medicine?
  • Will artificial intelligence (AI) and robots make the nuclear industry safer and more secure?

The Atoms for Humanity Summit will be forward-thinking in its approach and promises to be a signature event for policymakers, business leaders, entrepreneurs–as well as students who will play a vital leadership role in the industry’s future.

The summit is a part of Purdue’s Ideas Festival, the centerpiece of the university’s Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign, which is a series of events that connect world-renowned speakers and Purdue expertise in a conversation on the most critical problems facing the world. This is the first Ideas Festival event in which all four Giant Leaps themes are featured: space exploration, artificial intelligence, health and longevity, and sustainable economy and planet.

This is the third summit O’Brien will have moderated as part of the Ideas Festival. The first two explored What IF We Could Engineer Better Healt” and What IF Food Was Digital. Before joining the “PBS NewsHour,” O’Brien was a science, environmental, and aerospace correspondent for CNN.

This event also will celebrate Purdue’s recent announcement of the nation’s first all-digital nuclear reactor system being installed at the university.

Atoms for Humanity Summit takes place September 3-5, 2019 at the Stewart Center (STEW), and Purdue Memorial Union (PMU) at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, in partnership with Third Way.


This story originally posted on NeutronBytes.com. Some edits have been made.

Dan Yurman has published a nuclear energy blog since 2007 and has contributed to the ANS Nuclear Cafe since 2010.


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