Author Archives: pbowersox

Congress Hears Testimony on Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013

Breaking the used nuclear fuel logjam?

By Paul Bowersox

On Tuesday, July 30, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a full committee hearing to consider Senate Bill 1240—the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013. Following suit, the House of Representatives on Wednesday hosted U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at an oversight hearing of the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Senate bill is a bipartisan effort led by committee chair Ron Wyden (D., Oregon), committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), and top Senate energy appropriators Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Lamar Alexander (R, Tenn.). The bill attempts to chart a new course for U.S. used nuclear fuel storage by, largely, implementing the recommendations of President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. The legislation would establish a new, independent agency for managing the used fuel, establish consent-based interim storage facilities, allow states and localities to apply for permanently storing used fuel, and make numerous other changes to the U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Act (see Jim Hopf’s summation of key points of the Blue Ribbon Commission here).

View the hearing at the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources website (fast-forward to 18:20 to begin). View the hearing at the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy website.

But what about Yucca Mountain?

The American Nuclear Society supports the formation of a new, independent agency to manage the nation’s used fuel, as well as establishing centralized, interim used fuel transportation and storage facilities, and continued research and development on advanced nuclear fuel cycles, including fuel recycling.

The Yucca Mountain repository, however, remains a point of contention, even two years after licensing studies at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were halted by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.). The position of ANS remains that the NRC should conclude this licensing process for the repository.

The position of most House Republicans, similarly, is that the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada is the nation’s sole permanent repository—as was made into law in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982—at least, if NRC reviews were to be completed. The “problem” of nuclear waste storage is already solved, in this view—only political roadblocks, not technical nor environmental issues, keep used nuclear fuel onsite at U.S. nuclear energy facilities.

The Senate Bill 1240 halts transfers of “non-priority” nuclear waste after 10 years unless Congress provides funding for a permanent repository program, and no new interim sites are allowed after 10 years unless a permanent storage site has been selected.

Pursuing these parallel tracks for intermediate and permanent storage might prove acceptable in an eventual vote in both houses of Congress, in some months. Yucca Mountain is not mentioned in Senate Bill 1240, except as background—but it is also not expressly precluded as a possible eventual site for a permanent geologic repository.

Hot off the press:

House Republicans to Energy Secretary:  Don’t Scrap Yucca by Alex Brown at National Journal

Nuclear Energy Institute’s Fertel Tells Congress to Act Now on Used Nuclear Fuel Legislation

We’re Paying Twice to Manage Nation’s Nuclear Waste by William H. Miller in St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Economic Conditions Primary Challenge For Nuclear, Not The Unsolved Waste Puzzle by John Johnson at Nuclear Energy Insider

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bowersoxPaul Bowersox manages social media at the American Nuclear Society




Robotics, Remote Systems, and Radiation

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By Reid L. Kress

This discussion is targeted at the robotics or remote systems professional who is interested in using his or her commercial system in a nuclear application or who is beginning the design of a new system for deploying in a nuclear environment, and for those who are interested in robotics and remote systems in nuclear environments.

This person will need to have an understanding of the expected levels of radiation and radiation dose rates that might be encountered in these environments. A typical robotics/remote systems engineer will be unfamiliar with nuclear applications, as many engineers come from a very diverse set of backgrounds typically found in the robotics arena; namely, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. To provide a general idea of the radiation environment that might be encountered, we will present a few example applications from past experience.

A primer on radiation units

The first step for an engineer aspiring to apply his/her existing or planned robotic or remote device in a nuclear environment is to have a clear understanding of the basic units associated with common nuclear environments. These units and definitions are the following. (Note that many of these are summarized from references [1] and [2].)

Becquerel (Bq): SI unit of radioactivity defined as: 1 Bq = 1 decay per second.

Curie (Ci): Unit of radioactivity in the conventional system (non SI) defined as: 1 Ci = 3.7*1010 decays per second = 3.7*1010 Bq. A curie is the amount of radiation from one gram of radium.

Erg (erg): Centimeter-Gram-Second (CGS) derived unit of work defined as: 1 dyne-cm = 1 gm-cm2/s2 = 10-7 J. (Erg appears in the definition of rad.)

Gray (Gy): SI unit of absorbed dose of ionizing radiation defined as: 1 Gy = 1 J/kg = 1 m2/s2 = 100 rads. Dose in Sv = (Dose in Gy)*( Radiation Weighting Factor), where the radiation weighting factor (WR) is an approximation of the relative biological effectiveness value as a function of linear energy transfer. Therefore, when discussing x-rays and gamma rays (WR = 1) one Gray is one Sievert; whereas, for alpha particles, which have a weighting factor or quality factor of 20, one gray is 20 Sieverts. Absorbed dose can also be “imparted specific energy” and “kerma.”

Kerma: Acronym for Kinetic Energy Released in Material. The sum of initial kinetic energy of charged particles released within a material per unit of mass of the material.

Rad (rad): Unit of absorbed dose in the conventional system (non SI) defined as: 1 rad = absorption of 100 ergs per gram. 1 rad = 0.01 Gy.

Rem (rem): Acronym for Roentgen Equivalent Man. Conventional unit of dose-equivalent radiation: 1 rem = 0.01 Sv. Rem is a unit that is generally used in the United States only.

Roentgen (R): Unit of radiation exposure in the conventional system (non SI) equivalent to 2.58*10-4 C/kg (where C is a Coulomb). One Roentgen unit is equal to the production of one electrostatic unit of charge in one cubic centimeter of air. One R exposure of gamma or x-rays will produce approximately 0.01 Gy (1 rad) in tissue and because gamma and x-rays have radiation weighting factors of one (WR = 1) this is equivalent to 0.01 Sv (10 mSv) dose.

Sievert (Sv): SI unit of dose-equivalent radiation equal to 100 rems. Sv is used in a biological context. Although 1 Sv = 1 J/kg = 1 m2/s2, the Sievert is used to quantify the effects of radiation on biological tissue. Use a gray when discussing dose in any material. Equivalent radiation dose can also be effective dose and committed dose.

X: Unit of radiation exposure in the SI system defined as the production of 1 Coulomb of charge in one kg of air. 1 X = 3,876 R.

Think of these units in this manner:

1) To measure radioactivity: in SI use Becquerel (Bq); in conventional use Curie (Ci).

2) To measure absorbed dose: in SI use Gray (Gy); in conventional use rad.

3) To measure equivalent dose: in SI use Sievert (Sv); in conventional use rem.

4) To measure radiation exposure: in SI use X; in conventional use Roentgen (R).

Example applications

Next, the engineer must consider his/her particular application and define exactly what is the expected radiation environment that might be present? However, the engineer might be designing a general system for multiple applications or he/she may not know the radiation levels present. In that case, looking at radiation environments found in some past applications should provide some useful guidance.

Three Mile Island

The first example application examined is from cleanup work performed at the Three Mile Island (TMI) power plant. A remotely driven mobile robot called the Remote Reconnaisance Vehicle (RRV) was designed to carry various tools and a manipulator at TMI [3]. A typical task used the RRV and other remote equipment to leach strontium and cesium contamination from the concrete block wall that surrounded the containment building’s elevator and stairwell structures. The task comprised several remote operations, the most complex of which was injecting water into the cavities in the center of the blocks. Injection rrvrequired the boring of water injection holes and inserting a water injection nozzle. Wall sources were in the range of 2 Gy/h to 3 Gy/h (200 to 300 R/h) gamma. Another task was the removal of sludge and contamination from the basement that included cleaning the floor and using a pressure washer to clean walls. General area radiation readings on the RRV used for this task were 4 mSv (400 mrem) gamma and 0.02 Gy beta/h (2 rad beta/h). General area radiation levels on the hydraulic manipulator mounted on the RRV was 6 mSv (600 mrem) gamma and 0.02 Gy beta/h (2 rad beta/h).

Spent fuel pool

A second application area involves robotic and remote systems operating at a reactor site or support facility. For example, a system deployed in a spent fuel pool at a reactor site working on tasks such as inspection and characterization might encounter dose levels in the following ranges. On vertical walls, dose rate is generally less than 1 Gy/h. On the bottom of the pool not directly below the fuel racks, dose rates are below 5 Gy/h. On the bottom of the pool under the storage racks without the fuel rods in place dose rate is less than 50 Gy/h.  Under racks with fuel rods in place the dose rate can exceed 200 Gy/h.

Dry storage, reactor pressure vessel

Another area is a dry storage cask. In this case, the radiation levels internal to the cask have been reported up to 100 Gy/h, containing both gamma and neutron radiation. For the pressure vessel annulus of the reactor, levels of 100 Gy/h (gamma) and 300 Gy/h (neutron) have been observed. For the lower and upper intervals of the pressure vessel, values of 0.2 Gy/h (gamma) and 0.07 Gy/h have been observed, respectively. Systems operating in a light water reactor waste disposal facility could see dose rates of 2 Gy/h to 3 Gy/h (200 to 300 R/h) ranging upwards to 300 Gy/h (30,000 R/h).


fukushima-robot 266x200At Fukushima there have been many values published for the possible radiation environment depending upon which reference one examines. One recent publication from Tokyo Electric Power Company stated that radiation levels inside the Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactor have been measured at 30 to 73 Sv/h [4]. Regardless of the reference chosen, these dose rates are well within ranges seen on other applications (e.g. bottom of spent fuel pool at < 5 Gy/h = 100 Sv/h if one is discussing alpha particles in tissue).

Medical isotopes, sterilization, irradiation

During the production of medical isotopes, exposure rates of 0.014 Gy/h (1400 mR/h) immediately following target bombardment to a steady exposure rate of approximately 0.0035 Gy/h (350 mR/h) five to seven days following bombardment have been observed [5]. Consequently, remote target handling equipment needs to be designed to support these exposure rates over the life of the facility, and this is especially challenging whenever increased demand necessitates increased throughout and higher system availability. A typical dose for a food and medical products sterilization facility treating a medical product might be 25 kGy gamma [6&7] and for a food product 4 kGy [7]. Dose rate in an irradiator found in a research facility might range as high as 20 kGy/h. In an industrial irradiation facility (consider one that might contain 3 MCi of cobalt-60), the dose rate might range to 100 kGy/h near the source; however, it is generally around 10 kGy/h [7].

Other applications

Other applications and dose ranges are: medical diagnosis 10—100 mGy, medical therapy 1—10 Gy, industrial food and agriculture processing 0.1—10 kGy, industrial sterilization 10—30 Gy, and industrial materials modification 50—100 Gy [7]. Systems designed to handle these products are expected to work for a long period with high reliability, but depending upon the design and use requirements, these systems may be able to be located in a shielded area whenever the highest exposures are present.

Material damage thresholds

Radiation damage thresholds on selected metals in Gy from reference [2] are: aluminum 5*1011, 300 series stainless steel (SS) 1*1011, 400 series SS 5*1010, copper 2*1010, and nickel 1010. Radiation damage thresholds on selected ceramics in Gy from reference [2] are: alumina 5*1010, quartz 2*107, flint glass 2.5*105, and borosilicate glass 1*105. Coatings (e.g. vinyl and epoxy) tend to fail around 106 to 107 Gy [2] and adhesives and mineral oils tend to fail around 106 Gy [2]. Off-the-shelf electronics components can absorb approximately 100 Gy. More radiation resistant components that can handle up to 1000 Gy are available and are more costly (cost increases by approximately a factor of 10). Dose rate is also important to the degradation of materials. For example, a dose rate of 500 Gy/h (50 krad/h) is of concern for semiconductor materials. Off-the-shelf CCD cameras can handle dose rates on the order of 100 to 250 Gy/h (104 to 2.5X104 rad/h) or a total dose of 250 to 1000 Gy (2.5X104 to 105 rad) depending upon the manufacturer.


The radiation levels and dose rates in these example applications are often sufficiently large to justify the application of robotics and remote operations. They are, however, well within the range of engineering acceptability with regard to design and fielding of viable and reliable systems. With proper selection of components giving attention to radiation resistance, with the design of appropriate shielding either by employing direct shielding or by using indirect shielding of critical components provided by other, more radiation-resistant components, and by providing adequate maintenance with planned replacement of degraded parts, the remote systems engineer can field remotely operated devices that can accomplish the required tasks with appropriate reliability in these and similar nuclear environments.



[1] Lamarsh, J.R. and Baratta, A.J., “Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3rd Edition,” Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2001.

[2] Houssay, L.P., 2000, “Robotics and Radiation hardening in the Nuclear Industry,” M.S. Thesis, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, 2000.

[3] Bzorgi, F.M., “Summary of Remotely Operated Systems Designed for Inspection, Decontamination, and Decommissioning,” Bechtel National Inc. Oak Ridge, TN, 1996.

[4] Inajima, T., “Tepco Detects High Radiation Levels Inside Fukushima Reactor,” Bloomberg online, March 27, 2012.

[5] Boothe T.E. and McLeod, T.F., “Radiation Safety Aspects of Production of Commercial Levels of Medical Radioisotopes,” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B79, pp. 945-948, 1993.

[6] Eastman Specialty Products, “Sterilization of Medical Devices & Packaging,” Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport, TN, 2010.

[7] International Atomic Energy Agency, “Gamma Irradiators for Radiation Processing,” Vienna, Austria.


The mission of the Robotics and Remote Systems Division of the American Nuclear Society is to promote the development and application of robotic and remote systems for hazardous environments for the purpose of reducing hazardous exposure to individuals, reducing environmental hazards, and reducing the cost of performing work.



Reid Kress, PhD, PE, is senior technical advisor at the Y-12 National Security Complex, and adjunct professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is chair of the American Nuclear Society Robotics and Remote Systems Division.

From the ANS Annual Meeting (Photoblog)

The Opening Plenary at the 2013 ANS Annual Meeting is now underway—and it’s amazing how much goes on before the “Opening”. Already on Saturday morning a Teachers Workshop was in progress, and Saturday evening the Global Leadership Reception was in full swing. A few select photos:

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Candace Davison, senior reactor operator at Penn State University, begins at the beginning with the discovery of the mysterious “X-ray” (not her hand projected onto screen).

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Radiation is all around us in our radioactive world. Easy to detect with a Geiger counter.

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Almost unbelievable—one can see “trails” of individual alpha and beta particles using a simple cloud chamber.

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Detecting radioactive particles.

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Meanwhile, the setting for the ANS Annual Meeting, the beautiful Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

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From the elevator.

Stay tuned for coverage of the 2013 ANS Annual Meeting now officially underway.  And better yet, follow on twitter #ansmeeting

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Environmental Impact Evaluations – Seeing the Bigger (Nuclear vs. Fossil) Picture

By Jim Hopf

DC PerspectivesAs I discussed last fall, a federal appeals court ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to perform more thorough evaluations in support of its new Waste Confidence Rule, particularly with respect to the potential impacts of long-term storage of spent fuel at plant sites. While those evaluations are being performed, the NRC has suspended all new plant licensing and plant license renewals.

As discussed in that post, most experts believe that this issue will be resolved, in a timely manner, through additional analysis. Permanent cessation of licensing activity (until a repository is sited or built), or substantial new requirements (such as moving all fuel over 5 years old to dry storage) were considered unlikely. The NRC predicted that it could finish the required evaluations in ~2 years.

Reactions to NRC’s Waste Confidence Evaluations

spent fuel pool 180x119Predictably, anti-nuclear “environmental” groups are claiming that the evaluations that the NRC are doing are insufficient. They say that the evaluations should consider waste being stored on site for centuries, consider risks of terrorist attacks, and risks from severe earthquakes like that which struck Fukushima. They also advocate moving all >5 year spent fuel to dry storage. Finally, they say that 2 years is nowhere near long enough for the evaluations, and that all licensing activity should remain suspended for as long as it takes for “adequate” review to be performed.

And now, the attorneys general from four New England states are joining in, filing a petition for the NRC to do a “more thorough” review of the risks/impacts of long term on-site fuel storage. They are asking the NRC to reject the conclusions and recommendations of its technical staff, because they did not “adequately address the risks of spent fuel storage.” The AGs also state that the NRC’s evaluation did not give enough consideration to two options; requiring that all >5 year cooled fuel be placed into dry storage, and not allowing further production of spent fuel until a repository is constructed. (Yes, you heard that right, the AGs from four states are actually asking the NRC to consider shutting down the nuclear power industry.)

What are they after?

One hopes that all the AGs are asking for is for the NRC to do more homework to provide a stronger case. That would allow them to tell the public that they forced the NRC to do a “better job” and look out for their safety. Or perhaps, they’re hoping for the 5-year dry cask storage requirement, allowing them to point to a tangible “improvement” that they can take credit for (or perhaps to just extract a pound of flesh from the industry). One really hopes that they don’t really want the industry to shut down.

In my view, is it’s not that those risks (of long term storage) have not been evaluated. It’s that the people in question don’t like the answer. In other words, they will never be satisfied until the “evaluation” gives them the answer they want, which is that the risks are unacceptable, or that the industry must take some extensive, expensive, and burdensome actions.

Negligible risks/impacts

dry cask 190x141As someone who works in the area of dry fuel storage, I can tell you that the answer is pretty obvious. The risks of spent fuel storage are utterly negligible, compared to other risks that society routinely faces in general, and in particular, compared to the risks associated with alternative (fossil) power generation options. No credible scenario for a significant release from dry storage casks exists. Even terrorist attacks would have a minimal public health consequence.

Spent fuel pool risks are also quite low, and neither the 5-year cask requirement nor a repository would do much to reduce those (small) risks, since almost all the heat in spent fuel pools is from the fuel younger than 5 years. The theory of spent fuel pool cladding melt or fire (in the extremely unlikely, hypothetical event of pool drainage) is quite dubious in the first place, and it is being addressed at the few plants where it is thought to be a potential concern. Also of note is the fact that the spent fuel pools did NOT release any significant amount of radioactivity at Fukushima.

The fact is that nuclear waste is generated in a miniscule volume and, unlike the wastes from fossil plants and other industries, it has always been safely and fully contained, has never been released into the environment, and has never caused any harm. Further evaluation needed? In my view, the health/environmental impact evaluation for long-term onsite storage of used fuel could be adequately given in one sentence:

“The public health risks and environmental impacts of long term onsite storage of used nuclear fuel are clearly orders of magnitude less than those of the fossil fueled power generation that would otherwise be used in place of nuclear generation.”

It’s clear that shutting the industry down until a repository is built will result in fossil fuels being used for most of the replacement power.  Even if new plant licensing and plant life extensions are suspended, for a long time, the result will eventually be some reduction in nuclear generation, and will result in some increase in fossil generation.

San Onofre

san onofre 190x148Meanwhile, in Southern California, the San Onofre plant has been shut down for years due to tube failure problems with its steam generators (as discussed on this site here and here). The NRC has required that the plant remain shut until all the issues are thoroughly investigated; a process that has been taking a very long time. The NRC has been under a lot of political pressure to take its time and do a “thorough” investigation.

Steam generator replacement has been discussed. The utility also proposed running one unit at 70-percent power, based on evaluations showing that it would not result in significant tube vibration and degradation. The NRC has decided to allow public hearings on that (70-percent power) restart request, and having it require a license amendment is even being discussed. In order to meet peak power demand while San Onofre remains shut, two ~50 year old, highly polluting fossil plants in Huntington Beach were taken out of out of retirement and fired up.

In terms of the potential consequences of steam generator tube failure, it seems (based on what I’ve read) that the notion of steam generator tube failures causing a meltdown (i.e., core damage) is a real stretch. The only real potential is that the sudden failure of a large number of tubes could cause a significant fraction of the primary coolant loop water (and the radioactivity therein) to be released into the environment. (Note that even nuclear opponent Arnie Gunderson did not say that steam generator tube failures could cause a “meltdown” in this article.)

While one can only guess what the political/public reaction to such a release would be, its actual health consequences would be negligible to non-existent, particularly in comparison to the ongoing impacts of fossil generation. In reality, what is most likely to happen if things didn’t work out and the tubes started to fail is that some tubes would fail, the plant operators would notice the increase in secondary side activity, and they would safely shut the plant down.

Not only have old, dirty fossil fueled plants been fired up while the whole San Onofre saga played out, but the utility has just announced that it will close both of the reactors due to this issue. This will result in ~2000 MW of additional fossil fueled generation for several decades.

Blinders – Not looking at big picture

huntington beach power plant 190x116The common theme for these two stories is that nuclear risks are being evaluated in isolation. Overall impacts, such as the effects of reduced nuclear on the overall power generation system, are not being considered. Nuclear operations are held to a standard of perfection, or some arbitrary standard that regulators and other politically powerful stakeholders view as being adequate. That, as opposed to being compared to other risks accepted by society or, more importantly, the risks related to the alternative (primarily fossil) generation that would be used in place of nuclear.

Again, what are these people seeking from another several years of waste storage evaluations, when it is obvious, by cursory inspection, that the risks of waste storage are negligible compared to those of fossil generation alternatives? Perhaps they hope that the evaluations will uncover practical steps that could reduce the risks even further. At least the dry storage proposal is ostensibly that kind of step, although whether it is worth the cost and effort is highly debatable.

New England is home to many gross-polluting coal plants (many of which make the “Dirty Dozen” list of top polluters). If those states’ AGs really cared about their public’s health risks, they’d focus their efforts on getting those plants cleaned up or closed. They wouldn’t be wasting any time or effort on negligible risks associated with used nuclear fuel.

Why is the mindset that San Onofre cannot be reopened until everything is completely analyzed, understood, and resolved, and until the chance of steam generator failure is all but eliminated? And if all the hoops result in the plant’s closure, so be it. Where was the environmental impact evaluation that compared the risk of running San Onofre to the health risks of operating two 50-year old fossil plants that are located in a relatively high population density area? Given the limited health consequences of any credible steam generator failure scenario, it seems clear what such an evaluation would show.

It is likely that the operation of the Huntington Beach fossil plants has already had a larger public health impact than what would occur even in the event of a worst-case steam generator failure scenario (i.e., release of primary coolant loop activity). And finally, how about the consequences of the plant being closed?  Have they compared the risks of steam generator failure (low probability times limited consequence) to several decades worth of fossil fueled power generation? How about global warming impact?

Less nuclear = More fossil

smokestacks 150x100One thing that people need to be clear on is that using less nuclear power primarily results in increased use of fossil fuels. That’s certainly what’s happening in Japan. (They’re turning to coal to replace nuclear, since imported oil and gas are costing too much.) In Germany, where a huge effort is being made on renewables, coal generation is being significantly increased to offset the loss of nuclear. Even if Germany did succeed in building enough renewable generation to offset the lost nuclear generation, they’d still effectively be choosing fossil fuels over nuclear, since they could have used the renewables to replace fossil instead.

Reducing nuclear use will not cause renewable generation to increase. Construction of renewable capacity is primarily driven by government mandate and/or large subsidy. The final fraction of renewable generation will likely be close to the maximum practical amount based on intermittentcy limitations.

The only real question is whether the net effect of reduced nuclear would primarily be an increase of gas or coal use. If one assumes future environmental regulations that will limit the use of coal, then arguing that nuclear will be replaced by gas may be reasonable (especially in California). On the other hand, unless coal is limited by policy, one could argue that, in the end, reduced nuclear would mean more coal since the supply of gas will reach its limit at some point. Use of gas to replace nuclear would drive up the price of gas, which would result in more existing coal plants remaining open or operating more hours per year. This is already happening in the United States, now that gas prices have risen somewhat from historic lows. This would result in a net effect of nuclear being replaced by coal.

When pressed, nuclear opponents usually cede that fossil fuels are worse than nuclear (since the facts are actually pretty clear on that point). And yet, it’s generally the case that nuclear plants are closed when anything is out of sorts, and are required to address all the issues before they are allowed to restart. In the interim, fossil fuels are always used in its place, regardless of their much larger health and environmental risks.

You don’t hear people say, although the situation with San Onofre isn’t ideal, that we must keep it operating while the issues are resolved, since firing up old fossil fueled generators would have an unacceptable impact. A no-compromise philosophy is taken for nuclear risks (when anything is not just right), whereas reducing the known, ongoing health risks and climate impacts of fossil generation seems to be treated more like an aspirational goal. Something that we really should do, and will get around to some day (kind of like a New Year’s losing weight resolution). When anything happens, fossil fuels are always the backstop, or default. Although fossil fuels’ impacts are known to be vastly larger, they simply aren’t taken that seriously by our society; definitely not in comparison to our response to any issues with nuclear.

In any event, any REAL environmental impact evaluation would fully consider such issues. It would evaluate the impact of any reduction in nuclear generation, due to waste issues, etc., on the overall power sector. It would objectively compare all the risks of nuclear generation (including those of on-site used fuel storage, or imperfect steam generators, etc.) to the risks and impacts of the generation sources that are likely to be used in its place. If such evaluations were performed, and were objective, nuclear would have nothing to fear.




Jim Hopf is a senior nuclear engineer with more than 20 years of experience in shielding and criticality analysis and design for spent fuel dry storage and transportation systems. He has been involved in nuclear advocacy for 10+ years, and is a member of the ANS Public Information Committee. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Southern California Edison Announces Plans to Retire San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Company Will Continue Its Work with State Agencies on Electric Grid Reliability

A conference call with Q&A was held by management at 12PM EST Friday for media outlets only – replay will be available at 1-888-568-0503 (USA) and 1-203-369-3476 (International), passcode 5241.

ROSEMEAD, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Southern California Edison (SCE) has decided to permanently retire Units 2 and 3 of its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

“SONGS has served this region for over 40 years,” said Ted Craver, Chairman and CEO of Edison International, parent company of SCE, “but we have concluded that the continuing uncertainty about when or if SONGS might return to service was not good for our customers, our investors, or the need to plan for our region’s long-term electricity needs.”

Both SONGS units have been shut down safely since January 2012. Unit 2 was taken out of service January 9, 2012, for a planned routine outage. Unit 3 was safely taken offline January 31, 2012, after station operators detected a small leak in a tube inside a steam generator manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). Two steam generators manufactured by MHI were installed in Unit 2 in 2009 and two more were installed in Unit 3 in 2010, one of which developed the leak.

In connection with the decision, SCE estimates that it will record a charge in the second quarter of between $450 million and $650 million before taxes ($300 million – $425 million after tax), in accordance with accounting requirements.

After months of analysis and tests, SCE submitted a restart plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in October 2012. SCE proposed to safely restart Unit 2 at a reduced power level (70 %) for an initial period of approximately five months. That plan was based on work done by engineering groups from three independent firms with expertise in steam generator design and manufacturing.

The NRC has been reviewing SCE’s plans for restart of Unit 2 for the last eight months, during which several public meetings have been held. A recent ruling by an adjudicatory arm of the NRC, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, creates further uncertainty regarding when a final decision might be made on restarting Unit 2. Additional administrative processes and appeals could result in delay of more than a year. During this period, the costs of maintaining SONGS in a state of readiness to restart and the costs to replace the power SONGS previously provided would continue. Moreover, it is uneconomic for SCE and its customers to bear the long-term repair costs for returning SONGS to full power operation without restart of Unit 2. SCE has concluded that efforts are better focused on planning for the replacement generation and transmission resources which will be required for grid reliability.

“Looking ahead,” said Ron Litzinger, SCE’s President, “we think that our decision to retire the units will eliminate uncertainty and facilitate orderly planning for California’s energy future.”

Litzinger noted that the company has worked with the California Independent System Operator, the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission in planning for Southern California’s energy needs and will continue to do so.

“The company is already well into a summer reliability program and has completed numerous transmission upgrades in addition to those completed last year,” Litzinger said. “Thanks to consumer conservation, energy efficiency programs and a moderate summer, the region was able to get through last summer without electricity shortages. We hope for the same positive result again this year,” Litzinger added, “although generation outages, soaring temperatures or wildfires impacting transmission lines would test the system.”

In connection with the retirement of Units 2 and 3, San Onofre anticipates reducing staff over the next year from approximately 1,500 to approximately 400 employees, subject to applicable regulatory approvals. The majority of such reductions are expected to occur in 2013.

“This situation is very unfortunate,” said Pete Dietrich, SCE’s Chief Nuclear Officer, noting that “this is an extraordinary team of men and women. We will treat them fairly.” SCE will work to ensure a fair process for this transition, and will work with the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) and the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW) on transition plans for the employees they represent.

SCE also recognizes its continuing safety responsibilities as it moves toward decommissioning of the units. SCE’s top priority will be to ensure a safe, orderly, and compliant retirement of these units. Full retirement of the units prior to decommissioning will take some years in accordance with customary practices. Actual decommissioning will take many years until completion. Such activities will remain subject to the continued oversight of the NRC.

SCE intends to pursue recovery of damages from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the supplier of the replacement steam generators, as well as recovery of amounts under applicable insurance policies.

For updates, please visit, or follow us on Twitter at and on

San Onofre is jointly owned by SCE (78.21 percent), San Diego Gas & Electric (20 percent) and the city of Riverside (1.79 percent).

About Southern California Edison

An Edison International (NYSE: EIX  ) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.

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Nuclear Matinee: I’m A Nuke – Tim the Sea-Roving Nuclear Engineer

Meet Tim Lucas, Ph.D., a nuclear engineer who is piloting his sailboat around the world, spreading the news of nuclear technology – and many other rather amazing activities. Why is circumnavigating the globe a perfect job for a nuclear engineer? Watch and find out!

Tim’s tales of travel are captured here as part of the I’m A Nuke video campaign that kicked off at the ANS Student Conference at MIT in April this year.  Meet more fascinating nuclear engineers at the I’m A Nuke campaign on youtube.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nuclear Power

By Jessica Lovering

The Breakthrough Institute recently compiled some of the tough questions it is frequently asked about nuclear power by fellow environmentalists. The answers (originally published at BTI’s Energy and Climate) illustrate that if we’re serious about climate change and alleviating global poverty, we need nuclear power on a large scale

Do we really need nuclear in order to deal with global warming?

Preventing dangerous warming of the planet due to human emissions of greenhouse gases will require that we cut our emissions by 80 percent over the next 40 years at the same time that global energy demand is expected to double or triple. Doing so will require that we produce vast amounts of zero carbon energy. At present, the only way we know how to do that is with nuclear energy.

Isn’t the real problem that we simply consume too much energy?

Most people on the planet actually need to consume more energy, not less. Energy consumption is highly correlated with better health outcomes, longer life spans, and higher living standards.1 High-energy societies have liberated billions of us from lives of hard agricultural labor. More than a billion people around the world still do not have access to electricity at all. Ensuring that there is abundant energy to power the planet over the coming century promises to unleash the creative potential of billions more. But the basic math of global development and global warming is unforgiving. If we are going to meet the needs of a growing global population while keeping global warming in check, we will need technologies that can produce enormous amounts of energy without emitting carbon.

Isn’t that why we need to control population growth?

Providing universal access to abundant, cheap clean energy is one of the best population growth strategies we have. Consuming more energy allows people to live wealthier, healthier, and longer lives, which translates into lower population growth.2 As people become wealthier and more economically secure, they have fewer children. This is why leading advocates for human development and environmental sustainability, like Bill Gates3 and Jeffrey Sachs,4 strongly support the development and deployment of nuclear energy.

Even if we produce energy with minimal pollution, won’t more energy use incur a greater, more devastating environmental impact?

Cheap clean energy allows us to reduce our impact on the environment. With it, we can grow more food on less land and leave more wilderness for nature.5 We can reprocess wastewater and desalinate seawater, rather than depleting aquifers and draining majestic rivers. We can also recycle fiber and pulp rather than cutting down ancient forests. A world with abundant clean energy allows us to protect natural resources and leave more of our ecological inheritance undisturbed.

Can’t we become more energy efficient instead of using more energy?

We are vastly more energy efficient than we were just a few decades ago, much less a few centuries ago. Yet, even as we’ve become more efficient, we’ve also continued to use more energy. That’s because energy efficiency makes energy cheaper, and the result is that we find more ways to use it. Just a few years ago, nobody had heard of the cloud, and two decades ago nobody had heard of the Internet. Today, more of us than ever are able fly around the world. We fill our homes with 50-inch televisions and all manner of networked devices. We transform billboards and skyscrapers into gigantic LED video screens. Efficiency is good and we should strive for more, but it won’t eliminate the need to develop enormous quantities of cheap and zero carbon energy to meet the demands of the growing global economy.6,7

Can’t we solve global warming with renewables?

We’ve made a lot of progress with renewables, but they are still costly, intermittent, and difficult to scale.8 Without utility scale energy storage technologies, which remain unviable, you simply can’t run a modern society on wind and solar alone. Some places, like Germany and Denmark, have achieved higher levels of wind and solar, but they have done so through heavy, historically unprecedented deployment subsidies9,10 that can’t be sustained.11 Furthermore, these societies remain overwhelmingly dependent upon fossil energy: Germany got 70 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels in 201212 versus 5 percent from solar and 7 percent from wind.

But aren’t solar and wind growing rapidly?

It’s easy to achieve high rates of growth when you start from a tiny amount of installed wind and solar. But the fact remains that solar generated just 0.18 percent of electricity in the United States, and wind 3.5 percent, in 2012.13 This was after more than $50 billion in renewable electricity subsidies over the past three decades. Even Germany, which since 2000 has committed over $130 billion to solar photovoltaics (PV) in the form of above-market-price 20-year feed-in tariff contracts,14 only gets 5 percent of its annual electricity from solar.15

But isn’t nuclear energy also too expensive?

Installed nuclear generation in the United States is among the cheapest sources of electricity we have—cheaper even than coal.16 France, which generates over 80 percent of its electricity with nuclear energy, has some of the cheapest electricity prices in Western Europe.17 Nuclear plants cost a lot of money to build up front, but they operate for 60 to 80 years, producing massive amounts of energy with virtually no fuel costs. Over the long term, this makes them a bargain.18

The Olkiluoto-3 nuclear power plant in Finland—the poster child of expensive nuclear—is $6.5 billion over budget and six years behind schedule. Even still, recent analysis shows that this beleaguered plant will produce electricity at almost one-fourth the cost of Germany’s solar program. These are good technologies to compare, as the Finnish plant is a first-of-a-kind design—an Areva EPR—which is significantly safer, more reliable, and more efficient than existing nuclear power plants. Successive builds, such as the second EPR under construction in France, are expected to be cheaper. But even this extreme case isn’t unreasonably expensive when compared to another innovative carbon-free electricity source like solar PV.

In order to meet our climate goals, nuclear will need to get cheaper. A new generation of advanced nuclear designs is presently under development. They will be simpler, safer, and can be constructed modularly and shipped to the site. All of these features give them potential to be significantly cheaper. Nevertheless, these powerful and complicated machines will require federal help to develop and commercialize.

So if nuclear plants are so cheap, why aren’t we building them anymore?

Many nuclear plants are being built, they’re just not being built in the United States. China, India, and other developing countries, which need to keep up with massive growth in energy demand as they develop, are building nuclear plants as fast as they can. The high up-front costs of building nuclear plants and the uncertainty about how fast energy demand would grow in rich countries populated with high-energy consumers resulted in the United States and other developed countries turning away from nuclear. However, President Obama recently approved loan guarantees for two new reactors in Georgia and South Carolina and development funding for new reactor designs that are smaller and cheaper to build.

Doesn’t cheap natural gas make nuclear uncompetitive?

Cheap gas is making coal, nuclear, renewables, and virtually all other energy technologies less competitive. But that didn’t happen by accident. The shale gas revolution, which dramatically lowered the price of gas in the United States, was made possible thanks to three decades of public investment in better drilling technologies. This is why investing in next generation nuclear technologies right now is so important—so that we have a new generation of cheap nuclear technologies that can replace fossil energy in the coming decades.

Isn’t nuclear power too risky to qualify for insurance, so the government has to cover liability insurance through the Price-Anderson Act?

Nuclear is among many activities and circumstances for which we have established liability limits. Others include plane crashes, oil spills, product liability, and medical malpractice. The largest renewable energy project, hydroelectric dams, has limited liability too. Societies frequently cap or socialize liabilities for events when costs are difficult to predict, quantify, or bound, and where responsibility is difficult to apportion. These are highly uncertain, infrequent, and high consequence events. Even so, nuclear operators still have to buy an enormous amount of liability insurance. That risk is pooled, with current pooled insurance for the US nuclear industry amounting to $12.6 billion.19

Even if nuclear is as cheap as you say, isn’t the risk of meltdown simply too great?

Meltdowns are very serious industrial accidents. They are extremely expensive to clean up and may result in radiation exposure that can create serious health risks. But those risks need to be put in context. Compared to virtually all other forms of energy production and generation, nuclear energy is remarkably safe. The most comprehensive peer-reviewed studies done by independent scientists evaluate air pollution, worker safety, and all of the other risks in energy production and find that nuclear is safer than coal, oil, natural gas, and even solar.20,21

In the 60 years that we have been operating nuclear plants, there have been three serious accidents globally. Three Mile Island resulted in no deaths and no observable health problems. According to comprehensive reports from the United Nations and the World Health Organization, Chernobyl resulted in 27 confirmed deaths of workers and firefighters who were exposed to high doses of radiation during the accident22 and will cause an estimated 4,000 premature deaths from cancer over the lifetimes of those exposed to significant levels of radiation in the wider region. There has, however, been no observable increase in cancer deaths thus far in the affected regions.

No one was killed during the Fukushima accident due to radiation exposure, and the UN’s Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation expects that the long-term effect on the surrounding public to be extremely low,23,24 with estimates ranging from as high as 180 to as low as zero additional cancers in a country where 353,000 people died of cancer in 2010. In other words, additional cancer deaths will be so few as to be impossible to distinguish from the more than 30 percent of the population that dies of cancer.25

More than 500 people die every year from accidents in the coal, oil, and gas industries in Europe alone.26 Globally, more than 170,000 people die annually from respiratory ailments associated with burning coal.27,28 We think of solar energy as the cleanest and safest of all energy technologies, but manufacturing solar panels is actually an extremely toxic process, releasing all sorts of pollutants harmful to human health.29 Moreover, installing solar panels involves two of the riskiest occupations: roofing and electrical work. Calculations drawing on roofing mortality data and solar installation data suggest that there are approximately 2 deaths per terawatt-hour in the solar PV industry just from roofing falls.30,31 By contrast, nuclear power results in 0.05 deaths per terawatt-hour due to all causes, including meltdowns.32

Did Fukushima kill hopes of a nuclear renaissance?

China, India, the United States, and several Middle Eastern countries paused their new nuclear programs for a safety review after Fukushima, but all have gone forward with planned nuclear plant construction. Even Japan, which shut down all of its 54 nuclear power plants immediately after the earthquake, has begun to restart its reactors.

Germany did accelerate its nuclear phaseout after Fukushima, but this had been under way since 2000. Not a single country cancelled a new nuclear power plant in response to Fukushima. Several countries, like the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Jordan, are currently moving forward with plans to build their first commercial nuclear power plants.

How can we go forward with nuclear as long as we have waste that lasts up to 100,000 years?

Whereas today’s light water reactors, which were developed in the 1950s, use only a small amount of the energy in their fuel, a range of advanced reactor designs can burn waste as fuel. Many of them are at least a decade or two away from commercialization. But by 2050 and likely before, these reactors will be using what we now call waste as fuel.33

Given how much energy that human societies are going to need in the coming century, and the reality that fossil fuels are finite, we will almost certainly be reprocessing and reusing waste as fuel. Until that time, all countries will store it. While the proposed US waste facility at Yucca Mountain has been controversial, the dispute is the exception, not the rule. Most nations have moved forward with uncontroversial waste storage facilities.

Didn’t we try advanced nuclear designs and they failed?

The United States developed a number of alternative designs in the 1960s. Following the Navy’s lead, the commercial sector settled on light water reactors and there was little demand for newer and better designs. Today, it has become clear that some of the alternative designs are much more resistant to meltdowns and are modular (thus cheaper to build). Big advances in materials science, nuclear engineering, and modularization will make it feasible to commercialize these new designs soon. China and India are pushing the hardest and the fastest for them, with large teams of engineers developing thorium, metal-fueled, and salt-cooled reactors.

Is it true there are nuclear reactors that can’t melt down?

Many new reactor designs feature fuels that stop reacting when temperatures rise too high, fuel cladding that cannot melt, and coolants that can cool the reactor with no human or mechanical intervention even if there is a total loss of power. These features make meltdown and serious accidents virtually impossible.34

What about the risk that terrorists will attack a nuclear plant?

Nuclear plants are not good targets for terrorists. The plants have high security, extensive perimeters, and are built to withstand the impact of a plane crash or large explosion. Were terrorists somehow able to infiltrate a plant and escape undetected with fuel or waste—a highly improbable scenario—they would still need costly, difficult to obtain equipment and highly sophisticated technical knowledge to turn the material into a weapon. It has taken decades and billions of dollars for nations like India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran to build a single bomb. The prospect of non-state actors marshaling the technical and financial resources to do the same is highly unlikely.

Doesn’t the spread of nuclear energy increase the risk of nuclear proliferation?

There is no relationship between the global expansion of nuclear energy and nuclear proliferation.35 No nation has ever developed a weapon by first developing nuclear energy. To the degree that there has been a progression from one to the other, it has always been the opposite, with nations first developing weapons and then energy.

Some nations claimed to be developing nuclear energy capabilities when they were in fact attempting to develop a weapon,36 but these claims were transparently false to virtually all observers. By international law, nuclear energy facilities must be open to international inspections. The International Atomic Energy Agency has an extensive monitoring and inspection network, and it is not difficult to distinguish a weapons program from an energy program.

Further reading.

Jessica Lovering, Alex Trembath, and Max Luke, “Cost of German Solar Four Times Finnish Nuclear,” The Breakthrough, May 14, 2013
Ashutosh Jogalekar, “Nuclear Saved 1.8 Million Lives,” The Breakthrough, April 11, 2013


Jessica Lovering is a policy analyst in the Energy and Climate program at the Breakthrough Institute, a public policy think tank in California. She focuses on nuclear power and its role in decarbonizing the global energy supply to mitigate climate change and increase energy access in the developing world. She also researches federal policies to support development and deployment of advanced nuclear power technologies.



1. Bazilian, M., Sagar, A., Detchon, R., & Yumkella, K. (2010). “More heat and light.” Energy Policy, 38(10), 5409–5412. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.06.007

2. Lindo, JM. “Are Children Really Inferior Goods?” Journal of Human Resources (2010)


4. Harvey, Fiona. “Nuclear power is only solution to climate change, says Jeffrey Sachs.” the Guardian, May 3, 2012.

5. Ausubel, J. H. (2000). “The great reversal: nature’s chance to restore land and sea.” Technology in Society, 22(3), 289–301. doi:10.1016/S0160-791X(00)00014-2

6. Breakthrough Staff. “Amory Lovins’ Efficiency Fantasy”. The Breakthrough Institute. February 22, 2013.

7. Jenkins, Jesse. “FAQ: Rebound Effects and the ‘Energy Emergence’ Report”. The Breakthrough Institute. February 25, 2011.

8. Deutch, J., & Moniz, E. (2011). Managing large-scale penetration of intermittent renewables. 2011 MITEI Symposium Cambridge, April 20.

9. Spiegel Online Staff. “Rising Energy Prices: Germans Grow Wary of Switch to Renewables.” Spiegel Online. October 15, 2012.

10. Intelligent Europe Project. “Renewable Energy Policy Country Profiles” March 2011.

11. Spiegel Online Staff. “Risky Investments: Berlin Wants to Cap Renewables Subsidies” Spiegel Online. January 29, 2013.

12. European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity. Online database, accessed:

13. U.S. Energy Information Administration: International Energy Statistics.

14. Frondel, Michael, Christopher M. Schmidt, & Colin Vance. July 2012. “Germany’s Solar Cell Promotion: An Unfolding Disaster.” RWI | Ruhr Economic Papers.

15. Neubacher, Alexander. “Solar Subsidy Sinkhole: Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun.” Spigel Online. January 18, 2012.

16. EIA. “Table 8.4. Average Power Plant Operating Expenses for Major U.S. Investor-Owned Electric Utilities, 2001 through 2011 (Mills per Kilowatthour)” Retrieved from:


18. Tolley, G. S., & Jones, D. W. (2004). “The Economic Future Of Nuclear Power: A Study Conducted at The University of Chicago”. University of Chicago.

19. NRC. “Fact Sheet on Nuclear Insurance and Disaster Relief Funds.” June 2011,

20. Krewitt, W., Friedrich, R., & Trukenmuller, A. (2002). Comparison of health and environmental impacts from electricity generation systems. International Journal of Risk …, 3(1). Retrieved from

21. Markandya, A., & Wilkinson, P. (2007). Electricity generation and health. The Lancet, 370(9591), 979–990. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61253-7.

22. Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programmes, Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum, Expert Group “Health”, World Health Organization, 2006 (ISBN: 9789241594172).

23. Brumfiel, Geoff. “Fukushima’s doses tallied.” Nature News. May 23, 2012.

24. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). “Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation”. May 21-25, 2012.

25. Japan Cancer Society.

26. Markandya, A., & Wilkinson, P. (2007). Electricity generation and health. The Lancet, 370(9591), 979–990. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61253-7

27. World Health Organization. “Air Quality and Health Fact Sheet”. September 2011.

28. Polya, Gideon. “Pollutants from coal-based electricity generation kill 170,000 people annually” June 14, 2008. Accessed from: Also in the book: Gideon Maxwell Poyla. Body Count: Global Avoidable Mortality Since Nineteen-Fifty. (2007)

29. Krewitt, W., Friedrich, R., & Trukenmuller, A. (2002). Comparison of health and environmental impacts from electricity generation systems. International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, 3(1). Retrieved from


31. Friedman, B., Jordan, P., & Carrese, J. (2011). Solar Installation Labor Market Analysis. Contract, (December). Retrieved from

32. Conca, James. “How Deadly is Your Kilowatt?” Forbes | Energy. June 10, 2012. Retrieved from:

33. Locatelli, G., Mancini, M., & Todeschini, N. (2012). GEN IV Reactors: Where we are, where we should go. Proceedings of the ICAPP  ’12 (pp. 1104–1113). Chicago, IL.

34. Till, C. E., & Chang, Y. I. L. (2011). Plentiful Energy: The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor.

35. Mueller, J. E. (2009). Atomic Obsession. Oxford University Press.

36. Deutch, J., Kanter, A., Moniz, E., & Poneman, D. (2004). Making the world safe for nuclear energy. Survival, 46(4), 65–79. doi:10.1080/00396330412331342466.

You’re a member of ANS – So now what?!

By Gale Hauck

YMGDo you remember your first time ever attending an American Nuclear Society meeting? Are you about to attend your first one ever? Experienced that feeling of euphoria and excitement, and then when you opened up the meeting program for the first time, a sudden overwhelming feeling of, “Hey, what do I do now?”

Well, you’re not alone. Fortunately, the Young Members Group (YMG) of the American Nuclear Society has created a participation guide to help. See the YMG New Members Guide for all the details and information. Members new and old can benefit from these suggestions on how to become more involved in the society.

Participation in ANS national meetings, professional divisions, and committees play an essential role in enabling active participation in the professional nuclear community—extending networking capabilities, developing technical expertise, and augmenting one’s competence in non-technical and leadership roles.

Please take a moment to see how you can become more involved in ANS and encourage the next generation of nuclear professionals to be active participants as well. Most importantly, have fun at the ANS annual meeting. Enjoy!

New Members Guide: Opportunities for Involvement (downloadable .pdf)

Thanks to John Bess for creating the New Members Guide




Gale Hauck is chair of the ANS Young Members Group.  She is an engineering project manager at Westinghouse Electric Company, chair of the Pittsburgh Local Section of ANS, and has been an ANS member since 2004.





John D. Bess, Ph.D., is a R&D nuclear engineer at Idaho National Laboratory. He develops benchmark evaluations to support computational validation and refinement of integral nuclear data via the IRPhEP and ICSBEP, reactor analysis of various reactor systems, and support for space nuclear applications. He has been with INL for more than 5 years. Previously he worked for the Center for Space Nuclear Research and the University of Utah.

‘Pandora’s Promise’ – A new documentary film on nuclear energy

By Lenka Kollar

As a nuclear engineer by education and someone whose family has worked in the nuclear energy field, I’ve never doubted the safe and environmentally-friendly electricity that nuclear energy provides. For those of us who have been advocates our entire lives, it is often difficult, however, to see why some people are afraid of and opposed to nuclear energy.

A new documentary provides a unique view of nuclear energy advocacy. Pandora’s Promise illustrates the journey of several prominent environmentalists who have changed their views on nuclear energy. These environmentalists protested nuclear plants in the 1970s and ’80s, but now speak in favor of nuclear energy as a “green” source of electricity. Their amazing stories can help those us in the nuclear field to understand why some people are opposed to nuclear energy—and how to try to change their minds.

I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of Pandora’s Promise at the University of Chicago last month. While the event was open to the public, the audience consisted mainly of UChicago students and faculty, and scientists from Argonne National Laboratory (UChicago operates Argonne).

Academy Award-nominated director Robert Stone introduced the documentary and noted that it was “amazing to be here where nuclear power was born.” Stone has been a life-long environmentalist who was formerly anti-nuclear, like many of those appearing in the film. His hopes for the documentary are to change the way that people think about nuclear energy and even have them question why they were against it in the first place.

Other environmentalists, authors, and journalists featured in this documentary include Gwyneth Cravens, Stewart Brand, Richard Rhodes, Michael Shellenberger, and Mark Lynas.  Leonard J. Koch and Charles Till, who spent their careers at Argonne, were featured in the film as nuclear experts.  See Argonne’s IFR Plays A Role In Environmentalists’ Support For Nuclear Energy and Reactors Designed By Argonne National Laboratory – Integral Fast Reactor.

The documentary begins with vivid scenes from protests of nuclear plants. The environmentalist cast members then individually take us through their journeys of how and why they changed their minds on nuclear, along with refuting some all-too-common misconceptions. There is also a great emphasis on the potential of fast reactors and the recycling of used fuel. Dynamic visual representations help explain complex technologies.

In my opinion, the most compelling part of the documentary is illustrating how those who actually protested against nuclear power have come to now speak in favor of it. Admitting you were wrong takes some humility and can even cost you your professional career. Michael Shellenberger, co-founder of The Breakthrough Institute, had always associated nuclear power with disaster, as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl happened when he was young. Stewart Brand was influential in persuading him to reevaluate and reconsider, but it was a slow process. Shellenberger states:

 “The need for nuclear energy didn’t land on me like a blinding insight, but rather kept gnawing at me from my peripheral vision. In the end the main reason I changed my mind was that I lost confidence that solar and wind could, on their own, power the world … the things I associated with nuclear during my childhood were not so much replaced as outnumbered by the positive associations.”

The documentary screening at UChicago was followed by a discussion featuring Hussein Khalil, director of the Nuclear Engineering Division at Argonne; Robert Rosner, professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Physics at UChicago; and Robert Stone, director of Pandora’s Promise. The discussion involved questions from the moderator and audience. Most of the conversation was centered on the future of nuclear energy, including the potential of new reactor designs and grappling with the relatively high up-front cost of building new plants in the United States.

As a final and very important note, the speakers encouraged the audience to tell their friends about the movie, because public perception will ultimately drive the expansion or demise of nuclear energy in this country.

While Pandora’s Promise is geared for a public audience unfamiliar with nuclear technology, I encourage all American Nuclear Society members to see the documentary to gain an understanding of why some people are against nuclear and what perspectives and facts proved most influential in their arriving at a different view. See it at select theaters nationwide starting June 12 and on CNN later this year. Please visit for locations and more information.

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Environmentalist bios

Gwyneth Cravens is a novelist, journalist, and magazine editor who protested the opening of the Shoreham nuclear plant in Long Island. A friend of hers from Sandia National Laboratories took her to nuclear facilities and their subsequent conversations made her change her views. Author of the landmark book The Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, she is now a highly-regarded proponent of nuclear energy.

Stewart Brand founded the Whole Earth Catalog and is considered a giant in the American environmental movement. During a study on climate change he realized the potential of nuclear power as a greenhouse-gas-free source of electricity. In 2005, he became one of the first high-profile environmentalists to speak out in favor of nuclear energy as a means to combat climate change.

Richard Rhodes, whose bestselling book The Making of the Atomic Bomb won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, is a journalist and author who changed his mind after getting to know the scientists and engineers who developed nuclear technology. Rhodes gained a clearer understanding of nuclear power’s potential with respect to other sources of electricity.

Michael Shellenberger is a leading environmental activist and co-founder of The Breakthrough Institute. Stewart Brand’s book, Whole Earth Discipline, and TED talk in 2010 shocked Shellenberger by presenting the facts of radiation and ultimately changed his mind on nuclear.

Mark Lynas is a British author, journalist, and environmental activist who changed his mind in 2005 when he learned at a conference that nuclear energy was providing a sixth of world’s electricity without emitting carbon, while wind and solar provided only a tiny fraction. Lynas has written influential books and served as an expert on climate change. He is currently writing a companion book to Pandora’s Promise to be published later this year.




Lenka Kollar is a nuclear engineer at Argonne National Laboratory and an active member of ANS, serving on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Technical Group Executive Committee, Student Sections Committee, and Professional Women in ANS Committee. She is an active participant in nuclear science outreach in the Chicago area and co-founder of the I’m a Nuke campaign.

Visit Lenka at and follow her on Twitter @lenkakollar. Lenka Kollar does not officially represent Argonne and all opinions are her own.

Nuclear Matinee: Plant Vogtle Nuclear Construction Update

Last week at the ANS Nuclear Cafe Matinee we caught up with the latest milestones in nuclear construction going on at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina.  Now, let’s take a look at history in the making at Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia, where construction of two new AP1000 reactors is quickly moving onward and upward.  How in the world do you make a nuclear power plant?  Watch, and find out.

Joe Washington

From high above the site of the rebirth of nuclear energy in America, Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle project is now one-third complete!

And major milestones continue to be reached here beginning with the placement of the first nuclear island concrete on Unit 3 to create the six-foot-thick basemat. This is the foundation for the nuclear island which includes the containment and auxiliary buildings.

The placement of this basemat concrete is very significant because it precedes the setting of major components inside the nuclear island.

The basemat covers eleven hundred tons of steel rebar. It requires 6,850 yards of concrete to cover this area 254 feet long, and 161 feet across at its widest section.

This is not just any concrete. It’s nuclear grade concrete, which means that it has passed rigorous methods of qualifying and manufacturing. It’s specially designed, mixed, reinforced and constructed according to strict procedures. It requires a trained workforce with special certifications to perform this activity.

The planning for this process was so stringent that a mock site was built to simulate this concrete placement before it actually took place. Months of planning and detailed preparation were keys to the success of this significant event.

In fact, many of the construction activities here undergo a trial-run on scaled down mock sites to ensure everything is done with precision when it’s time to perform the actual task. This is one of many examples of Georgia Power’s unconditional commitment to safety in preparation for all activities here.

With the completion of the basemat for Unit 3, the cradle that will hold the bottom head of the Unit 3 containment vessel was recently placed inside the nuclear island. David Keech has the details on this landmark achievement.

David Keech

CR10 is the first major module to be set in place here at the site and is the first installed heavy lift. The safety processes and planning used to design the rigging have been going on for months. A lot of upfront work was performed to ensure everything was where it was supposed to be and the lift was performed safely. In order to move a structure like that it actually takes a rigging plan that’s above and beyond even the containment vessels. The weight had to be equalized to ensure there was no undo stress put on the individual structural members as it was being lifted, swung and set. Currently the CR10 is being anchored to the concrete foundation. Once that is complete, additional rebar and concrete will be installed to get ready to set the Unit 3 containment vessel bottom head onto CR10.

Joe Washington

Thanks David. Elsewhere on the site permanent buildings and structures are sprouting up, and we can begin to really comprehend the magnitude of this project.

There’s a great deal of activity around the cooling towers. The first x-braces, sometimes called the “legs,” are being put in place at a rate of one per day. This marks the erection of the first above-ground permanent structures here.

Other permanent buildings going up that will eventually be shared by all four Vogtle units are for maintenance, security, operations offices, and support functions. These will make up this inner area known around here as the “central campus.”

These new permanent buildings will one day replace the office complexes where Georgia Power, Westinghouse, Southern Nuclear, CB&I and other employees are currently located. And the modular assembly building, as well as other temporary structures, will all be removed once the project is complete.

Across the footprint the laydown yards are expanding as components arrive. And as you can see, many of them are absolutely enormous!

Like these 79 foot moisture separator reheaters for the unit 3 turbine building. Their function is to increase the temperature of the steam and remove water droplets from it before it reaches the turbine. These arrived by train, then were lifted onto crawlers and moved to storage where they will remain until time to be installed.

Another huge component that arrived recently is the deaerator for Unit 3. Its function is to eliminate dissolved gases, such as oxygen, from feedwater. This prevents corrosion and helps reduce plant maintenance and operating costs. The gigantic device was shipped to Savannah, Georgia from Korea, then offloaded to this oversized-load transporter and brought here. This was a major operation, and strategic deliveries like this will be repeated many times over during the course of construction. Here’s Herman Richards with details.

Herman Richards

The successful delivery of the Unit 3 deaerator at the Vogtle site was the result of a well executed detailed plan. This major undertaking was coordinated by Westinghouse and was a collaborative effort between our consortium partners, their contractors, local communities, local and state agencies, Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power.

George McDonough

Moving an object of this size across the highway really turns out to be extremely complicated. It had a push and pull support on it. You just can’t pull it and just can’t push it. So we had to make sure that we got everything coordinated, all the permits in place, and we probably ran this route ten times at least to make sure that everything was done properly. There were signs up, the public was notified – that was all coordinated through the law enforcement divisions and through the DOT. And it’s just amazing to see something that large moving down the highway. Probably the greatest part of it was to see little kids lined up beside the road waving American flags as you came through; the support from all of the people, the community. It was just overwhelming.

Joe Washington

Thanks George. Hundreds of components will continue to arrive as work progresses steadily on the nuclear islands and turbine islands for Units 3 and 4. Most significant is the recent arrival of the reactor vessel for Unit 3, traveling by ship and train from South Korea.

Right now two of the three middle rings of the Unit 3 containment vessel are being assembled.

The openings you see here, called penetrations, range in size from one-half inch to sixteen feet in diameter and allow for everything from cables and pipes to be installed, to small cranes that go inside the containment vessels during routine refueling and maintenance.

When complete, the two containment vessels will be moved to the nuclear islands for placement and welding in place. Each one will weigh 4,000 tons and measure 130 feet thick and 215 feet tall.

Chicago Bridge and Iron is fabricating the containment vessels and the cradles, as well as designing and building many other parts of this overall project. Recently, CB&I acquired the Shaw Group, which has been the construction partner here since the beginning of the project. Renita Crawford tells us more about the acquisition.

Renita Crawford

The combination of CB&I and Shaw has created one of the world’s largest engineering, procurement and construction companies focused on the global energy industry. And although our companies target their expertise toward different end markets, the skills of the employees are transferable throughout the entire combined organization. Now with approximately 50,000 employees CB&I is able to provide our clients with a wide range of products and services across the entire energy spectrum. There are a lot of exciting changes here at the site. The new company will market as CB&I using the CB&I logo, and if you look around you will see the CB&I logo is very visible on vehicles, most of our equipment and on our structures. The CB&I flag is also flying at our entrance.

Joe Washington

Thanks Renita. CB&I has built three fourths of the nuclear containment vessels currently operating in the United States.

As we move through this historic venture, paving the way for the rebirth of nuclear energy in this country, our uncompromising focus remains on safety and quality. Our customers expect and deserve a safe, reliable and clean source of energy, and it’s our mission and goal to provide it to them.

Georgia Power’s priority on safety and quality is one of many reasons our parent company, Southern Company, was selected as the 2012 Electric Utility of the Year by Electric Light and Power magazine. That’s all from here for now. We hope you’ll join us again for the next Vogtle Timeline!

Thanks to Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear for producing this excellent video update

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June 2013 edition of Nuclear Science and Engineering available

june 2013 nse 201x265 bThe June 2013 edition of the research journal Nuclear Science and Engineering is available both electronically and in hard copy for American Nuclear Society member subscribers and others.

NSE publishes articles on research and development related to peaceful utilization of nuclear energy, radiation, and  alternative energy sources. It is edited by Dr. Dan Cacuci.

The June issue contains the following peer-reviewed articles:

Multicell Correction Method for Treatment of Heterogeneities in Full-Core Calculation of CANDU-Type Reactors
Wei Shen, Dimitar Altiparmakov

Neutronic Analysis of the Oregon State TRIGA Reactor in Support of Conversion from HEU Fuel to LEU Fuel
M. R. Hartman, S. T. Keller, S. R. Reese, B. Robinson, J. Stevens, J. E. Matos, W. R. Marcum, T. S. Palmer, B. G. Woods

Multilevel NDA Methods for Solving Multigroup Eigenvalue Neutron Transport Problems
Dmitriy Y. Anistratov

Unstructured Triangular Nodal-SP3 Method Based on an Exponential Function Expansion
Yunzhao Li, Hongchun Wu, Liangzhi Cao

Stochastic Eigenvalues in Multiplying Systems
M. M. R. Williams

Predicted Water Chemistry in the Primary Coolant Circuit of a Supercritical Water Reactor
Mei-Ya Wang, Tsung-Kuang Yeh, Hong-Ming Liu, Min Lee

Quasi-Differential Neutron Scattering in Zirconium from 0.5 to 20 MeV
D. P. Barry, G. Leinweber, R. C. Block, T. J. Donovan, Y. Danon, F. J. Saglime, A. M. Daskalakis, M. J. Rapp, R. M. Bahran

Measurements of Isomeric Cross Sections for (n,) Reaction on 144Sm Isotope for Neutrons Around 14 MeV
Iskender Atilla Reyhancan, Ayse Durusoy

ANS journals are available for purchase by edition or by article. Please click here to go to the online journals page. A menu of ANS’s publications is available online by clicking here.

Farmers, City Folk, and Renewable Energy

By Meredith Angwin

viewfromVermontCity people sometimes move to a farming community and then are somewhat shocked that the beautiful fields are actually not just for looking at and painting. A farmer’s fields are a sort of factory. The fields produce stuff. They take inputs of raw materials, such as seeds, fertilizer, water, pesticides, and so forth. With these inputs, they produce food. Some farms are organic, and they use non-chemical fertilizer and more “natural” methods of pest control, but the goal is the same. A farmer’s fields are supposed to produce food. That’s the goal of farming.

There’s a fair amount of not-so-pleasant stuff that happens on a farm, even a farm producing wine or vegetables. I knew a man in California who ran a bed-and-breakfast in the wine country. His guests were sometimes seriously annoyed by people in the vineyards spraying sulfur, or workers tilling the soil between the rows…into the night hours, working with big lights. The guests’ idea of a vineyard was a set of pretty rows of plants, overlooked by a wide porch where people could sip wine. Their ideas didn’t include agricultural chemicals or tractors with floodlights. But that happens on a farm.

If the farm is raising meat, things are even more difficult for the city-dweller. Chuck Wooster is a local farmer and writer. He is also chair of my town’s selectboard. Wooster wrote an op-ed for my local paper: Death Is Always on the Farm Schedule.

Part of Wooster’s op-ed was about the controversy about slaughtering two oxen at a Vermont college. For me, the most interesting part of the article is Wooster’s thoughts about his own farm: raising pigs, chickens, and sheep for slaughter. As he writes: Visitors often wax rhapsodic about the beauty of it all…. [But sometimes] I’ll unleash my contrarian side: “What you’re seeing here is just death on a schedule.”

The purpose of a farm (vegetarian, meat-producing, winery, traditional, or organic production methods) is to produce food. The fields aren’t just “scenery.” The fields are for work and production. Or in a harsher light, they are about “death on a schedule” even if the only thing that dies is a carrot being harvested.

So what does this have to do with renewable energy?

Renewable energy, waterfalls, and me

I just recently returned from a trip to North Carolina. My husband and I did a lot of hiking in Pisgah National Forest and Great Smokey Mountain National Park. We saw many waterfalls. We saw wildflowers on the damp ground under the trees. Yeah, I took pictures and I include some in this blog post. You knew I would do that.

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Triple Falls, Dupont State Forest, North Carolina

But back to energy.

Every time we hiked past a waterfall, I quietly thanked G-d for the existence and beauty of that waterfall. Then, I thanked every local coal, nuclear, and gas-fired plant for the continued existence of that waterfall. I thanked the local power plants for producing enough power so that it is unnecessary to exploit every possible source of power. I thanked the local power plants for making it possible to let the waterfalls be waterfalls, not hydro plants.

Trillium, lady-slippers, foamflowers, and other beautiful native plants flourish on damp ground near rivers. They don’t flourish on roads and infrastructure, which is what you have if every waterfall is a dam.

Painted Trillium, Pisgah National Forest

Painted Trillium, Pisgah National Forest

“Getting” or “Taking”

People in Vermont say things like: “We don’t need nuclear or fossil! We can get all the energy we need from sun, wind, and water!” Well, we can’t actually obtain all the energy we need that way. However, in this blog post, I don’t want to talk about total amounts of energy: I want to talk about the word “get”.

We can “get” energy from sun, wind, and water? No, we can “take” that energy. We can build dams where rivers flowed free. We can make sure that the waterfalls don’t waste all that power—spending it by just sending some foam up into the air and aerating the water for fishes. We can build dams to “take” that power. We can “take” wind power by building wind turbines on the highest ridges. We don’t have to keep those ridges for trees and views and hikers and animals. We can “take” this energy from the environment, just as we “take” food from a farm.

We can turn the world into our energy farm. We can turn the wilderness into another human-driven example of “death on a schedule,” this time for energy, not for food.


I am a grandmother. I am a grandmother who was a member of the Sierra Club for quite a while. I was a member back in the day when the Sierra Club lobbied for expansion of the wilderness areas in our national parks and forests. (The first Wilderness Act was passed while I was in college.)

I was an environmentalist when we were the ones fighting the Glen Canyon dam and other big water projects. I was an environmentalist when being an environmentalist meant loving and protecting nature, especially wild areas and free-flowing rivers.

Today some environmental groups still try to protect the wilderness. However, they seem to be drowned out by the people who believe we can “get” energy from the natural world without affecting or industrializing the natural world.

On my hiking trip, I thought very little about nuclear energy or conflicts in Vermont and so forth. I truly had a vacation.

I came back from the trip somewhat changed. I am now far more willing to call myself an environmentalist. I renewed my dedication to promoting nuclear energy.

I came back dedicated to letting the wilderness be wilderness, and the rivers run free.

Raven Cliff Falls, South Carolina

Raven Cliff Falls, South Carolina


Angwin at North Carolina Arboretum, near Asheville

Angwin at North Carolina Arboretum, near Asheville

Meredith Angwin is the founder of Carnot Communications, which helps firms to communicate technical matters.  She specialized in mineral chemistry as a graduate student at the University of Chicago.  Later, she became a project manager in the geothermal group at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).  Then she moved to nuclear energy, becoming a project manager in the EPRI nuclear division.   She is an inventor on several patents. 

Angwin formerly served as a commissioner in Hartford Energy Commission, Hartford, Vt.  Angwin is a long-time member of the American Nuclear Society and coordinator of the Energy Education Project.  She is a frequent contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

ANS Conference on Nuclear Training and Education (CONTE) 2013

The 2013 Conference on Nuclear Training and Education took place on February 3–6 in Jacksonville, Florida. More than 300 participants and 26 exhibitors contributed to make this conference a success. Trainers and educators from industry and higher education covered a range of topics, from operator fundamentals to leadership strategies in the nuclear industry.

Co-chairs Jane LeClair and Patrick Berry

Co-chairs Jane LeClair and Patrick Berry

Co-chairs  Jane LeClair and Patrick Berry joined General Chair Audeen Fentiman and guest speaker Admiral (Ret.) Robert F. Willard, president and CEO of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, to open the plenary session. Numerous speakers, including ANS president-elect and Excel Services president and CEO Donald Hoffman, discussed the purpose of the CONTE 2013 conference and the unique opportunity the conference represented to bridge the gap between industry and education. CONTE 2013 featured many examples of the use of advanced simulation software, the role of leadership and mentoring in the nuclear industry, as well as the focus on quality, efficiency, and safety in the post-Fukushima nuclear era.

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CONTE 2013 Official Program

Of special note are sessions that will be offered in a Best of CONTE 2013 session under the Education, Training, and Workforce Development Division at the 2013 ANS Winter Meeting and Nuclear Technology Expo, to be held in Washington DC, November 10–14, 2013. The Best of CONTE session topics include nuclear uniform curriculum, holding the line on the SAT, leadership development, and personnel training.
CONTE is one of the primary avenues through which knowledge is shared with trainers and educators and throughout the industry. LeClair and Berry announced that the next CONTE conference will be held on February 2–5, 2015, in Jacksonville, Florida.

The 2013 CONTE Proceedings are available now at the ANS Store.
Enter “CONTESave” to get 10% off your purchase.


Nuclear Matinee: VC Summer Nuclear Construction Update

America’s first new commercial nuclear energy reactors in 30 years are under construction at the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in Fairfield County, South Carolina, and the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Burke County, Georgia.

Let’s catch up with some of the amazing transformations going on at the V.C. Summer site, where construction of two new AP1000 reactors is well underway.

First, on March 11, 2013, after weeks of long shifts and a final weekend of working around-the-clock, workers at V.C. Summer completed placing the nuclear island basemat for Unit 2.  This major milestone was the first new construction nuclear concrete poured in the U.S. in three decades.

Time-lapse of final 2 days of installation:

On April 3, 2013, another milestone: South Carolina Electric & Gas workers place the 581-ton CR10 module using the Heavy Lift Derrick. This module provides temporary support for the Unit 2 containment vessel bottom head.

Thanks to South Carolina Electric and Gas Company for producing these excellent video updates.

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Nuclear Engineering PE Exam Workshop at June ANS Meeting

Sunday, June 16, 2013
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Learning Center

For American Nuclear Society members planning to sit for the nuclear engineering Professional Engineering exam, a professional development workshop, titled “Preparing for the Nuclear Engineering Professional Engineering Exam,” will be offered on Sunday, June 16, at the ANS Annual Meeting in Atlanta.

nuclear engineers 160x120Instructors will provide details on how registering to take the exam differs from state to state, plus an overview of the examination formats. The four basic skill areas—nuclear power, nuclear fuel cycle, interaction of radiation, and nuclear criticality/kinetics/neutronics—will be discussed in detail. For each skill area, the instructor will describe the topics and the skills to be tested.

Examples of questions will be presented in depth, after which students will work other typical test questions on their own. Instructors will provide assistance, then review solutions with the group. Students will be provided with the ANS study guide, including a sample exam and a list of recommended resources for continued study.

nuclear engineer 1 168x120Join us in Atlanta for “Preparing for the Nuclear Engineering Professional Engineering Exam” at the June ANS meeting.

NOTE: If you are unable to attend the ANS meeting in June to participate in the workshop, you can order a copy of the PE study guide—as a downloadable PDF file—at the ANS Store.

Early Bird Special meeting registration and hotel reservation, with complimentary in-room internet, is available through this Friday, May 24.  Reduced rate for the PE Exam Professional Development Workshop is also available through May 24. There is no need to be registered for the 2013 ANS Annual Meeting to participate in this Professional Development Workshop.

Still not convinced? Former ANS Young Members Group Chair Jennifer Varnedoe explains the many good reasons to get your Professional Engineer license.

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