Author Archives: pbowersox

ANS Young Professionals Congress November 2013

Mark your calendar to attend the Young Professionals Congress sessions this November in Washington, DC!

YMGAre you interested in getting to know the ANS Young Members Group (YMG) and the North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN)? 

The American Nuclear Society YMG and the NAYGN have designed a one-day program to provide a unique opportunity for young professionals in the nuclear industry. The sessions will provide actionable skills development and broad networking opportunities for all attendees. The program is an embedded topical meeting held in conjunction with the ANS Annual Winter Meeting.

When: Saturday, November 9, 2013
Where: Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D.C.
More information and registration:  2013 ANS Winter Meeting and Expo

Members of ANS and NAYGN are encouraged to attend. Attendance for the full ANS meeting is not required to attend the Young Professional Congress. Be on the lookout for the program agenda in upcoming communications.

800px-Uscapitolindaylight-220x220You are also invited to participate in the YMG-sponsored Hill Visit on Thursday, November 14. To prepare participants for this event, a Communicating Effectively with Your Representative prep session will take place on Wednesday, November 13. Be on the lookout for more details. (Also see Capitol Hill Visit 2011 and Lenka Kollar’s first-hand account.)

For more information, please contact Gale Hauck.


Carnival of Nuclear Energy 157

ferriswheel 201x268The 157th Carnival of Nuclear Energy is up at the Hiroshima Syndrome – click here to access the latest edition of this long-running weekly compilation of top posts from the internet’s nuclear blogs.

Topics this week include – A nuclear “geek” takes a “vacation”, what closing a nuke in Canada would do to carbon emissions, Japan’s new regulatory agency, fear of uncontaminated groundwater among Fukushima fishermen, a testimony overview from the Vermont legislature, and more.

Each week, a new edition of the Carnival is hosted at one of the top English-language nuclear blogs. This rotating feature of nuclear “posts of the week” represents the dedication of those who are working toward a future of energy abundance through nuclear science and technology.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, and EntrepreNuke.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support.  If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

Nuclear Matinee: Taylor Wilson’s radical plan for small nuclear fission reactors

A video was uploaded recently at TED Talks that has caused a bit of a stir around the internet. Nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson, 19 years of age, enthusiastically sets out to solve the problem that underlies all others: Energy.

In this video, Wilson announces his variation of a Molten Salt Small Modular Reactor, and explains some of the anticipated advantages of this version of “factory-produced” nuclear power—such as an ability to burn up stockpiles of nuclear weapons materials, less leftover waste, and a sealed system requiring no refueling. The system would feature inherent, passive safety due to operation at atmospheric pressure—and such a reactor could provide a compact source of enormous power that would revolutionize space exploration.

The general ideas presented are not entirely new. In fact, the first molten salt reactor was built at Oak Ridge National Laboratory decades ago, and several entities around the world are currently researching and developing molten salt reactors (for example, Transatomic Power, Flibe Energy, Terrestrial Energy). We shall see what the future holds—in the meantime, enjoy this inspiring and engaging presentation:

Elizabeth Palermo with the story at TechNewsDaily Teenager Designs Safer Nuclear Power Plants.

Thanks to TED Talks


May edition of ANS journal Fusion Science and Technology

Fusion Science and Technology 200x264The May 2013 edition of the technical journal Fusion Science and Technology (FST) is available electronically and in hard copy for American Nuclear Society member subscribers and others.

FST is the leading journal of information on fusion plasma and plasma engineering by ANS and is edited by Nermin Uckan.

The May issue contains the following peer-reviewed articles from the IAEA-NFRI Technical Meeting on Data Evaluation for Atomic, Molecular and Plasma-Material Interaction Processes in Fusion:

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.

National Nuclear Science Week: October 21-25 2013

Get to Know Nuclear

nnsw logo 200x151Mark your calendars well in advance for National Nuclear Science Week—the annual celebration of the remarkable achievements and contributions of nuclear science and technology. National Nuclear Science Week will be commemorated October 21–25, 2013.

curiosity rover 177x100From curing cancer, to powering our exploration of the Solar System, to helping maintain a thriving clean and green planet here at home, the world’s most powerful science and promising technology is well worth celebrating and exploring further. A great place to start is the official National Nuclear Science Week website, loaded with information and ideas on how to learn, teach, and celebrate nuclear science and technology. See the National Nuclear Science Week Celebration Guide for even more ideas.

Each day of the week of October 21‑25, participating organizations across the United States will promote different aspects of nuclear science:

  • Monday, October 21:  Get to know nuclear
  • Tuesday, October 22:  Careers in the nuclear fields
  • Wednesday, October 23:  Nuclear energy generation
  • Thursday, October 24:  Nuclear safety
  • Friday, October 25:  Nuclear medicine

national museum of nuclear science reactions welcome 160x100The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, in Albuquerque, N.M., is organizing the event and has made teacher resources available online here. The American Nuclear Society is helping to sponsor the week  and will be posting information and resources to help ANS local and student sections organize activities.

Enormous ALEPH detector was instrumental in discovering Higgs boson

Enormous ALEPH detector instrumental in discovering Higgs boson

Take a moment to consider how you can collaborate with teachers, Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders, and others to promote National Nuclear Science Week. Introduce the next generation of  scientists and engineers to the applications of nuclear technologies in everyday life. Contact the ANS Outreach Department for assistance and suggestions.

More information will be coming as exciting events and activities are under development. Stay up-to-date by signing up for National Nuclear Science Week email updates.

Nuclear construction at Plant Vogtle, Georgia

Construction at Plant Vogtle, Georgia


Love Feast Under The Golden Dome

By Howard Shaffer

viewfromVermontVermont’s Capitol building has a gold-painted domed roof. The media reports legislative activity somewhat derisively as taking place “under the golden dome.”

On April 25, Arnie Gundersen (of Fairewinds Associates, of Vermont), a well-known nuclear opponent, spoke before Vermont’s House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He was welcomed with open arms to testify on House bill H-139, regarding post-closure activities at nuclear power plant sites.

golden dome 268x201Legislative concerns

Nuclear opponents have continually raised concerns about the return of the Vermont Yankee plant site to a “greenfield” condition after the plant’s eventual decommissioning. The opponents assert that the original agreement to build the plant promised that the site would be returned to the condition that existed there before the plant was built. They have asserted that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s regulations don’t require enough cleanup to achieve safe radiation levels and to remove all traces of the plant, and so bill H-139 would require an additional $40-million fund toward site cleanup.

Further, the opponents don’t like the fact that used fuel is kept in fuel pools for longer than five years. Used fuel in pools is not covered by bill H-139, but the issue was discussed during the April 25 meeting. A week earlier, the committee heard testimony from Robert Alvarez, of the anti-nuclear Institute for Policy Studies organization, on the fuel-pool issue.  I testified that pool storage of fuel is safe at a session immediately before Mr. Gundersen’s.

As it now stands, used fuel in dry casks will remain on the Vermont Yankee site after its decommissioning. Dry cask storage of used fuel already exists in New England at the former Yankee, Maine Yankee, and Connecticut Yankee sites.

A red carpet welcome

The April 25 meeting began with Chairman Tony Klein stating that H-139 is not about radiological safety, but about land use and the risk to ratepayers and taxpayers. He enthusiastically welcomed Gundersen back to testify.

Gundersen stated that he was appearing at the meeting as a private citizen, after having been previously employed by the legislature on panels to review the  Vermont Yankee plant. Since his earlier appearance, he has been to Japan, written a book about the Fukushima accident that is a best-seller in Japan, and is writing a report concerning the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California. He is a leader in the anti-nuclear industry, and all he says and does must be taken in that context.



Painting the blackest possible picture

In his April 25 testimony and during his answers to questions, Gundersen made every effort to link the Vermont Yankee plant to as many problems as possible. In short, it was a skillful presentation by a leading practitioner of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD).

(The points made below are listed in the order in which Gundersen presented them, as taken from my own notes. This makes for a long and jumbled list, but to edit it into a more precise sequence, as a media report might do, would lose the sense of what was presented to the members of the legislature.)

Gundersen said:

  • Of the 104 nuclear power plants in the United States, five are broken or shut down.
  • The Kewaunee nuclear power plant (owned by Dominion Generation) in Wisconsin is closing.
  • Entergy, which owns the Vermont Yankee plant, has two nuclear fleets: six are utility plants and six are merchant plants.
  • Single-unit plants have a relatively high (per unit) operating cost.
  • Vermont Yankee is a merchant plant with no rate base to support it.  Vermont Yankee is therefore “Kewaunee east.” (My note: Vermont Yankee has a customer, the ISO-New England system.)
  • For Vermont Yankee, it’s not 20 years of operation, it’s “20 years of one-night stands.”
  • Vermont’s second oversight report on Vermont Yankee (Gundersen was one of the authors) proved that the plant’s “tritium leak” was tied to resource allocation. The oversight report was limited to Vermont Yankee’s non-safety systems.
  • The possibility of (an early) shutdown of Vermont Yankee can’t be ignored.
  • The Vermont Yankee plant will break at some point.
  • Entergy funds its maintenance for Vermont Yankee from a pot of money for all its plants. First to be funded are those things dealing with  NRC requirements, and after that the plants must fight with each other to divide up the rest of Entergy’s pot.
  • The price of electricity is down. A report by financial services company UBS says that Vermont Yankee is on the ropes. Entergy wrote down Vermont Yankee’s value by $350 million. Vermont Yankee can’t pay its way in the Entergy system.

Questions and… Gundersen’s answers?

Question: What happened to the main condenser issue?

Answer:  This recent refueling replaced no major components. (My note: Most who are knowledgeable of boiling water reactors such as Vermont Yankee would consider a recirculation pump motor a “major component.”)

Minor repairs for tube leaks were made.

The next refueling will be the “big one”—uprate hearings identified the main condenser as nearing the end of its life.

The next refueling will cost $250 million. If an order for the condenser             and fuel is not placed, then we will know that Vermont Yankee is shutting          down.

  • The fuel pool is full. Vermont Yankee will need to buy dry casks. (My note: Pool is not full now. There is room for a full-core offload plus the next refueling, at least.)
  • Vermont Yankee will have to do post-Fukushima mandated modifications. The plant has only 8 hour batteries. Another utility, Constellation Nuclear, has estimated $40 million for these modifications.

Question:  What are other places doing?

Answer: Kewaunee estimates $1 billion for decommissioning. The NRC estimates $500 million.

  • Vermont Yankee may not have enough money for decommissioning. BWRs such as Vermont Yankee cost more to decommission than pressurized water reactors. Vermont Yankee should have $1.5 billion in its decommissioning fund.
  • Gundersen’s Fairewinds Associates did a cash flow analysis in 2007. The Entergy Vermont Yankee LLC will be bankrupt in 5 to 6 years after shutdown.
  • With the LLC there is no protection for Vermont. Entergy is off the hook.
  • NRC decommissioning requirements do not include “greenfield.”

Question: What is greenfield?

Answer:  It is not defined by law. Sarah Hoffman (former Vermont Department of Public Service public advocate) says 10 mrem per year above original site dose. The NRC says 25 mrem. Maine Yankee used 10 mrem in its decommissioning.

  • My experience with decommissioning …(two stories about manufacturing facilities using nuclear material that had problems, and one story about the Department of Energy’s Hanford site).
  • Vermont Yankee had a leak into the soil around the plant. It will get under the foundations. Decommissioning chases contaminated soil from a leak until the contamination is undetectable. But all foundations must be removed to be sure you get it all.
  • $40 million may not be enough in the “Greenfield fund.”
  • The decommissioning owner must set aside $60 million (to manage the shutdown plant until decommissioning begins.) The decommissioning fund will reimburse the owners.
  • (The state) should ask for a cash flow analysis.
  • “You can be certain Entergy won’t pay.”

Question:  What will be left above ground?

Answer: Per the NRC, cooling towers and the office building can stay. But in BWRs such as Vermont Yankee, there is contamination “all over the site.” All machinery is gone. Buildings are demolished to several feet below grade.

  • The NRC said that it will go back to the original owners to get enough money for decommissioning.
  • Entergy’s Indian Point-2 and -3, in New York State, are a separate Entergy LLC.
  • In Japan the company pays all.

Question: Didn’t the NRC send a letter to Vermont Yankee saying that its decommissioning estimate was adequate?

Answer: Vermont Yankee estimated greenfield cost at $40 million in 2008. The estimate was done by TLG, an Entergy owned company.

Question:  Why is used fuel kept in the pool?

Answer:  If taken out now, Entergy pays. If taken out in decommissioning, the fund pays. If the plant operates to 2032  and goes into SAFSTOR, the used fuel must be removed from the reactor and the pool.

Chairman Klein: I visited the plant a few times and was told that the dry cask pad will only hold enough for operation to 2012.

  • (Gundersen) The offsite exposure from Vermont Yankee is pretty significant due to “sky shine.” (My note: Committee member Mike Hebert told me that he was not pleased with Gundersen’s comment. Hebert is the state representative for Vernon, the town where the plant is located. An elementary school that is nearby to Vermont Yankee has radiation detection equipment and is included in the plant’s annual environmental survey. Exposure is background.)
  • The NRC assumes 5%/year (decommissioning) fund growth and 3%/year inflation.
  • If there is money available there is no benefit to extending the date of decommissioning after shutdown.


This issue and bill H-139 will not be considered by the Vermont legislature this session, which will end soon. I expect that the bill will be considered when the legislature returns in January 2014.

As stated above, Gundersen’s performance was a skillful use of FUD.

Nonetheless, the evidence contradicts Gundersen. The NRC gave Vermont Yankee a Green (the best) “report card” for 2012. The plant just completed a refueling in less than a month, after a “breaker to breaker” run (non- stop since the last refueling). Entergy is solidly behind the plant, as evidenced by its pursuit of a federal court suit against the state of Vermont for intruding on the NRC’s domain of safety. The employees and supporters of Vermont Yankee are firmly behind the plant and its continued operation, as shown by their participation in political activities in support of the plant.




Howard Shaffer has been an ANS member for 35 years.  He has contributed to ASME and ANS Standards committees, ANS committees, national meeting staffs, and his local section, and was the 2001 ANS Congressional Fellow.  He is a current member of the ANS Public Information Committee and consults in nuclear public outreach.

He is coordinator for the Vermont Grassroots Project. Shaffer holds a BSEE from Duke University and an MSNE from MIT. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

May edition of ANS journal Nuclear Technology available

nuclear technology 200x264The May 2013 edition of the technical journal Nuclear Technology (NT) is available electronically and in hard copy for American Nuclear Society member subscribers and others.

NT is the international research journal of ANS and is edited by Nicholas Tsoulfanidis.

The May issue contains the following peer-reviewed technical papers, as well as select papers from the Symposium on Radiation Effects in Ceramic Oxide and Novel LWR Fuels:

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.

Friday Nuclear Matinee: The 5th Annual Texas Atomic Film Festival

It’s that end-of-semester time of year, and that means it’s time to showcase this year’s Texas Atomic Film Festival!  Each year engineering students at UT–Austin communicate some rather difficult and technical nuclear concepts – and blow off some steam in a time of term papers and final exams – via the wondrous medium of the silver screen.

This year’s winner in the Technical Content category is Nuclear Power: A Solution to Global Warming

Not too worried about anthropogenic climate change?  No worries, there are plenty of good reasons in the video to expand the use of nuclear power anyway.  Or, take a musical ride through nuclear history with this year’s feature voted Best Overall Film – We Didn’t Start The Reactor

See the Texas Atomic Film Festival website for The Tale of Mad Dr. Rad, Nuclear Shakedown, and even more feature films.

Dr. Steven Biegalski is a professor of nuclear engineering whose students produce TAFF and he moderates the film festival.  The Faculty Innovation Center at UT–Austin assists with the organization of the project and provides infrastructure for students to complete their projects.

The full TAFF playlist can be found on YouTube at the official Cockrell School Channel.

director bullhorn cropped

Energy and Equality

By Suzanne Baker

Last week two leaders in business and politics spoke out about an issue that I care very much about: gender equality.

Gender equality



Warren Buffet eloquently wrote about how, from a business perspective, women are an incredibly valuable yet underutilized resource. Chief executive officer of Foreign Policy David Rothkopf went a step further and quantified the problem. In the publication’s annual “Power Map” he correctly points out that “the most disturbing aspect of the list is that only 10 percent of the people on it are women.” Both men make the point that the lack of representation of women in leadership positions in the United States is bad for business and is intrinsically undemocratic. I highly recommend reading both articles.

rothkopf 120x140


Despite major strides made in the 1960s and 70s in civil rights and women’s liberation, by the 1990s progress in this arena had essentially flat lined, and even moved backwards by some measures. Many people seem to think that this lack of progress is rooted in the fact that the movement succeeded—that women have equal rights and the fight is over. However, the numbers tell a completely different story.

In the United States, women are largely absent from leadership and decision-making positions. Pay inequality is wide spread and well documented. We are decades behind other developed countries in terms of maternity leave and childcare benefits, making it systematically harder for women who choose to have children to achieve and retain high-level jobs. We should not accept the status quo as good enough—because it’s really not very good. The vast majority of Americans self report that we want gender equality in our own lives and careers—but we need to be doing more to create that reality.

Women and nuclear energy

We in the energy industry need to pay special attention to issues of inequality. Access to abundant energy and electricity have proven to be one of the most successful tools in reducing poverty, creating opportunity and increasing quality of life. Energy’s contribution to prosperity and equality are perhaps our most compelling selling point. Nuclear energy has these benefits along with being one of the safest and most environmentally responsible energy sources—all issues we know that women in particular care a great deal about.

However, we also know to whatever extent that the nuclear industry has a “bad reputation,” and the reason lies squarely in our failure to connect with women, who are the primary decision makers about energy use in most American homes. Women oppose nuclear energy at nearly double the rate of men. As a woman, it is hard for me to not see the connections between gender inequality in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, the lack of women in leadership positions, and the gender gap in support for nuclear energy. I also realize that these connections may not be as obvious to others, which is why I feel the need to properly acknowledge and address the ways that gender inequality plays into energy issues, as well as how this issue will likely unfold in the future.

The Century of Women—and a crash course

As a person who follows pop culture and sociology almost as closely as I follow energy issues, there are many indicators that the issue of gender equality is about to get really big. Tom Brokaw is literally calling this the “Century of Women.” Being ahead of the curve on this will pay dividends. I see the inherent opportunities in our changing cultural understanding of gender and I want the nuclear sector to successfully seize these opportunities—so here is a crash course in navigating the language and etiquette of social justice as it applies to gender issues:

  • Feminism means supporting equal rights for both genders. It does not mean women want to take away men’s power. It’s a “growing the pie” situation—we want you to keep your power and influence, and we want to also have power and influence. Feminism is not a dirty word.
  • Do not imply that women’s issues are somehow women’s responsibility to manage. Women’s issues are everyone’s issues and everyone’s responsibility. We are half of the population—not a special interest group.
  • If you are a man talking about gender with a woman—you should be an active listener—do not make assumptions about her experiences. If you are not sure what to say, then just ask questions and listen. It’s okay if you feel a little uncomfortable—it can be hard to hear, some of this stuff.
  • It takes a great deal of courage to speak up about experiencing gender inequality—be compassionate to that fact. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, under any circumstances say, tell or otherwise imply that a woman is not a valid witness to her own life. She is. And she should be treated like she is.
  • If a woman experiences sexist behaviors or remarks and tells you about it—do not make excuses for the person who has offended her. Do not imply that it is okay because said person has been to your house for dinner or is very talented. This is essentially asking a victim to show compassion toward her abuser and is Not. Cool. At. All. Don’t be a victim blamer.
  • Please do not use the phrase “feminist agenda.” It’s 2013. It’s called gender equality. And it is still a very real problem, not some made up conspiracy theory.
  • If you are a man speaking to a woman about gender issues, please do not start going on about reverse discrimination or how having a wife/daughter/mother makes you more knowledgeable about women’s experiences than being an actual women. Refocusing the dialogue on yourself is insensitive and inappropriate, and ultimately part of the problem.
  • If you are a man and you witness sexist behavior or language—speak up. Hold yourself, your friends, and colleagues to high standards on this issue. This change is happening, so go ahead and start participating like Buffet and Rothkopf. Few things are more powerful in creating change than social pressure.

Nuclear and social justice

On an industry level, it would be wise of our leaders to set ambitious goals for hiring and retaining more women. Monitor and correct for gender pay gaps—do it actively and loudly. Support STEM outreach for girls, provide excellent maternity and childcare benefits, and create internal mentorship programs for getting women into leadership positions. Supporting families through these types of benefits improves productivity and strengthens employee commitment to their jobs for men and women alike. We should actively align the goals of the nuclear sector with gender equality. This is the direction the world is going in and if we fail to adapt as an industry, we will also fail to be a leading energy source of the future.

rosie the riveter 120x155Thinking that women just need to toughen up to make it in this industry, or in other high impact careers, isn’t enough—we need to update our understanding of gender issues and get comfortable with the language of social justice. It may be a tough subject, and it may be uncomfortable—but it is an absolutely necessary step and it’s well past time.

A special thanks to sociologist Elizabeth Culatta, whose support and expertise were essential in researching and editing this piece.


suzy hobbs baker 120x148Suzy Baker is currently traveling through Europe and reporting on her experiences at Diary of a Nuclear Tourist – an initiative of the Nuclear Literacy Project. Keep up with her nuclear adventures and be sure to check out the new photo stream.

A Boy And His Atom – The World’s Smallest Movie

A group of IBM researchers have created the world’s smallest movie – starring 130 atoms (well, the oxygen atoms of carbon monoxide molecules).  An atomic-scale must-see!

That’s definitely a lot of fun.  But the real fun is how they did it.  A great “making of” documentary below.  Enjoy!

Science and technology reporter John Roach does a fine job on the story at NBC News.

Thanks to International Business Machines Corporation

popcorn transparent 150x132movie tickets 140x145

Speaking out of turn at the NRC meeting

By Meredith Angwin

viewfromVermontA few days ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a public meeting to discuss its yearly assessment of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The assessment results were excellent (all green).

Last year’s meeting and this year’s meeting

The plant also had excellent results last year, but the NRC meeting last year was a situation that moved close to mob rule. I wrote about it in The Politics of Intimidation at ANS Nuclear Cafe.

I didn’t know what to expect this year, and I said as much in a radio interview at WAMC. Well, let’s put it this way: I kind of expected that the meeting would be even more out of hand.

However, this year turned out to be quite different. On my own blog, I described the meeting as “mellow,” which I never would have expected. Comparatively few opponents came this year, despite organized attempts to run carpools to the meeting.

The meeting turned out to be fairly mellow. But… not completely.

An opponent tactic that did not work

At last year’s NRC meeting, a group of older women called the Shut It Down Affinity group showed up wearing costumes and masks (black clothes and white death masks) and walked single file around the room. They then took up a position behind the NRC table and refused to move. Eventually, a crowd swarmed up to support them.

This year, they tried it again—but it didn’t work. Once again, they had costumes (tied-dyed shirts) and masks (of former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko). Once again, they started by walking single file, and then stood behind the NRC and spoke and chanted while the NRC personnel tried to begin the meeting. Once again, the NRC people left the room and then came back, with the plant opponents still standing at the front. But things were a little different this time—because the plant opponents did not overwhelmingly outnumber plant supporters.

jazckoWalking c ac 340x301

I speak out and speak out of turn

The women were quoting Jaczko that “all reactors should be shut down,” and the NRC was asking them to sit down, back and forth and back and forth. Then one man in the audience shouted, “It’s about democracy!” He of course meant that the women should stay in front of the room because of “democracy.”

JaczkoStanding c c 400x288 png

But I had had enough. There was a microphone on a stand in the room, and I just went up to it and interrupted the whole thing. I said something like:

“No, it’s about diversity! It’s about whether people with different opinions and different views and different backgrounds will be allowed to talk at this meeting! Apparently not!” Then I left the microphone.

This was very bold for me. I was shaking when I sat down, and I mean physically shaking, not “feeling shaken.” I still can’t believe I did this! But… you could have heard a pin drop in the room when I finished. And shortly thereafter, the Jaczko impersonators sat down and the meeting proceeded.

This time, the stand-behind-the-NRC-and-keep-talking tactic did not work.

Why didn’t the opponent tactic work?

I would like to take credit, but it was basically because the plant SUPPORTERS were showing up and the plant OPPONENTS were NOT showing up—so the supporters weren’t completely outnumbered. I would have been terrified to do something like this at last year’s meeting, in which we were completely outnumbered by opponents. But when it is more even, plant supporters can assert themselves, even when there are opponents who are trying to wreck the meeting.

I will take credit, though, for two things:

  • I didn’t attack anyone, but I made the clear statement that diversity means having various people testify, not just listening to one set of people repeat themselves.
  • I realized that the meeting was out of hand, which meant that taking action was okay. Yes, I went up to the microphone completely out of turn. In a meeting that was well run, such a tactic would have been horrible and divisive and rude and… well, you get it. But in this case, with a continuous and repetitive argument between those who ran the meeting and those who were trying to destroy it, I knew it was okay.

At least, I hope so. I also hope I never do anything like that again. The emotional strain afterwards was overwhelming. When I did it, I was mad and had energy. Afterwards, I was a mess.

I wish you all good meetings, run by Robert’s Rules of Order. I wish you peace.




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 to hold teacher workshop at Annual Meeting in Atlanta on June 15

The American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information and the ANS Outreach Department will sponsor a full-day teacher workshop on Saturday, June 15, in Atlanta, Georgia. The workshop—Detecting Radiation in Our Radioactive World—is for science educators, including elementary, biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, physical science, life science, environmental, and general science teachers. The workshop will be held the day before the beginning of the ANS Annual Meeting in Atlanta.

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Table of Nuclides at June 2012 workshop

This full-day workshop will prepare attendees to teach the basics about radiation, how we detect radiation, and the uses of nuclear science and technology in society. Teachers who complete the workshop will receive a wealth of materials—background information, hands-on activities, and supplementary resources—as well as a free Geiger counter. Career opportunities in nuclear science and technology will be highlighted during the sessions.

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“We’re excited to be offering this overview of radiation and nuclear science to teachers,” said Chuck Vincent, ANS Outreach administrator. “Workshop participants are always eager to receive their free Geiger counters and learn about hands-on demonstrations that they can use in their classrooms.”

Scheduled presenters include:

  • Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar, assistant professor of Nuclear Engineering, Idaho State University, and research scientist at Idaho National Laboratory
  • Candace Davison, senior reactor operator and educational specialist, Breazeale Reactor, Penn State University
  • William “Art” Wharton, III, principal project engineer,
    Westinghouse Electrical Company; Monroeville, Pa.
  • Eric Loewen, past president of the American Nuclear Society, and chief engineer–General Electric, Wilmington, N.C.
  • William Wabberson, Facility Evaluation Board, SRNS,
    member of Savannah River Local Section of ANS, Aiken, S.C.

Other educators and nuclear specialists may also make presentations.

Please visit the ANS website for more information, including an informative announcement flyer and online registration form. The workshop will be limited in size to optimize interaction with presenters. Registration is on a first-come first-served basis.

There is a $89 nonrefundable registration fee—which includes continental breakfast, lunch, printed materials, and a Civil Defense Surplus analog radiation monitor—for teachers to reserve a place at the workshop. Hurry, registration fee is $135 after May 15.  The registration deadline is Tuesday May 28.

cloud chamber 268x201

Detecting alpha and beta particles with cloud chamber

Funding for the workshop is provided in part by individual and organizational contributions to ANS’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information.

The following video provides feedback from teachers and presenters who attended an ANS teacher workshop held before the 2011 ANS Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Fla.

May 2013 edition of Nuclear Science and Engineering available

may 2013 nse 201x265 bThe May 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 May issue contains the following peer-reviewed articles:

Time Interval Distributions and the Rossi Correlation Function
M. Prasad, N. Snyderman, J. Verbeke, R. Wurtz

Kernel Density Estimation Method for Monte Carlo Point Detector and Surface Crossing Flux Tallies
Kaushik Banerjee, William R. Martin

Analysis of KROTOS Steam Explosion Experiments Using the Improved Fuel-Coolant-Interaction Code TEXAS-VI
R. H. Chen, M. L. Corradini, G. H. Su, S. Z. Qiu

Simulation of Unsteady Flow Through a String of CANDU Fuel Bundles in a Pressure Tube
A. Bhattacharya, S. D. Yu

Quadratic Depletion Method for Gadolinium Isotopes in CASMO-5
Deokjung Lee, Joel Rhodes, Kord Smith

A Novel, Robust Control Methodology Application to Nuclear Reactors
Hassan M. Emara, Adel A. Hanafy, Magdy M. Zaky Abdelaal, Sayed Elaraby

Instrumentation for Sodium-Cooled Fast Breeder Reactors
Govind Kumar Mishra, M. Sakthivel, S. L. N. Swamy, K. Madhusoodanan

Monte Carlo Investigation on the Average Prompt Neutron Multiplicity as a Function of the Total Kinetic Energy and Mass of the Fragments from 252Cf Spontaneous Fission
David Regnier, Olivier Litaize, Olivier Serot

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.

Friday Nuclear Matinee: Nuclear Power – How It Works

With Unit 6 returning from a planned maintenance outage earlier this week, all 8 reactors at the world’s largest nuclear electrical generating station are now online, generating emission-free electricity from the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Ontario, Canada (“Full Power at the Bruce“).

So… who better to demonstrate “How Nuclear Power Works” than Ontario Power Generation, owners of “The Bruce” (and owner/operators of the Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations)?  Unless it would be Bruce Power, licensed developers and operators of the Bruce station.  But let’s start here with a fine feature by OPG.  Enjoy!

(also including bonus features on Hydroelectric Power and Thermal Power which are quite interesting in their own right)

Thanks to Ontario Power Generation

opg nuclear power how it works 336x201

The Mini-Mag Orion Space Propulsion System

By Stan Tackett

ANST logoIn my previous article on the history of nuclear pulse propulsion, I outlined three research programs in nuclear propulsion systems for space travel.  The first of these, Project Orion, was investigated in the 1950s and 1960s as a very serious and practical option for space travel.  Its only limiting factor was the signing of the International Test Ban Treaty in 1963 that barred the detonation of nuclear weapons in space.

Fast forward to 2003.  Andrews Space & Technology (AS&T) introduced an innovative propulsion system that could significantly shorten round trips from Earth to Mars (from two years to only six months) and enable our spaceships to reach Jupiter within a year of space travel. The system is called the Miniature Magnetic Orion (Mini-Mag Orion for short), and is an optimization of the 1958 Orion interplanetary propulsion concept.  The system has the potential to dramatically affect interplanetary space travel.

The original Orion project was headed by Ted Taylor from General Atomics, who together with the famous physicist Freeman Dyson suggested ejecting nuclear explosives behind a spacecraft in order to propel it forward. The Mini-Mag system uses a magnetic field to trigger an explosion of compressed material in the form of small pellets weighing several grams. This explosion, although significantly weaker than a nuclear explosion, creates plasma that is directed through a magnetic nozzle to generate vehicle thrust. The proposed technology enables the production of thrust at high efficiency, allowing drastic reduction of interplanetary travel time. According to calculations performed by AS&T, this type of propulsion system could produce the same thrust as the Space Shuttle Main Engine, with 50 times more efficiency.

The Mini Mag Orion concept

The Mini Mag Orion concept

Due to the magnetic compression thrust technology, spacecraft could be smaller and lighter. The spacecraft itself would only need to carry a relatively small amount of fissionable material as fuel, and would be able to reach speeds of approximately 10% of the speed of light. Dr. Dana Andrews, AS&T Chief Technology Officer and Mini-Mag Orion inventor, and Roger Lenard from the Sandia National Laboratories, have published a paper describing their research into the Mini-Mag Orion (MMO) concept in the Acta Astronautica – Journal of the International Academy of Astronautics.

In the framework of their research into the subject, the scientists conducted an experiment that tested the process of compressing a simulated fissile material in a magnetic field. From a 2003 press release issued by Andrews Space, Inc.:

The experiment validated the physical process behind the MMO concept, substantiating MMO’s potential of enabling shorter interplanetary trip time for near-term space travel,” said AS&T Principal Investigator Ralph Ewig. “We are still far from constructing an actual vehicle, but the present research will chart the course for human missions to other planets in the near future. The Mini-Mag Orion system shows significant promise, and the successful completion of our experiment demonstrated the physics and validated our approach for a near-term, in-space, advanced propulsion system,” said Dr. Andrews.

In their Acta Astronautica paper, Dr. Andrews (Andrews Space, Inc.) and Dr. Lenard (Sandia National Laboratories) describe these technologies and their own recent studies of the Mini-Mag Orion concept, reducing the size of the vehicle drastically by using magnetic compression technology.  The two scientists have studied this process using Sandia National Laboratories’ Z-Pinch Machine, the world’s largest operational pulse power device.

The Z-Pinch Machine

Sandia Lab’s Z Machine

The interstellar version of Mini-Mag Orion couples highly efficient pulsed nuclear propulsion with beamed propulsion; that is, a pellet stream of fissionable particles beamed toward the spacecraft that continuously fuels the departing ship.  A Mini-Mag Orion vehicle could attain ten percent of light speed using the combination, according to Andrews and Lenard.  Deceleration of the vehicle at its destination would be accomplished via a magnetic sail, a large superconducting ring which uses intercepted charged particles to slow the spacecraft down.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the system is that it is another demonstration that the formidable distances of interstellar space can be conquered, using technologies which we already understand and could conceivably build within this century.


tackett a 100x128Stan Tackett holds undergraduate degrees in mathematics and computer science, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in computer science with specializations in uses of artificial intelligence in the nuclear industry. His interests in nuclear engineering include nuclear propulsion for space travel, fusion, computational fluid dynamics and reactor physics. In his spare time he reads Piers Anthony as much as possible, and enjoys writing and editing crossover science fiction stories.