Author Archives: rmichal

D&D in Radwaste Solutions

The May/June issue of Radwaste Solutions contains feature articles on nuclear decontamination and decommissioning. The issue is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center).

The D&D feature articles are:

  • Navigating a Year of Decisions at Piketon, by Julie Doering
  • Working Toward a New Beginning: Using Innovative Methods at ETTP to Clean Up the Manhattan Project Legacy, by Wayne McKinney
  • Oak Ridge Day at Waste Management 2012, by Nancy J. Zacha
  • And Now for Something Completely Different: An Innovative Path Toward Zion Decommissioning, by Nancy J. Zacha

Other features include an analysis of the final report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future; a story about a 48-hour window to do a cleanup job near a Department of Energy remediation site in Weldon Springs, Md.; and a look at improving the future of nuclear waste management.

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Nuclear capacity factors in May Nuclear News

The May issue of Nuclear News magazine is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center).  The issue contains the following feature articles:

  • U.S. capacity factors: The oldest reactors keep pace, by E. Michael Blake
  • From its birthplace: A symposium on the future of nuclear power, by Larry Foulke
  • INPO/WANO performance indicators: U.S. fleet posted strong performance in 2011

Other news in the issue: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issues combined construction and operating licenses for two new reactors at Summer site; the Tennessee Valley Authority announces late 2015 startup for Watts Bar-2 and an additional cost of $1.5 million to $2 million; the NRC issues confirmatory action letter on San Onofre restart plans; the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board allows a challenge to Limerick’s license renewal; the NRC’s staff and the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards favor a 15-percent power uprates for Turkey Point-3 and -4; Gallup poll shows U.S. public’s support for nuclear power is near pre-Fukushima levels; the NRC cites PSEG Nuclear for security infraction at Hope Creek/Salem; South Korea hosts second Nuclear Security Summit; the NRC to establish new security regulations for the use and transport of radioactive materials; the National Nuclear Security Administration sends last shipment of high-enriched uranium to France; major milestone reached in waste treatment project at the Idaho Site; and underground waste tanks at the  Savannah River Site are being readied for closure.

Also, the low-level waste repository in Texas clears a regulatory hurdle; the Hanford Site’s Plutonium Fabrication Pilot Plant/308 Building is demolished; the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future urges the NRC to begin work on generic regulations for nuclear waste management; Cameco acquires Areva’s share of the Millennium project, receives license renewals for three facilities; Energy Resources of Australia explores potential for underground mining at Ranger 3 Deeps; Peninsula Energy commits to Lance projects in Wyoming;  E.ON and RWE drop plans to build nuclear plants in the United Kingdom; Babcock-led consortium takes over Dounreay site in Scotland; GE Hitachi and Britain’s National Nuclear Laboratory sign agreement to dispose of plutonium in the UK; Berkeley boilers shipped from England to France for recycling; With no investors, Bulgaria drops Belene nuclear plant project; and fuel loading begins at Canada’s refurbished Point Lepreau plant.

And there is much more.

Don’t go a month without your Nuclear News!

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May is near, don’t forget April NN

The month of May is knocking on the door, but don’t forget to turn to your April issue of Nuclear News magazine for the latest in outage management news. The April issue, which is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center), contains the following articles on outage management:

  • Palo Verde’s outage ALARA success: Is it repeatable and beatable? by Mark Fallon
  • A look inside Callaway’s 18th refueling outage, by John Bassford
  • Six-year Bruce A restart project moves toward conclusion, by Dick Kovan

The issue also contains a special report on the fiscal year 2013 budgets for the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Other news in the issue: the NRC issues licensees its first post-Fukushima lessons-learned orders and requests for information; vendor partnerships may lead to siting of small modular reactors at the Savannah River Site; the Nuclear Energy Institute rebuts the NRC on degraded voltage issue; Florida Power & Light Company comments on the draft environmental assessment and the finding of no significant impact for St. Lucie power uprate; the NGNP Industry Alliance backs Areva’s reactor design for a Next Generation Nuclear Plant; FENOC says that the 1978 blizzard caused cracks in Davis-Besse’s shield building; the NRC acts on contentions in Seabrook’s and Pilgrim’s license renewal proceedings; the ASLB’s second partial initial decision favors South Texas-3 and -4; another off-site loss of power at the Byron plant; and two reports express concerns about National Nuclear Security Administration’s management of national security laboratories.

International news includes: North Korea agrees to a moratorium on nuclear activities; another setback for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards efforts in Iran; the majority of Japan’s mayors and governors would accept restart of shutdown reactors; the ANS special committee releases its report on Fukushima Daiichi; Russia’s Rosenergoatom begins construction of Baltic nuclear plant; Areva aims to expand the supply chain in Czech Republic and Poland; the United Kingdom government addresses nuclear waste, decommissioning costs; Finnish government urges nuclear companies to cooperate on waste management; and a report that proposes an international concept for spent fuel storage.

And there is much more.

Don’t go a month without your Nuclear News!

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4th Annual Texas Atomic Film Festival

The 4th annual Texas Atomic Film Festival (TAFF) is being held April 26 to May 3, 2012. The festival attracts short films (3 to 5 minutes) produced by students in nuclear engineering courses at the University of Texas at Austin. A public screening of the films, which focus on nuclear and energy related topics, is being held on April 26 at 12:30 pm at the UT Student Activities Center auditorium.

The goal of TAFF is to provide an opportunity for students to take creative approaches to convey scientific information through short films. Griffin Gardner and Alex Fay are this year’s media judge and technical judge, respectively, and awards will be given in four categories:

  • Best Film
  • Technical Content
  • Editing
  • Audience Award

The Audience Award is based on the number of “likes” accumulated by each film through the Facebook social plugin available on the TAFF website for the 2012 entries.

Please visit the TAFF website, view some of the films in the 2012 Entries section, and vote for your favorites by clicking on the “like” button. You can also follow TAFF and make comments through Twitter by using the hashtag #TAFF2012.

TAFF includes 11 films this year:

  1. How Dangerous is Low Dose Radiation?
  2. An Outlook on Future Energy Solutions
  3. The Legend of HP-Man
  4. Radon—Hazards in the Home: Myths and Facts
  5. The Chicago Pile: A History
  6. The Influence of Nuclear Events on the Public Perception of Nuclear Science
  7. U.S. Electrical Power Production:  A Comparison of Energy Sources
  8. REYOLOGY
  9. Special Report: Nuclear Terrorism
  10. From War to Peace: Non-Proliferation 101
  11. Nuclear by the Numbers

Other schools are invited to participate in next year’s TAFF. If you are interested, please contact Steve Biegalski.  Special thanks to Juan Garcia and Matt Mangum, of the Faculty Innovation Center at UT, for their continued support of TAFF.

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For your reference: Nuclear News magazine

The March “reference” issue of Nuclear News magazine is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center). This issue—the 14th annual nuclear reference guide—includes:

  • Notes on the 2012 World List of Nuclear Power Plants
  • World List of Nuclear Power Plants
  • Nuclear Power Plants No Longer in Service
  • Abbreviations Used in this List
  • Power Reactors by Nation; Power Reactors by Type, Worldwide
  • Maps of Commercial Nuclear Power Plants Worldwide
  • U.S. Power Reactor License Renewal
  • New Power Reactor Projects in the United States; U.S. Power  Reactor Ownership/Operator Changes

There is also a special section titled Fukushima one year later that contains the following articles:

  • Decommissioning: The new goal of the Fukushima Daiichi road map, by Dick Kovan
  • In the United States, near-term changes and a wait for more data, by E. Michael Blake
  • IAEA mission endorses Japan’s safety assessment process, by Gamini Seneviratne

Other news in the March issue:  the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves licenses for Vogtle-3 and -4; the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future releases final report; government of Spain chooses site for spent fuel and high-level waste storage; Canadian government commits over $1 billion for Port Hope area cleanup; proposed revisions to low-level waste regulations put on hold while the NRC studies issues; Virginia governor postpones decision on uranium mining in the state; USEC’s contract with Tenex for supply of low-enriched uranium takes effect; Kazakhstan is world leader in uranium production; NRC study of power reactor accidents finds “essentially zero” fatalities; new seismic model developed for reactors in central, eastern United States; steam releases reported at Byron, San Onofre; Watts Bar-2 startup could be delayed until 2014; first fully coupled accelerator-driven system begins operation in Belgium; two bids submitted for Fennovoima project in Finland; Russia’s joint venture with Alstom receives first turbine order; Czech construction company joins Westinghouse for Temelin reactor bid; banks agree on financing for power reactor project in Belarus; the U.K.’s Oldbury plant ceases operation; report says dose limit of 20 mSv/yr is achievable in Japan; IAEA updating safeguards analytical services; and much more.

And, in case you missed it, the February and past issues of Nuclear News are available here. For example, the February issue contains the following feature stories:

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Small Modular Reactors on Military Installations?

By William J. Barattino

(This article summarizes a paper presented by the author at the ASME 2011 Small Modular Reactors Symposium)

Federal agencies have been directed by public laws and executive orders to reduce energy consumption, increase usage of clean energy sources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is working with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a long-term strategy to embrace and implement these directives for military installations that includes small modular reactors (SMRs) in the mix of clean energy technologies. This blog post provides an initial assessment of the market size of SMRs on U.S. Army installations located in the United States that includes background factors driving the shift to clean energy sources; characterization of energy consumption and costs for Army installations; maximum overnight costs for breakeven based on offsets of current base electricity costs; and reductions in GHGs with use of SMRs.

The DOD is moving toward “NetZero” energy installations serviced by utility sources that are secure, reliable, and cost effective. NetZero energy implies power systems located within the boundaries of a military installation (or possibly on federal land to service a number of agencies within a region) for providing secure and uninterruptable power supplies for mission-critical base facility energy requirements.

Contractual processes for implementing new energy reduction, monitoring, and production for servicing base energy requirements are already used extensively by the DOD. Details of contract types differ, but are similar from the context that benefits (or savings) of an alternative must exceed costs over the system lifecycle. The good news here is that implementing contracts for cost-effective, alternatives requiring public-private relationships for servicing energy consumption on military installations is routine today.

Eighty installations were considered with peak power ranging from 0.6 to 132 MWe (the majority in the 1 to 75 MWe range). Installation energy consumption and cost data are recorded in the U.S. Army Energy and Water Reporting System, an on-line data reporting system with monthly inputs provided by base engineers.

Total energy consumption cost was $855.8M during fiscal year 2010. Of this total, $573M representing two-thirds of total cost was for electricity; and $282.8M representing one-third of total cost was for industrial processes. Hawaii has the highest yearly electricity cost of nearly $49 million per year due to its extremely high cost of 20.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, whereas the average cost of electricity for the entire set of 80 installations is 7.3 cents per kilowatt-hour. While SMRs can operate in a co-generation mode, the higher relative cost of electricity led to the conclusion that the primary focus should be for electricity production from a cost efficiency perspective.

After characterizing energy usage and costs, an economic assessment was conducted of projected cost savings that an SMR must remain below for its lifecycle costs to be competitive with displaced fossil fuel. The revenue stream to offset expenses was represented by the monthly cost of electricity of $2.7 million. Costs for site preparation, manufacturing, and construction were expensed as monthly construction loan payments over years 6 through 10 with a 4 percent cost of capital. For this scenario, the manufacturing and construction (i.e., overnight) cost of $1420 per KWe was required to meet our target goal of return-on-investment>10 percent.  With a yearly cost escalation of 3-5 percent for electricity, the allowable overnight costs for breakeven increased to $3000-4000 per KWe. These preliminary analyses led to the conclusion that the DOD requires an energy business model that reconciles operational importance with cost. In other words, the principle of a “secure energy premium” will be required to balance energy-assurance-with-affordability.

Dramatic reductions in current base GHGs are realized with use of clean energy technologies. Nuclear energy for electricity results in a significant reduction of nearly 76 percent in GHGs averaged for all Army installations in the United States. When the SMRs are also used in a co-generation mode, GHGs are reduced by more than 96 percent.              

Clearly, much work remains to accurately quantify the upfront and recurring expenses for SMR systems on military bases. This analysis provided an initial assessment as to whether SMR system lifecycle costs can compete with existing installation electricity costs. There is a high potential for moving forward with alternatives that demonstrate lower system cost, enhance security, and reduce GHGs. The more challenging cases, however, will be for installations where the SMR lifecycle cost is somewhat higher than continued use of fossil fuels, but enables secure NetZero energy with significantly lower GHG emissions.

In summary, this first look at SMRs on military installations is encouraging from a number of perspectives and should lead to further evaluation of this sector. The Army Corps of Engineers has successfully operated small nuclear reactors for remote sites on a very small scale from 1954 through 1979. So, location of SMRs on bases is not a new, untried concept. It will require, however, renewed commitment and revitalization of an industrial base that the United States once had, but must re-establish.

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Barattino

William J. Barattino is the chief executive officer at Global Broadband Solutions, LLC. He has more than 30 years experience in program management and systems engineering and integration for telecommunications, space systems, lasers, imaging, facilities engineering, and applied mechanics. He is an ANS member and a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Photo Time!

The Curiosity rover (Click to enlarge/Photo: NASA)

This summer should see the first use of a nuclear-powered land vehicle—on Mars! On November 26, NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), which includes a rover named Curiosity, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The MSL/Curiosity package is by far the largest object ever intended to land on Mars and remain functional afterward. That is why Curiosity, in its operations on the Martian surface, will be powered by a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator fueled with plutonium-238. Curiosity is described as being the size of an automobile.
Read more about Curiosity and the Mars mission in the January 2012 issue of Nuclear News magazine, available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center).

Nuclear News and the new year

The January issue of Nuclear News magazine is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center). The issue contains the following stories:

  • The year ahead: This time for sure? by E. Michael Blake
  • 2012 Preview: Impact of Fukushima Daiichi on global prospects for nuclear, by Dick Kovan
  • 10-year D&D program under way at Zion plant, by Rick Michal
  • The index to 2011 Nuclear News content

There is also an in-depth report on the 2011 ANS Winter Meeting, along with side coverage of two topicals at the meeting: the first ANS Small Modular Reactor conference, and the Young Professionals Congress 2011 meeting.

Other news in the January issue:  NRC commissioner Jaczko votes to publish AP1000 certification final rule; revised emergency plan rule published in final form; study sees potential for small modular reactors to compete with gas-fired generation; is yellow inspection finding at Oconee an old design issue? Davis-Besse restart allowed while concrete studies continue; special inspection at Brunswick; NRC takes no significant action on four petitions; a status report on license renewal and power uprates; Fukushima-related motions in licensing proceedings continue to be denied; Levy site tour, limited statements scheduled; power reactor stress tests in the European Union said to be on track; European Union proposes additional €500 million to close Soviet-era reactors; fuel loading begins at Canada’s long-idled Bruce-1; Vietnam’s pact with Japan upheld, and new pact made with South Korea; three sites on short list for Poland’s first nuclear plant; United Kingdom chooses reuse as MOX to manage plutonium stock; nuclear research center opens in West Cumbria; and much more.

Past issues of Nuclear News are available here.

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Little ado about nothing

A so-called scientific article issued on December 19 by Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman purports that an estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in Japan. The article, published in the International Journal of Health Services, is available by clicking here.

Not much media attention has been paid to the article, which has been labeled as “flawed” by the Nuclear Energy Institute. NEI, on its blog site, subsequently posted columns about the article and about Mangano, who has a history as an anti-nuclear writer. In one of the posts, NEI points out that “Mike Moyer, the writer at Scientific American who so expertly debunked Joe Mangano’s ‘research’ in June, had a chance to read Mangano’s latest coauthored piece.”

Moyer wrote:

No attempt is made at providing systematic error estimates, or error estimates of any kind. No attempt is made to catalog any biases that may have crept into the analysis, though a cursory look finds biases a-plenty (the authors are anti-nuclear activists unaffiliated with any research institution). The analysis assumes that the plume arrived on U.S. shores, spread everywhere, instantly, and started killing people immediately. It assumes that the “excess” deaths after March 20 are a real signal, not just a statistical aberration, and that every one of them is due to Fukushima radiation.

Moyer went on to say:

The publication of such sloppy, agenda-driven work is a shame. Certainly radiation from Fukushima is dangerous, and could very well lead to negative health effects—even across the Pacific. The world needs to have a serious discussion about what role nuclear power should play in a power-hungry post-Fukushima world. But serious, informed, fact-based debate is a difficult enough goal to achieve without having to shout above noise like this.

Others have chimed in to debunk Mangano’s junk science. You can read about it by visiting NEI’s blog site here and scrolling down to the article titled “Dr. Robert Peter Gale’s Statement on the Mangano-Sherman Report on Fukushima Fallout.”

NEI’s blog site also has other posts on the Mangano-Sherman report, which you can find by scrolling down at the site.

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60 years ago in Idaho

Sixty years ago on December 20, scientists and engineers in Arco, Idaho,
successfully used nuclear energy from the EBR-1 to power four 200-watt light bulbs, laying the groundwork for decades of clean electricity and a strong U.S. nuclear energy industry.

The first production of usable nuclear electricity occurred in December 20, 1951, at Idaho National Laboratory when four light bulbs were lit with electricity generated from the EBR-1 reactor.

The Department of Energy’s video (and blog post at its site) looks both at the history and the future of nuclear energy in the United States.

The following is excerpted from the DOE’s blog post:

At 1:23 p.m. on December 20, 1951, Argonne National Laboratory director Walter Zinn scribbled into his log book, “Electricity flows from atomic energy. Rough estimate indicates 45 kw.” At that moment, scientists from Argonne and the National Reactor Testing Station watched four light bulbs glow, powered by the world’s first nuclear reactor to generate electricity.

Fifteen years later, in Arco, Idaho, President Johnson stood at this same site and designated the reactor a national historic landmark. He said, “We have moved far to tame for peaceful uses the mighty forces unloosed when the atom was split. And we have only just begun. What happened here merely raised the curtain on a very promising drama in our long journey for a better life.”

Please visit the DOE’s site here for the entire blog post and for a video on nuclear energy.

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“I&C” in Nuclear News

The December issue of Nuclear News magazine, which contains a special section on instrumentation and control, is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center). The special section contains the following stories:

  • Duke upgrades to digital I&C at Oconee
  • The role of I&C technology in enabling the deployment of small modular reactors, by Dwight Clayton and Richard Wood
  • Digital I&C for research reactors

Other news in the December issue: Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff sends AP1000 final rule package to the commissioners and the Office of Management and Budget; U.S. EPR’s digital I&C system gets first NRC approval; US-APWR design certification now scheduled for October 2014; NRC reschedules work on Turkey Point-6 and -7 into 2014; Entergy submits Grand Gulf license renewal application to the NRC; Comments on Fermi-3 draft EIS accepted through January 11.; Robinson-2 moves higher, Sequoyah-1 lower in NRC’s ROP action matrix; stolen sodium diuranate traced to Areva’s Trekkopje mine in Namibia; regulatory control of USEC’s Portsmouth plant being returned to the Department of Energy; NRC issues final environmental assessment for Nuclear Fuel Services’ fuel fabrication facility; NRC investigates yellowcake incident at Wyoming site; ORISE report shows shifts in career opportunities for nuclear engineering grads; University of Pittsburgh hosts Nuclear Night; Czech utility ?EZ invites vendor bids for new Temelin reactors; Taiwan’s new energy policy calls for nuclear power phaseout; commercial start of Finland’s Olkiluoto-3 may be delayed again; UAE’s Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation requests approval for site preparation work at Braka; dome of China’s first EPR, Taishan-1, is put in place; Russia applies for membership in OECD Nuclear Energy Agency; IAEA mission team issues preliminary report on Fukushima Daiichi; and much more.

Past issues of Nuclear News are available here.

Radwaste Solutions: Products, materials, services

The November/December issue of Radwaste Solutions is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center).

The issue is the “2012 Products, Materials, and Services Directory,” with almost 400 companies listed in more than 150 categories.

The issue also contains the feature article, “The Benefits of International Cooperation on Decommissioning: U.S. and U.K. Contributions to the Decommissioning of Kazakhstan’s BN-350 Reactor,” along with other industry news.

Past issues of Radwaste Solutions are available here.

“Waste Management” in Nuclear News

The November issue of Nuclear News magazine, which contains a special section on waste management, is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center). The special section contains the following stories:

  • What will we do with it all? by Ed Batts
  • Coupling repositories with fuel cycles, by Charles Forsberg
  • What does 1 million years mean to a regulator? by Edward D. Blandford, Robert J. Budnitz, and Rodney C. Ewing
  • Robert Sindelar: Extended spent fuel storage, interview by Rick Michal

The issue also contains a feature article on the inaugural ANS “live” webinar, with Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko as guest; and a report on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 55th General Conference.

Other news in the November issue: A Government Accountability Office report states that United States has limited ability to secure nuclear material overseas; the world’s largest open-air nuclear storage pool moves toward decommissioning; a site is chosen for Finland’s seventh power reactor; startup testing for Argentina’s Atucha-2 power reactor. is launched; Vietnam awards contract for power reactor feasibility study to Japan Atomic Power Company; Fluor, GE Hitachi sign memorandum of understanding for proposed power reactors in Poland; Cameco signs mining, milling deal; Areva’s Eagle Rock enrichment plant receives NRC license; the Department of Energy gives grants for nuclear-related university research and development, infrastructure.; Areva launches “learning tour” for partner and customer company employees; NRC commissioners conduct mandatory hearing for Vogtle-3 and -4; spent fuel pool instrumentation, Mark II containment venting added to NRC staff’s near-term post-Fukushima actions; NRC finds no vital quake damage at North Anna, but shutdown continues; public support for nuclear power lower than before Fukushima, but a majority still in favor; foreign control contention added to South Texas-3 and -4 hearing process; and more.

Past issues of Nuclear News are available here.

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NCEES seeks volunteers for Fundamentals of Engineering exam content review

NCEES is seeking engineering professionals to participate in a content review for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. The results of this survey will be used to update the test specifications for the exam, which is typically the first step in the process leading to professional engineering licensure.

NCEES requires a cross section of professionals—including licensed professional engineers, academics teaching engineering courses, and engineer interns—from all engineering disciplines to complete an online survey about the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary for an engineer intern to work in a manner that safeguards the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

“These studies help NCEES ensure its licensing exams remain relevant to current professional practice,” said Tim Miller, P.E. , director of exam services. “The value of this content review depends on the number of people who participate, so NCEES is eager to get input from as many engineering professionals as possible.”

The survey can be completed in 30–45 minutes. Responses must be received no later than December 5, 2011. For more information, e-mail FEcontentreview@ncees.org.

Click here for the online survey for FE exam content review.

About NCEES
NCEES is a national nonprofit organization composed of engineering and surveying licensing boards representing all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. An accredited standards developer with the American National Standards Institute, NCEES develops, scores, and administers the examinations used for engineering and surveying licensure throughout the United States. NCEES also provides services facilitating professional mobility for licensed engineers and surveyors. Its headquarters is located in Clemson, S.C.  Click here to learn more about NCEES.

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Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works!

By Suzy Hobbs Baker

I originally wrote this post as a book review, but after three or four edits, I realized that I couldn’t mask my biased opinion about the new children’s book, Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works! Simply put, I adore this book, as well as author Amelia Frahm, and have something of an emotional stake in its success. So, I decided it would be better to just share the reasons I love this book without trying to hide my enthusiasm.

Amelia Frahm has a gift for shedding light and humor on some of the most difficult issues we face as individuals and as a society. Her pathway for sharing her gift is as an educator and writer of children’s books. She also happens to have considerable professional experience in the realm of nuclear public relations.

A little over a year ago, Amelia contacted me about her latest book, which was to cover the daunting subject of nuclear power.  I was very excited at the prospect of a nuclear energy children’s book, but knew too well the challenges of taking on such a complex subject.

We spoke about our past outreach efforts and it turns out that we had a great deal of overlap—myself as an art teacher to children suffering from chronic and terminal illnesses, and Amelia as a cancer survivor turned cancer educator. In her book,  Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy! Frahm makes understanding cancer possible, even fun for kids. She tells the story from a young girl’s perspective, and delves into the upheaval of the entire family after her mother is diagnosed with cancer. Somehow she covers this difficult subject with honesty, humor, and humility, perhaps due to the autobiographical nature of the book.

Frahm

I quickly realized that if anyone could take information about nuclear physics, grid transmission, and probable risk assessment and make it fun for kids, it was Amelia. And that is exactly what she did.

I was lucky to watch the book grow over time, to see the text and images slowly come together on the pages. It was an exciting and inspiring process to witness. When she would send me drafts requesting feedback, I struggled to give her any helpful thoughts, because she was doing such a phenomenal job.

Immediately after the events at the Fukushima Diiachi power plant, Amelia and I both distraught at the misinformation flying around, agreed that she had to finish the book, to publish it as soon as possible. It was needed more than ever, and thankfully now this wonderful resource is available to the public.

Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works! has already been recognized with an Independent Publisher’s Book Award and a Mom’s Choice Award. Parents, teachers, and most importantly, kids love this book. To be perfectly honest, after reading several (actual) reviews of the book, I think the parents and teachers are getting a lot of new information from this book as well!

I want to share this new resource with the nuclear community in hopes that you will add it to your tool belt of outreach materials. The next time that someone asks for a good resource about nuclear energy for kids, you don’t have to scratch your head and think, “someone really should write a children’s book about this,” because that book is finally here.

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Hobbs Baker

Suzy Hobbs Baker is the executive director ofPopAtomic Studios, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of visual and liberal arts to enrich the discussion on nuclear energy. Hobbs Baker is an ANS member and a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.