Category Archives: American Nuclear Society

American Nuclear Society awards, events, meetings, and organizational updates.

“Nuclear Medicine” – National Nuclear Science Week, Day 5 (October 24)

NSWlogoThe fifth and final day of Nuclear Science Week is all about Nuclear Medicine. Have you ever experienced a procedure at a hospital that employed radiation? Did you know that there are actually many different ways that nuclear technology is employed in medicine—and not just at your local hospitals?

According to the American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information:

Nuclear medicine and radiology are the whole of medical techniques that involve radiation or radioactivity to diagnose, treat and prevent disease. While radiology have been used for close to a century, “nuclear medicine” began approximately 50 years ago. Today, about one-third of all procedures used in modern hospitals involve radiation or radioactivity. These procedures are among the best and most effective life-saving tools available, they are safe and painless and don’t require anesthesia, and they are helpful to a broad span of medical specialties, from pediatrics to cardiology to psychiatry.

You can learn much more about nuclear medicine at the dedicated CNSTI page on the topic—click here to access it.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has oversight over some, but not all, medical uses of nuclear material and technology. To read about the NRC’s role and to see what it regulates, click here.

The US Food and Drug Administration regulates a portion of the medical field that uses radioactivity; click here to access the FDA’s extensive site portal covering all aspects of what it regulates. You can also find many other useful resources at this link.

(Will Davis for ANS Nuclear Cafe.)

“Nuclear Safety” – National Nuclear Science Week, Day 4 (October 23)

NSWlogoDay 4 of the annual National Nuclear Science week is all about Nuclear Safety.

The use of either fission of atoms, or decay of radioisotopes to benefit man (whether that benefit derives from the production of electricity, the diagnosis of a medical patient, the preservation of food, or many other things) brings along with it a serious responsibility to ensure the safety of not only all involved with the process but those uninvolved as well. To this end, a tremendous amount both of time and money are spent by all organizations designing, operating, or using nuclear technology as well as governmental oversight agencies (often called “regulators,” such as the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.)

The American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information has a great page covering the many, varied aspects of nuclear technology safety. Click here to access this CNSTI page.

Don’t forget—you can visit the Nuclear Science Week official website for much more information, including lesson plans, and other resources.

“Nuclear Energy” – National Nuclear Science Week, Day 3 (October 22)

NSWlogoThe third day of National Nuclear Science Week is focused upon the production of energy by nuclear means—and that means energy that can do work for man. Electric power, steam for heating businesses and homes, and mechanical power for propelling ships are perhaps the best known examples of man’s use of nuclear energy.

The classic image of a modern nuclear power station, represented by Perry Nuclear Plant, Ohio.  Photo in Will Davis collection.

The classic image of a modern nuclear power station, represented by Perry Nuclear Plant, Ohio. Photo in Will Davis collection.

Regardless of model or type, all nuclear reactors produce heat; this is how we get useful work from them. In the case of a nuclear power plant, the heat is used to boil water into steam, which then is used to run very large turbines; these generate power for thousands of businesses, homes, street lights, traffic lights—everything you see that receives electric power. And did we say “large?” A typical turbine generator at a nuclear plant can be 200 feet long; the parts inside the turbine that rotate can have a total mass of around 700 tons, and the machine overall can develop from 900 MW (megawatts) to 1400 MW. That’s well over one million horsepower!

You can read about nuclear energy in an introductory fashion at the American Nuclear Society’s CNSTI page on Reactors, a special part of the Nuclear Science Week publications.

The U.S. government has two primary offices related to nuclear energy. The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy develops and promotes nuclear power technologies, while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the responsibility of oversight of all nuclear facilities in the United States.


For more information on the development of nuclear energy:

The path to developing useful work from splitting the atom (known as “fission”) began with Enrico Fermi’s “atomic pile,” the CP-1, which was the first working nuclear reactor. Click here to read about the effort, and its 70th anniversary.

The first full-scale nuclear reactor of any sort was actually not used for power production, but rather was part of the US Manhattan Project. Still, this complicated and large machine proved out concepts that would be used in power reactors. Click here to read about this reactor, the Hanford B Reactor.

The first nuclear reactor plant intended for the production of useful power alone (propulsion and electricity) was the STR Mark I, which was the prototype or dress rehearsal for the world’s first nuclear powered vessel, USS NAUTILUS.  See some details of the prototype’s construction at this link.

Nuclear energy has been employed to power hundreds of military vessels; it's also been used to propel at least three merchant ships.  The first, NS SAVANNAH, is shown.  Illustration courtesy NS Savannah Association, Inc.

Nuclear energy has been employed to power hundreds of military vessels; it’s also been used to propel at least three merchant ships. The first, NS SAVANNAH, is shown. Illustration courtesy NS Savannah Association, Inc.

General Electric’s Vallecitos boiling water reactor was part of the effort that led to the first measurable commercial sale of nuclear generated electric power in the United States. Click here to read about this project and see a film on it.

President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms For Peace” program led directly to the development of civilian nuclear power in the United States. ANS Nuclear Cafe described that program in a three part feature, which can be found at the following links: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

(Will Davis for ANS Nuclear Cafe.)

“Careers in Nuclear” – National Nuclear Science Week, Day 2 (October 21)

NSWlogoThe second day of National Nuclear Science Week promotes the knowledge of careers in nuclear-related fields.

For most people, the idea of a career in a nuclear-related field might evoke images of the production of electricity by nuclear energy. While that field has a very large number of associated practices, there are many other nuclear-related disciplines. How many times have you passed by, or perhaps even been a patient in, a Nuclear Medicine department of a hospital? Have you ever heard of the use of nuclear technology to evaluate materials? Did you know that nuclear technology can help with the long-term preservation of food items? These are only a few areas of life wherein nuclear technologies are of great benefit to mankind.

The American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information has a great resource page on nuclear careers; click here to see it. You might be amazed by the number of points of our lives that are touched by nuclear technologies and made better by having been.

(Will Davis for ANS Nuclear Cafe.)

“Get to Know Nuclear” – National Nuclear Science Week 2014, Day One

NSWlogoMonday, October 20, marks the first official day of National Nuclear Science Week—a week long, annual coordinated educational event that promotes nuclear science and technology.

Five years ago the Smithsonian Affiliated National Museum of Nuclear Science and History founded this nationally recognized, week-long celebration. Nuclear Science Week is a unique outreach opportunity that grants teachers, students, and the general public direct access to nuclear technologies and energy experts. A basic introduction to the concept, as well as details of its execution, can be found here.

Each day of the NNSW focuses on a specific theme, and as an introduction the first day is designated as “Get to Know Nuclear.” You might be surprised how many facets of our lives are touched, and enhanced, by nuclear technologies—and you might be surprised how many people know little or nothing about these nuclear technologies. Fortunately, there are a number of great, easy-to-read official sources you can consult if you’re an educator tasked with presenting such material or even if you’re just personally curious.

The American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information has set up a special section on National Nuclear Science Week, which can be found here. There is a specially dedicated section for the first day, “Get to Know Nuclear.” ANS also has a variety of educational materials available at this link.

National Nuclear Science Week has its own dedicated stand-alone website, found here, which is presented by the National Museum of Nuclear Science. A schedule of various events throughout the week can be found here.

(Will Davis for ANS Nuclear Cafe.)

ANS Winter Meeting, November 9-13: What’s In It For You?

by Will Davis

I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you a question: Have you considered attending the American Nuclear Society’s Winter Meeting yet? Before you answer, I’d like to give you a few compelling reasons to do so from my own personal experience.

ANS_2-1205-2 attendees 200x133•  People  At ANS National meetings—at all ANS meetings, really, but especially at the two major national meetings each year—you’ll get a chance to meet and speak with people from every corner of the industry, and from a number of eras as well. People you have perhaps only e-mailed, and people who rarely use e-mail—they will be there. This is a prime opportunity to meet folks you’ve always wanted to meet. “But, what will that get me?” you say.

ANS_2-1206-student poster 200x132•  Networking  There is no end to the networking opportunities that happen around these meetings—before sessions, at lunch, and all evening afterward. Industry groups, regulatory groups, universities… they’re all present. Most folks find their schedules so packed with these meetups that by the time the actual meeting week arrives, there’s precious little other time undesignated. The number of things that can happen as a result of these networks is practically unlimited. The inspired atmosphere of the meetings makes great things happen—I’ve seen it.

•  Learning  To pick a particular topic, I can honestly say that in discussions both in person and on the internet about the Fukushima Daiichi accident, I have been consistently better equipped than even some other nuclear advocates as a direct result of having attended the ANS Winter Meeting in San Diego a couple years back. Personnel from TEPCO, other Japanese utilities, national and world regulatory bodies, universities, and laboratories around the world convened for a three-day Fukushima Daiichi sub-topical that provided an incredible level of detail and examination of the accidents. The same experience could not be had anywhere unless one went to Japan. I have considered this, and other ANS meeting topicals, to be invaluable. Again, only one possible example of what can happen for you if you attend these meetings.

Winter Meet 2013  ANS_2-1067 200x132•  Working  You can certainly make the case that your employer might well find you to be a more valuable employee after you’ve attended one of these meetings. The opportunities to grow and learn as a person and as an employee, and thus bring the benefits of those increased skills back to your employer, are never greater than at an ANS meeting. The technical papers presented, and opportunities to find out about new methods, or new programs, are a fertile field for growth. For those looking for employment in a nuclear-related field—what better environment in which to find out what’s hot, what’s available, and make that best first impression?

1117ZZ_0014CS 200x133I am sincerely hoping that folks who hadn’t thought about attending will reconsider after having read what I have to say. I think that the ANS national meeting experience is invaluable. I’ve tried over these years to relate it to everyone I can, so that the opportunities made possible by this ANS membership benefit are seized by everyone who can attend.

Yes, there will be a number of presentations honoring those who have earned high awards from ANS. There will be plenaries, and perhaps a formal dinner or two. Those have a rightful place at such meetings and I personally enjoy all of them. But I must say that I find the advantages of the additional aspects I’ve described above to be the best reasons to attend; I hope you’ll consider it.

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SavannahWillinControlRoomWill Davis is the Communications Director for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. where he also serves as historian, newsletter editor and member of the board of directors. Davis has recently been engaged by the Global America Business Institute as a consultant.  He is also a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society; an active ANS member, he is serving on the ANS Communications Committee 2013–2016. In addition, he is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.

Unintended Anti-Nuclear Consequences Lurking in the EPA Clean Power Plan

By Remy Devoe

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan has gained favor with some nuclear energy advocates. An extensive analysis of the proposal, however, reveals that current nuclear generating capacity would largely suffer under the new carbon rules. In fact, the results of an evaluation performed by my fellow graduate student Justin Knowles and myself show that 15 states are actually incentivized to shut down all of their nuclear units and replace them with natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) generation. In effect, this plan allows for increasing carbon emissions; a far cry from the stated goals of the Clean Power Plan.

We conducted our analysis after learning about the plan in July while participating in the Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation in Washington, DC. While in Washington, EPA representatives explained to us how nuclear energy was considered in the rule, but admitted that only a small portion of current nuclear energy generation would be credited in a state’s emissions rate. The EPA contacts we met with encouraged us to submit a comment of what changes we would make and analyses to support these recommendations. We have been working to understand this plan since then, and intend to submit our analyses with our comment.

Reading the entire 130-page rule is a daunting task, but the root of our concern can be found in the section titled “New and Preserved Nuclear Capacity” (page 34870 of the Federal Register), which states that current nuclear generation is given 5.8 percent credit for replacing fossil-fuel energy. While seemingly arbitrary, this figure comes from an Energy Information Administration (EIA) report that states that six reactors in the United States (equivalent to 5.8 percent of U.S. nuclear generation) are at risk of being shut down. The EPA recognizes that keeping current nuclear generation is the only way this plan will be able to achieve its goal, but erroneously attributes only 5.8 percent of the energy produced from nuclear plants to calculating a state’s emissions reduction goal.

The current rule regulates emissions through a state’s carbon intensity in lbs/MWh using an equation developed by the EPA for this specific purpose. (For example, the EPA provides a sample calculation for Ohio). As you can see, only fossil fuels, renewables, 5.8 percent of current nuclear generation, and 100 percent of nuclear presently under construction are used in this calculation. The plan then outlines a Best System of Emissions Reductions (BSER) used to calculate what carbon intensity a state can attain if they implement emissions reduction practices. This new carbon intensity is the goal that each state must meet by 2030.

Since current nuclear generation is only valued at 5.8 percent of its energy generation, the loss of one plant in a state has only a marginal effect on a state being able to achieve its goal under this standard. If this rule is intended to be a carbon regulation, then all energy sources should be valued based on their emissions and no technology should be given preference over another. Renewables, coal, natural gas, and others are given credit for 100 percent of their current capacity; nuclear energy should be no different.

UT students at the EPA Clean Power Rule hearing

(left to right): UT students Daniel Tenpenny, Gregory Meinweiser, and Remy Devoe at the EPA public hearings in Atlanta

Following these revelations, a triumvirate of three students from the University of Tennessee ANS student section attended the EPA hearing in Atlanta to share our comments on the new carbon regulations and draw attention to the subject. We were very fortunate that each of us was allowed to provide public comments, and the EPA responded by requesting detail on our analyses and an official comment on its plan. Afterwards, one of the panelists requested a conference call to clarify our points and asked for a personal copy of our analyses.

Below you can watch each of our public comments:

Daniel Tenpenny

Remy Devoe

Greg Meinweiser

To create a fully developed comment, we—with the aid of our advisor, Dr. Steven Skutnik—used the data provided by the EPA to perform our analyses. We simulated a hypothetical scenario in which all nuclear plants were shut down and their generation replaced by natural gas combined cycle units. The results of this analysis were astonishing. By crediting nuclear at only 5.8 percent of its generating capacity, 15 states were shown to have lower emissions rates under the rule as currently proposed when all nuclear generation was replaced by NGCC—a clear indication that the EPA’s method of emissions calculations is flawed. By valuing only a fraction of current nuclear generation, utilities are incentivized to shut down nuclear plants in favor of natural gas, the exact opposite of the EPA’s stated intent with this plan. Our analysis has exposed a perverse incentive for states to allow the retirement of carbon-free nuclear generation for replacement with carbon-emitting sources.

We must insist that the EPA considers the total generation from all energy sources in calculating carbon emissions intensity. If the EPA gives nuclear energy its full due, then every reactor in the nation must keep running or be replaced with other clean energy sources for a state to meet its goals, making currently operating nuclear units all the more valuable to states. We can make this happen, but only if the nuclear community rises to this urgent challenge, rallying together to push for a fairer, more effective rule that credits current nuclear generation at 100 percent of its current capacity in state-level emissions goals.

I urge each and every one of you to take a look at the Clean Power Plan and submit a comment. The comment period on the carbon rule is open until October 16, 2014, and the final rule will be implemented in June 2015.

coal and nuclear

Head ShotRemy Devoe is a graduate student in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He is currently working towards his Master’s degree in nuclear engineering and plans to pursue a PhD in the same. His research focus is in nuclear fuel cycles and used fuel management. He is currently the Vice-President of the University of Tennessee American Nuclear Society Student Chapter.

Communicating Nuclear Energy Forward

By Lenka Kollar

The Focus on Communications Workshop held on June 19 at the 2014 American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting posed the question: “What will it take to move nuclear energy forward?” Mimi Limbach of the Potomac Communications Group covered some very interesting poll data and facilitated a conversation on how to move nuclear energy forward through effective communication.

According to a recent poll by Bisconti Research, Inc., the percentage of the U.S. public in favor of nuclear energy dropped from 69 percent to 63 percent in the past year. This drop may have occurred because nuclear energy has not been a part of the national conversation. In order to address this, Limbach urges outreach efforts that target those who are undecided about nuclear energy. About 56 percent of women and 41 percent of men are in this undecided category. The polls also show that people care about reliable electricity, affordable electricity, and clean air—these are messages that resonate when reaching out to the public.

Limbach says, “It’s time to get nuclear back in the conversation,” and the following are examples of good messages to do this:

  • Investments in new nuclear plants mean good-paying jobs.
  • Investments in nuclear science mean increased U.S. competitiveness.
  • Electricity from nuclear energy powers our economy and lives.
  • When gas lines and coal piles are frozen, nuclear energy reliably and efficiently produces electricity night and day.
  • Nuclear energy is clean air energy.

In addition to making outreach message-focused, Limbach also states that communications should be kept simple and to the point. Use plain English and don’t use jargon. For example, people do not understand radiation units. Even “passive safety” can be confusing because it implies that nothing happens to a reactor after an accident—rather, explain that safety systems are powered by natural forces, and consider replacing the term with “natural safety.”

Memes and infographics have become powerful tools for spreading information (good or bad) on the Internet. When illustrating technical topics, such as radiation and nuclear energy, simple and cool-colored graphics work best. They should be engaging, fun, and easy to read. PopAtomic Studios and the Nuclear Literacy Project have great graphics for anyone to use on social media and other communication platforms, such as:

Footprint 300x393

Meme1 300x300

meme2 300x148

The new Clean Power Plan rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gives us a chance to get nuclear energy back in the conversation on the state and federal levels. Our messages should be focused on how keeping current nuclear power plants running, and building new ones, can help states meet clean energy goals. Nuclear power plants create jobs and reliable electricity while keeping our air clean. Having a robust domestic nuclear energy program also helps the United States stay at the forefront of the growing international nuclear energy industry and the international nonproliferation regime.


Lenka_Kollar_casual_small 125x125Lenka Kollar is the Owner & Editor of Nuclear Undone, a blog and consulting company focusing on educating the public about nuclear energy and nonproliferation issues. She is an active ANS member, serving as Secretary of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Technical Group and member of the Professional Women in ANS Committee. Connect with Lenka on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Accepting the Science of Biological Effects of Low Level Radiation

By Rod Adams

A group of past presidents and fellows of the American Nuclear Society has composed an important open letter to ANS on a topic that has been the subject of controversy since before I first joined the society in 1994. The subject line of that letter is “Resolving the issue of the science of biological effects of low level radiation.” The letter is currently the only item on a new web site that has been created in memory of Ted Rockwell, one of the pioneers of ANS and the namesake of its award for lifetime achievement.

LNT and “no safe dose”

Ted was a strong science supporter who argued for many years that we needed to stop accepting an assumption created in the 1950s without data as the basis for our radiation protection regulations. That assumption, which most insiders call the “LNT”—linear no-threshold dose response—says that risk from radiation is linearly proportional to dose all the way to the origin of zero risk, zero dose.

Many people who support the continued use of this assumption as the basis for regulation plug their ears and cover their eyes to the fact that those who oppose the use of nuclear energy, food irradiation, or medical treatments that take advantage of radiation’s useful properties translate our mathematically neutral term into something far more fear-inspiring: They loudly and frequently proclaim that the scientific consensus is that there is “no safe dose” of radiation.

Some people who support the use of nuclear energy and who are nuclear professionals help turn up the volume of this repeated cry:

Delvan Neville, lead author of the study and a graduate research assistant in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University, told the Statesman Journal Apr. 28, “You can’t say there is absolutely zero risk because any radiation is assumed to carry at least some small risk.”

While most scientists and engineers understand that the LNT assumption means that tiny doses have tiny risks that disappear into the noise of daily living, the people who scream “no safe dose” want their listeners to believe it means that all radiation is dangerous. They see no need to complicate the conversation with trivial matters like measurements and units (I am being ironic here).

Scientists and engineers almost immediately ask “how much” before starting to get worried; but others can be spurred into action simply by hearing that there is “radiation” or “contamination” and it is coming to get them and their children. When it comes to radiation and radiation dose rates, we nuclear professionals have not made it easy for ourselves or for the public, using a complicated set of units, and in the United States remaining stubbornly “American” by refusing to convert to the international standards.

Aside: There is no good reason for our failure to accept international radiation-related measurement units of Sieverts, Bequerel, and Grays. Laziness and “it’s always been that way” are lousy reasons. I’m going to make a new pledge right now—I will use International System of Units (SI) units exclusively and no longer use Rem, Curies, or Rad. After experiencing the communications confusion complicated by incompatible units during and after the Fukushima event, the Health Physics Society adopted a position statement specifying exclusive use of SI units for talking or writing about radiation, and perhaps ANS should adopt it as well. End Aside.

Physics or biology?

Leaving aside the propaganda value associated with the cry of “no safe dose,” an important factor that supports a high priority to the effort to resolve the biological effects of low-level radiation is the fact that the LNT uses the wrong science altogether.

The LNT assumption was created by persons who viewed the world through the lens of physics. When dealing with inanimate physical objects all the way down to the tiniest particles like neutrons, protons, mesons, and baryons, statistics and uncertainty principles work well to predict the outcome of each event. An atom that fissions or decays into a new isotope has no mechanism that works to reverse that change. A radiation response assumption that applies in physics, however, is an inadequate assumption when the target is a living organism that has inherent repair mechanisms. Biology is the right science to use here.

At the time that the LNT was accepted, decision-makers had an excuse. Molecular biology was a brand new science and there were few tools available for measuring the effects that various doses of radiation have on living organisms.

The assumption itself, however, has since inhibited a major tool used by biologists and those who study the efficacy of medical treatments: Since all radiation was assumed to be damaging and could only be used in medicine in cases where there was an existing condition that might be improved, it was considered unethical to set up well-designed randomized controlled trials to expose healthy people to carefully measured doses of radiation while having a controlled, unexposed group.

Instead, health effects studies involving humans have normally been of the less precise observational methods of case-control or cohort variety, with occupationally or accidentally exposed persons. The nature of the exposures in those studies often introduces a large measurement uncertainty, and there are complicating factors that are often difficult to address in an observational study.

Science marches on, but will LNT?

Molecular biology and its available tools have progressed dramatically since the LNT was adopted by BEIR I (Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) in 1956. It is now possible to measure effects, both short-term and long-term, and to watch the response and repair mechanisms actually at work. One of the key findings that biologists have uncovered in recent years is the fact that the number of radiation-induced DNA events at modest radiation dose rates are dwarfed, by several orders of magnitude, by essentially identical events caused by “ordinary” oxidative stress.

This area of research (and others) could lead to a far better understanding of the biological effects of low-level radiation. Unfortunately, the pace of the research effort has slowed down in the United States because the Department of Energy’s low dose research program was defunded in 2011 for unexplained reasons.

It is past time to replace the LNT assumption with a model that uses the correct scientific discipline—biology, rather than physics—to predict biological effects of low-level radiation. I’ll conclude by quoting the final paragraph of the ANS past presidents’ open letter, which I encourage all ANS members, both past and present, to read, understand, and sign:

The LNT model has been long-embedded into our thinking about radiation risk and nuclear energy to the point of near unquestioned acceptance. Because of strict adherence to this hypothesis, untold physiological damage has resulted from the Fukushima accident—a situation in which no person has received a sufficient radiation dose to cause a significant health issue—yet thousands have had their lives unnecessarily and intolerably uprooted. The proposed actions will spark controversy because it could very well dislodge long-held beliefs. But as a community of science-minded professionals, it is our responsibility to provide leadership. We ask that our Society serve in this capacity.

Additional reading

Yes Vermont Yankee (June 23, 2014)  “No Safe Dose” is Bad Science. Updated. Guest Post by Howard Shaffer

Atomic Insights (June 21, 2014) Resolving the issue of the science of biological effects of low level radiation

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Rod Adams is a nuclear advocate with extensive small nuclear plant operating experience. Adams is a former engineer officer, USS Von Steuben. He is the host and producer of The Atomic Show Podcast. Adams has been an ANS member since 2005. He writes about nuclear technology at his own blog, Atomic Insights.

What will it take to move nuclear energy forward?

By Paul Bowersox

Such was the provocative title of the Focus on Communications Workshop held at the 2014 American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 19.

Nuclear energy is not in a great place right now in the United States (although globally it is a different story). A few nuclear plants have closed recently in the United States, while a few are under construction—but there are no “new orders” coming in. A short list of other nuclear plants are at risk. Some anticipate great things from small modular reactors someday—some remain skeptical. Public support wavers around 50/50 nationally in Gallup polls. What to do? My report from the workshop follows.


After a rather interesting and timely short interchange on how cyclotron gamma irradiation could solve certain problems of secondary fermentation in wine… the workshop got down to business. An important discussion on effective communication methods and strategies for nuclear energy was led by Mimi Limbach of Potomac Communications Group, using detailed polling data. The meeting then turned to the politics and economics of nuclear energy, led by ANS Washington representative Craig Piercy.


In the United States, natural gas prices are low due to the “fracking boom,” and will remain low in the near future, making gas an attractive option for new power plants. Meanwhile, while our economy is growing very slowly, so is electricity demand. In past decades electricity demand in the United States grew multiple percent each year, occasionally even in double digits—now, it’s about 1 percent growth per year. Electricity capacity certainly needs to be replaced in coming years, but not so much added. This is in marked contrast to developing countries around the globe, where nearly all new electrical generation that is added to global supply, will be added. And it will be a lot.

The biggest opportunities for U.S. nuclear will be overseas, as all trends indicate. But at the same time, Piercy pointed out that the U.S. nuclear industry has to be strong domestically to be strong internationally.

EPA carbon rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about a month ago released a proposed rule for state-by-state requirements on lowering carbon output from power plants, and there are big differences in the levels of required carbon cuts among individual states. The one major outlier is Vermont, where the EPA proposes no carbon reduction from current levels at all. No doubt this is due to the scheduled closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The EPA must recognize that making up for all of Vermont Yankee’s essentially carbon-free electricity, with other sources of essentially carbon-free electricity, will be a tough and expensive job all by itself. What a waste, some might say.

The workshop discussion brought forward a rather remarkable point: To comply with the EPA, many U.S. states do have the option to build one big nuclear plant, retire a couple of coal plants, and “call it a day and job well done.” Will they? Regardless, more of the focus for ANS will now apparently shift to the states, and especially on convincing the states to include nuclear in their energy portfolios.

In effect this will be changing Renewable Energy Portfolios, which 29 states have, into Clean Energy Portfolios. A change of one word will mean a lot for U.S. nuclear energy. That is, it would be a change in state policies so that nuclear gets some credit for being low carbon.

An interesting discussion on industrial electricity prices in Germany ensued. Piercy noted that electricity prices have roughly doubled in Germany since 2008, when the country began its great experiment in nuclear energy phaseout, and then a more rapid phaseout after Fukushima. Will the United States travel down this de-industrializing road? Germany’s experience may serve as a very informative example—and warning.

A realistic US nuclear policy agenda

Workshop discussion concluded with what a realistic U.S. nuclear policy agenda would look like.

First, some movement on nuclear waste policy is needed, now. The current Energy Bill in Congress may actually include some funding for a pilot interim storage facility—and that would be movement.

Second, a “good for nuclear” EPA carbon rule is needed, now. Public comments are open on the EPA rule, and ANS as a national organization will definitely be weighing in on this.

Third, low dose radiation health effects—or more accurately, the lack thereof—is an overriding issue. From discussion: Is it really the case that one can add up all radiation exposure throughout a lifetime and extrapolate some health effect from that number? It’s certainly one way to regulate radiation exposure, but is the situation with radiation dose more akin to a more familiar example: Occasionally drinking a glass of wine may even be good for you—but drink bottles every day and you’ll see plenty of adverse health effects? There seems to be some shifting among the scientific community regarding biological effects of low dose radation, and research continues. Note: My impression is that until such a shift in scientific consensus is reflected in the National Academy of Sciences’ Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation reports, this debate will continue without major change in policy, and without change in very expensive regulatory requirements. At any rate, all attending the workshop agreed that fear of radiation is demonstrably completely out of proportion to actual risk, or fear of risks from, say, chemical toxins that are all around us in everyday life, and this fear is costing the world dearly. Nonetheless, without a change in the “public level of dread” of radiation, one wonders how well nuclear energy will succeed long term. (That is, until one needs a CT scan.)

A shift toward seeing nuclear energy technology trade with other countries as a requirement of effective nonproliferation policy, rather than its antithesis, is another change that needs to happen soon, and some shifting in attitudes is going on here in Congress, Piercy reported. Countries that want to use nuclear energy (and this number will continue to grow) have a wide range of potential suppliers around the globe—and not just the United States. Flexibility in agreements with other countries concerning their rights to uranium enrichment and reprocessing, even though they really have no intention of actually acting on them, is increasingly seen as a necessity if the United States is to remain relevant in nuclear. Otherwise, customers can just go somewhere else for nuclear energy technology, where such restrictions are not imposed. So, as goes U.S. engagement in nuclear trade, and for that matter strength in the U.S. domestic nuclear energy industry, so goes U.S. influence in global safety and nonproliferation.

Continued education, and research and development (and a Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing structure) on advanced reactors and fuels, remains a continuing priority today, along with the extension of the current nuclear fleet, of courseand perhaps finding new ways to facilitate private company investments in new nuclear technologies. The rest of the world is moving fast on thison fast reactors, anyway. While we are not yet at the point that a 3-D printer in the garage can build a lot of nuclear components, it is getting easier and cheaper for nuclear startups than in years past and there is great potential for innovation.


They say all politics is local. Perhaps the main thing I take away from the workshop discussion is that now more than ever, nuclear energy politics and policy, with impetus from the new EPA carbon rule, will be forged at the grassroots level of the states as well. Stay tuned.

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Paul Bowersox is on ANS staff in the Communications and Outreach Department and he manages ANS social media.

Nuclear Honors and Awards—From the 2014 ANS Annual Meeting

Thank you for your remarkable contributions to continuing progress and advancement in nuclear sciences and technologies—and congratulations to American Nuclear Society honors and awards recipients at the 2014 ANS Annual Meeting.

Photos and citations below.

ANS Fellow

Rizwan Uddin

For his seminal contributions to advancing our understanding of density wave oscillations, nuclear-coupled density wave oscillations, and boiling water reactor stability. For his significant contributions to advance coarse mesh nodal methods and relaxing the limitations on coarse mesh methods to make them applicable to a much larger class of engineering problems. Presented by ANS President Donald Hoffman (right).

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Henry DeWolf Smyth Nuclear Statesman Award

Luis E. Echavarri

For outstanding lifetime statesmanship and leadership in the global nuclear arena, including directing OECD/NEA activities, and promoting the global development of safe and economic commercial nuclear power. Presented by Marvin S. Fertel (left), ANS Presidential Citation recipient, President and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

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Arthur Holly Compton Award in Education

Michael Podowski

For his exceptional dedication to the education of nuclear engineers, and for his pioneering initiative to establish a degree program for Navy personnel that has been critical to the future of nuclear engineering education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and beyond. Presented by ANS Honors and Awards Committee Chair Steven J. Zinkle (right).

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Special Award

Mitchell T. Farmer

For major internationally recognized contributions to the understanding and modeling of severe accident phenomena in LWR plants, and for technical assistance to Japan following the Fukushima accident.

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Landis Young Member Engineering Achievement Award

Elia Merzari

In recognition of Dr. Merzari’s pacesetting contributions to simulation of complex turbulent flows and multi-scale/multi-physics simulations of nuclear reactor designs.

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Don Miller Award

Hidekazu Yoshikawa and Douglas M. Chapin

In recognition of outstanding accomplishments in the fields of Instrumentation, Control, and Human-Machine Interface Technologies. Received by Joseph Naser on behalf of Dr. Yoshikawa and Dr. Chapin.

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Mishima Award

Tatsuo Shikama

For his sustained and impactful contributions to the field of irradiation materials science and his leadership and guidance of the next generation of researchers.

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W. Bennett Lewis Award

Marcel Boiteux

In recognition of a lifetime of pioneering contributions to sustainable energy, in particular his leadership role in building a large fleet of nuclear power plants, enhancing energy independence and replacing the use of carbon intensive fuels, with reliable, economical, and clean nuclear energy.



Walter H. Zinn Award

Kyle H. Turner

In recognition of a lifetime of advancing the United States’ nuclear industry including establishing a predictable regulatory approval path for new reactor deployment and establishing a predictable regulatory approval path for site permits and combined licenses under Part 52.  To be presented at a future ANS Operations and Power Division event.


Lifetime Achievement in Fuel Cycle and Waste Management

James C. Bresee

In recognition of major lifetime contributions that significantly advanced the scientific, engineering, societal, and regulatory aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear waste management mission.

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Samuel Glasstone Award

For outstanding achievement by an ANS Student Section.

Finalists: Missouri Institute of Science and Technology; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; University of Florida; and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Winner to be selected and announced during ANS Annual Meeting.



Communications Sessions start June 16 at 2014 ANS Annual Meeting

By Mimi Limbach

One of the many highlights at American Nuclear Society national meetings is the opportunity to hear terrific communicators sharing their insights and best practices, along with lively and informative panel discussions that follow. The June 2014 ANS Annual Meeting offers three of these popular sessions—if you will be in Reno, Nev., be sure to schedule them on your meeting calendar.

Communicating with Communities: Panel discussion with Chip Cameron, John Kotek, and Nicole Stricker. Monday, June 16, 1 p.m. in Carson 1

Both community and policy-maker support are critical for successfully siting and operating nuclear facilities. In back-to-back sessions, panelists will explore the strategies and tactics that work, along with those that don’t, in building support for nuclear facilities and operations. They also will discuss the specific challenges they face as well as the actions they are taking to reach out to and educate policy makers on the benefits of nuclear energy facilities.

The panelists: Chip Cameron, former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission assistant general counsel and an expert on outreach, conflict resolution and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),  is going to kick off our discussion with a brief presentation that will set the table for both sessions. His background and his work as a public meeting facilitator provide him with a unique perspective on the interplay between legal constructs and “real” communication. He’s going to talk about how communication with communities and policy makers has been affected over the past 40 years by the public participation requirements in NEPA law. He will describe how legal requirements can offer formal and often underutilized tools for communication.

From there, he’ll be joined by Nicole Stricker and John Kotek, who will have some lively experiences from Idaho National Lab (INL) and the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, respectively, to bring the discussion to life. Nicole is the senior science writer and nuclear communications lead at INL with substantial experience in communicating with communities, social media, media outreach, and science communications. Before joining INL, Nicole was a journalist covering science in Idaho. John is a partner in Gallatin Group. He served as staff director of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future that recommended a path forward  for nuclear waste disposition. Previously he was deputy manager for the US Department of Energy’s Idaho Operations Office. He also served as a Congressional Fellow in Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s office (D., New Mexico).

Building Policy-Maker Support for Nuclear Facilities: Panel discussion adds Harsh Desai and Craig Piercy. Monday, June 16, 2:30 p.m. in Carson 1

Our community-communications focus will set the context for more political examples after the break at 2:30 pm. The discussion will focus on what it takes to build policy-maker support for nuclear facilities, how communities play a critical role, and what formal and informal communication looks like from both points of view. AAAS/ANS Congressional Fellow Harsh Desai and ANS Washington Representative Craig Piercy will provide their perspectives on the politics of siting and what it takes to educate policy makers so it can be successful. Harsh Desai is working in Sen. Diane Feinstein’s office (D., Cal.) during his fellowship, where he focuses on science, nuclear, and energy policy. Craig Piercy develops and carries out ANS’s federal outreach on Capitol Hill and with the Executive Branch on behalf of the 11,000 men and women of ANS. Craig heads the Washington Office of Bose Public Affairs.

Focus on Communications Workshop: What Will It Take to Move Nuclear Energy Forward? Sponsored by the ANS Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information, Wednesday, June 18, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. in Rooms N-3 and N-4

Our nuclear community has plenty of issues to address. Some nuclear plants are closing or under threat either because of economics, equipment, implacable opposition from activists, or a combination of these factors. Nuclear science budgets are smaller and smaller due to federal budget cuts. Sanctions or pending sanctions on Russia are negatively affecting joint research projects between U.S. universities and Russian researchers, placing some of them in stasis. And export restrictions (and in some cases, bureaucracy) may compromise the ability of U.S. companies to compete and win in international tender offers, and compromises our seat at the table in international nonproliferation regimes. This workshop will address the role that ANS members can play in addressing these issues, including messaging and outreach approaches that will be compelling and effective. Join ANS Washington Representative Craig Piercy and ANS Distinguished Service Award recipient and Potomac Communications Group Managing Partner Mimi Limbach for a lively discussion and a focus on the actions that each of us can take. Beer, wine, and snacks will be served, courtesy of the ANS Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information.

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Florida ANS Students Steal Show at Turkey Point Siting Hearing

Florida governor Rick Scott and his cabinet met on May 13 for the final state-level site selection determination for new AP1000 nuclear reactors planned to be built at the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station in southern Florida. The hearing was well-attended by opponents and supporters.

In attendance were the Energy Information Center “student army”—including nine nuclear engineering students from the University of Florida who spoke in favor of the plant. They are all members of the American Nuclear Society’s Student Section at the university. The students are Madison Martin, Jitesh Kuntawala, Patrick Moo, Joseph Cashwell, Logan Blohm, Lucianne Behar, Hernan Godoy, Jonathan Rosales, and Nicolas Silva.

“They were very effective,” said Jerry Paul, director of the Energy Information Center. “In fact, they somewhat stole the show. I counted six times when another speaker (including the governor) made reference to them.”

The students stood as a group and provided testimony in support of the new reactors. Most moving to the audience were the following comments:

“Our generation is the future of clean energy and the future of our economy. New nuclear energy supply is essential to both… nuclear energy means jobs… This is attractive to students who graduate college and look for jobs that can help them get a start (especially those of us who have student loans to pay off!). These nuclear plants represent the future employment of engineers like us.”

UF students with Attorney General Pam Bondi, Governor Rick Scott, Commissioner Adam Putnam, CFP Jeff Atwater

UF students with Attorney General Pam Bondi, Governor Rick Scott, Commissioner Adam Putnam, and CFO Jeff Atwater

The governor and cabinet ultimately voted unanimously to approve the site selection for the reactors.

Congratulations to these fine students on a job well done.

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UF students with Jerry Paul

World Nuclear News has more on the story today: Turkey Point expansion gets Florida state approval.


jerry paul 2 100x124Jerry Paul is a nuclear engineer, attorney, and former member of the Florida legislature. He was principal deputy administrator of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration and was the Distinguished Fellow for Energy Policy at the University of Tennessee Howard Baker Center for Public Policy. He is director of the Energy Information Center.

ANS Supports US-Vietnam Nuclear Export Agreement

Expanding U.S. nuclear exports a key component of effective nonproliferation policy

The American Nuclear Society applauds the White House for finalizing an agreement with the Republic of Vietnam that would allow for the peaceful export of nuclear energy technology.

The deal, which was signed on May 6, 2014, allows for U.S. nuclear firms to play a role in developing Vietnam’s national plan of moving toward nuclear generating capacity by 2030. The agreement submitted today by President Obama must sit in Congress for 90 legislative days before it goes into effect.

ANS President Don Hoffman


“Expanding U.S. nuclear exports is a key component to an effective nonproliferation policy,” said ANS President Donald R. Hoffman. “This will allow for the U.S. to positively influence the safety and security aspects of our partner nations’ nuclear energy programs.”

ANS believes that the United States should remain committed to facilitating an expansion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy through the export of U.S. nuclear goods and services. Exports of nuclear technology provide the United States with important nonproliferation advantages, including consent rights on U.S.-manufactured nuclear fuel, and the ability to control the transfer of nuclear technology.

The United States possesses a strong nuclear technology portfolio and supply chain. ANS believes that the federal government should be an active partner in helping U.S. industry maintain and increase its market share of nuclear goods and services.

Da Lat nuclear training reactor

Da Lat nuclear training reactor

Social Exchange Theory and ANS YMG Awards: How Nominating Your Colleagues Leads to Fun and Profit

By Katy Huff

Social exchange theory is a foundational notion in social psychology that posits a rational basis for human relationships. It arose in 1958 based on theoretical foundations in economics, sociology, and psychology. Fundamentally, social exchange theory relies on three propositions [1]:

  • The Success Proposition: When one finds they are rewarded for their actions, they tend to repeat the action.
  • The Stimulus Proposition: The more often a particular stimulus has resulted in a reward in the past, the more likely it is that a person will respond to it.
  • The Deprivation–Satiation Proposition: The more often in the recent past a person has received a particular reward, the less valuable any further unit of that reward becomes.

It seems to me that all of these propositions indicate that a truly rational American Nuclear Society member would nominate a new member for the Young Member Excellence Award or nominate a supporter of young members for the Young Members Advancement Award (before the deadline, July 1).

To wit:

The Success Proposition tells us that ANS award nominations have a powerful return on investment for the nuclear community. When an individual in the nuclear community has made an important technical accomplishment, advanced their field, or performed distinguished service, an award honoring their work will encourage them to repeat it. So, if we reward our most productive colleagues with award nominations, those colleagues are more likely to reward our community with continued productivity. To demonstrate that they value technical and community progress, a rationally acting ANS member might nominate a deserving candidate for an ANS award.

The Stimulus Proposition tells us that nominating people for awards might be addictive. A person who nominates a deserving associate will be rewarded by the associate’s increased productivity. As a result of nominating a colleague for a deserved honor, the nominator may feel that they have had a positive influence on ANS and may even experience an elevation of their own professional status. According to the Stimulus Proposition, when their division seeks nominations for annual awards such as the Young Member Excellence Award or the Young Members Advancement Award, that person may even feel compelled to submit another generous nomination (before the deadline, July 1).

Finally, the Deprivation-Satiation Proposition tells us that not all nominations are equal. Specifically, it suggests that award nominations of early career or young members might have the greatest return on investment. The Deprivation-Satiation Proposition suggests that when the ANS community nominates a same-renowned-someone for yet-another-award, the return on investment seen by the community might be diminished by the 70+ previous awards given to that individual. The same-renowned-someone may be exceptionally deserving, but won’t be as susceptible to the Success Proposition as someone who is being nominated for the very first time. So, a rationally acting ANS member would certainly consider populating their nominations with members of the ANS Young Members Group. The Young Member Excellence Award would be an excellent award for a young member, while the Young Members Advancement Award would be a great award for the tireless nominator of young people (nominations due July 1).

[1] Cook, Karen S., Coye Cheshire, Eric R.W. Rice, and Sandra Nakagawa, Social Exchange Theory (2013).

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katyhuff 100x136Katy Huff is a Nuclear Science Security Consortium postdoctoral scholar at the University of CaliforniaBerkeley, where she conducts computational analyses of advanced nuclear technologies and systems.  She holds a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where her research emphasized computational fuel cycle systems analysis and repository technology simulation.