Category Archives: Center for Nuclear Science & Technology Information

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


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 seen at the following links:  Part 1Part 2Part 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 for 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.)

Teacher Workshop at ANS Annual Meeting in Reno—Saturday, June 14

The American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information will sponsor a full-day teacher workshop on Saturday, June 14, at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. The workshop—Detecting Radiation in Our Radioactive World—is for science educators, including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, physical science, life science, environmental, general science, and elementary teachers. The workshop will be held the day before the beginning of the ANS Annual Meeting in Reno.

“For this workshop we’re excited to partner with the Joint Institute of Nuclear Astrophysics,” said Tracy Coyle, ANS Outreach manager. “JINA will demonstrate their Marble Nuclei Project, and teachers will take home a marble nuclei along with a free Geiger counter. We have also received a generous donation of home radon kits from Landauer, Inc. to give away to our attendees.”

ANS members who would like to volunteer at the workshop, and/or observe the workshop to learn how to replicate teacher workshops in their local area, should contact Coyle.

This 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. Career opportunities in nuclear science and technology will be highlighted during the sessions.

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Scheduled presenters include:

  • Dr. Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar, assistant professor of Nuclear Engineering, Idaho State University, and research scientist at Idaho National Laboratory
  • Dr. Eric P. Loewen, Past President of the American Nuclear Society and chief engineer, General Electric, Wilmington, NC
  • Dr. Micha Kilburn, JINA Outreach coordinator, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN

Other educators and nuclear specialists may also make presentations.

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

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Detecting alpha and beta particles with cloud chamber

There is a $95 nonrefundable early bird registration fee for teachers to reserve a place at the workshop, which includes continental breakfast, lunch, and workshop materials. Hurry, registration fee becomes $149 after April 18. The registration deadline is Monday, May 26.

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

TN-Chattanooga participants recognized at ANS Winter Conference

In September 2012, American Nuclear Society members in the Tennessee Valley area turned out in record numbers to support an ANS presence at a public hearing in order to inform the public and media about the nonproliferation benefits of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel program. These remarkable volunteer efforts were recognized in several venues at the 2012 ANS Winter Conference & Technology Expo, including the ANS Public Information (PI) Committee meeting, the ANS Board of Directors, and the ANS PI Workshop hosted by Mimi Limbach of Potomac Communications and Craig Piercy, ANS rep in Washington, D.C. The decision was made at the PI Workshop to designate the official name of the Chattanooga hearing as the “Chattanooga Caper.”

The ANS Nuclear Cafe caught up with four of the Chattanooga Caper participants—Steve Skutnik, Chris Perfetti, Lane Carasik, and Howard Hall—in the ANS Media Room and arranged an impromptu photo session.

Steve Skutnik (UT-K), Chris Perfetti (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Lane Carasik (UT-K), and Howard Hall (UT-K). (L to R)

Cheers to these four members for their efforts, and we hope to see additional Chattanooga Caper reps in Atlanta for the 2013 ANS Annual Conference (June 16-20, 2013). Remember to stop by the media room to introduce yourself to the always friendly and helpful ANS staff reps.

ANS Nuclear Cafe Matinee: Large Hadron Rap!

The ANS Nuclear Cafe Matinee presents loyal readers—and loyal viewers—with an all-time great video: “Large Hadron Rap”!

The video went “viral” in 2008 at about the time of the startup of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and has more than 7.5 million views to date on YouTube, and multiples more worldwide in classrooms, in translation, etc. You will definitely want to add yours to that number.

And now get this: Science communicator Katherine McAlpine (a.k.a. rapper “AlpineKat”)—writer, producer, and performer of the Large Hadron Rap—will be at the American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting in November at the San Diego Town and Country Resort. She will be a distinguished panelist during the “Telling the Nuclear Story Using Online Video and Broadcast” session—mark your calendars for Tuesday afternoon, November 13 at 2:30, in the Pacific Salon Three room at the resort.

If you haven’t heard, experiments with the Large Hadron Collider confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson. Got a minute? See this Matinee featuring a Minute Physics video explaining what that was all about.

And definitely, see more fantastic science rap videos at Katherine McAlpine’s homepage.




ALERT: NRC Public Meeting on San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Issues


NRC Public Meeting on San Onofre Nuclear
Generating Station Issues


Tuesday, October 9
6:00-9:30 P.M. Pacific Time
Click HERE for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) news release with schedule information


St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel
One Monarch Beach Resort
Dana Point, California
Click HERE for Local Area Directions and Map Links


The NRC is holding a public meeting that includes a facilitated roundtable discussion regarding the safe operation of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Click HERE for a collection of background information and data from Southern California Edison, the majority owner/operator of the San Onofre station.

There is public interest about the steam generator tube degradation issues at San Onofre Units 2 and 3. Nine participants have been named to represent public interests in the roundtable discussion. Two of the nine are ANS national members (but are not representing ANS on the panel):

  • Ted Quinn, representing Californians for Safe and Clean Nuclear Energy
  • Ken Schultz, PhD, representing himself as a local citizen

ANS members and other nuclear professionals play an essential role in providing credible information in a public setting to increase public awareness and to put relative risks into context. If you live in the area, your presence and participation in this meeting will help to ensure that a credible scientific and technical perspective on this important issue is conveyed in a public setting.


The meeting will be webcast live at:

A phone bridge will be available by calling: 1-888-989-4359 and entering pass code 1369507.

The webcast and phone bridge will be one-way only.


ANS will live-tweet the hearing at @ans_org using hashtag #SanOnofre. Please note that the person(s) doing the live-tweeting will be watching via webcast.

Click HERE for social media coverage by Will Davis of Atomic Power Review of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station steam generator issues, including a roundup of helpful links at the end of the entry.

For further information, ANS members can contact Laura Scheele, Communications & Policy Manager, ANS Communications & Outreach Department.