Category Archives: Meetings

ANS Annual Meeting: Special Session on Past and Present Critical Experiments

The ANS Nuclear Criticality Safety Division (NCSD) is sponsoring a special session at the upcoming American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting in Reno, Nev., June 15–19. The session is titled “Critical and Subcritical Experiments” and will commence the morning of Wednesday, June 18. This session will contribute to the long history and hundreds of technical papers related to critical-mass experiments that first began at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in the 1940s.

The NCSD-sponsored session is organized by Jesson Hutchinson, a LANL nuclear engineer who works on critical and subcritical experiments focusing on correlated neutron data measurements. In addition, the session will be appropriately chaired by Richard Malenfant, a LANL-retired world-renowned pioneer of large-scale critical-assembly measurements and operations.

There are six scheduled session presentations:

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LANL’s Godiva IV pulsed nuclear reactor—used for producing bursts of neutrons and gamma rays

Margaret Marshall (Idaho National Laboratory) “Benchmark Results for βeff in a HEU Metal System using ORSphere”

Rene Sanchez (LANL) “Prompt Neutron Decay Constants in a HEU-Copper Reflected System”

Kimberly Clark (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) “Characterization of the NPOD3 Detectors in MCNP5 and MCNP6”

Jesson Hutchinson (LANL) “Joint LANL/CEA Measurements on Godiva IV”

Jesson Hutchinson (LANL) “Investigation of keff versus Fraction of Critical Mass”

To conclude the session, Richard Malenfant will present a paper titled “Historical Critical Experiments”—a summary and highlights of the rich history of large-scale critical experiments.

The ANS Annual Meeting will feature technical presentations on topics based on submissions from its vast 11,000-person membership of engineers, scientists, administrators, and educators representing more than 1,600 corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies.

We look forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting and at this special NCSD session in June. For registration, hotel and resort information, preliminary meeting program, and more, see here.

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Malenfant

Malenfant

Richard Malenfant joined the Critical Experiments Laboratory, Applied Nuclear Physics Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1956 after graduation from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Engineering Physics. He was called to Officer Pilot Training in the Air Force in 1957 but spent his tour of duty as a Nuclear Research Officer in the Propulsion Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He was associated with theoretical and experimental aspects of nuclear propulsion programs (aircraft, ramjets, and rockets) until he took a position with the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in January, 1961.  Much of his time at Los Alamos was spent at the critical experiments laboratory where he worked with all fissionable materials in all forms including solid, liquid, and gaseous assemblies. As part of his work in radiation analysis he developed the QAD point kernel shielding program and the G3 3-dimensional single scattering program. Both programs are still in use throughout the world. 

His experimental work included the construction and operation at critical of a true replica of Little Boy to evaluate the dose received by the survivors at Hiroshima and to determine the Quality Factor (RBE) of neutrons relative to gamma-rays. He also worked on the design, construction, and operation of Sheba, a 4.5% enriched uranyl fluoride solution reactor for the evaluation of the response of criticality accident alarm systems. 

Following retirement from the laboratory, he continued to consult with the Department of Energy, to work at Los Alamos through Sumner Associates, and to serve as a member of the Sandia National Laboratories Nuclear Facility Safety Committee and the Los Alamos Critical experiments Safety Committee. 

He holds an MS in physics and math from Ohio State University, an MBA from the University of New Mexico, and is an instrument-rated commercial single and multi-engine pilot and flight instructor. Although he retired in November, 1996, he continues to pursue his interests in nuclear criticality safety and the history of nuclear accidents and nuclear experiments.

Why Should I Get a PE License?

The American Nuclear Society, through its Professional Development Committee, will offer a full-day workshop Preparing for the Nuclear Engineering Professional Engineering Exam“ on Sunday, June 15, at the ANS Annual Meeting in Reno, Nevada. See Meeting Registration Form for registration information.

By Nate Carstens

Becoming a Professional Engineer (PE) is a significant commitment—why should you consider it?

Advantages to having a PE

Greater career opportunities

A PE license is a legal requirement to practice engineering that is regulated by each state. While many engineers operate under an industrial or government exemption, there are positions where a PE is required. If you are interested in consulting, or even establishing your own business, then you may need a PE to offer engineering services to your clients. The time to get your PE is before you need it, not when you are concentrating on establishing a new venture.

A higher salary

Surveys have shown that engineers with a PE license have a higher average salary than those without. Less than 5 percent of newly degreed engineers become licensed—becoming a PE shows a professional commitment that helps distinguish between engineers. Whether a higher salary leads to a PE, or a PE leads to a higher salary, doesn’t change the outcome.

A high ethical standard

A Professional Engineer is held to a high ethical standard that can be enforced by the state licensing boards. Ethics is a significant focus of the PE community. The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) provides an ethics hotline if you have specific questions, and a Board of Ethical Review serves as the profession’s guide through ethical dilemmas. While ethics are important for any engineer, nuclear engineering is a high visibility field where the welfare of the public is always at the fore. Becoming a PE shows a professional commitment to high ethical standards in a field where retaining the trust of the public is crucial.

There is no time like the present

Much of the PE exam builds upon undergraduate academic studies. Many if not most engineers rapidly specialize within their field after leaving academia. This can make taking the broadly based PE exam a more significant investment in review time. Taking the PE exam as early as possible tests you on this technical material while it is still fresh in your mind.

Furthermore, some states are now relaxing the experience requirements before taking the PE exam (experience is still needed before the PE license can be awarded). The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) recently amended its Model Law, a set of best practice guidelines, to remove the requirement of four years of experience before taking the exam.

Steps to licensure

Requirements vary between states and territories, but in general there are four key steps:

  • Graduate from an ABET accredited engineering program. Until 2020, either a four-year undergraduate degree or a master’s degree in engineering is recommended by the NCEES Model Law. After January 1, 2020, the Model Law requires a master’s degree–level of engineering coursework (if not a master’s degree) before licensure.
  • Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. The FE exam is a six-hour exam with 110 multiple-choice questions covering many of the subjects taken as an undergraduate engineering student. The exam is frequently taken during the last year of undergraduate studies, or shortly thereafter. The exam recently transitioned to computer-based testing (CBT) and is offered in year-round testing windows at NCEES-approved Pearson VUE test centers. NCEES offers many resources, including a reference handbook (the only material that can be used during the exam) and practice exams that may be downloaded from their website.
  • Gain experience. The experience requirements vary but the Model Law suggests four years of experience following an undergraduate degree. The Model Law application process requires five references; three of these must be licensed engineers. Once you begin this process, it is a good idea to contact your state licensing board and talk to other licensed engineers about how to gain this experience.
  • Pass the PE exam. The Nuclear PE Exam is an eight-hour exam split into morning and afternoon sections. Each four-hour section has 40 multiple choice questions. The exams are open book (there are significant restrictions on items such as calculators) and are currently only offered on paper, generally twice per year in April and October (smaller exams may only be offered once per year, which for Nuclear is in October). CBT options may be coming in the future.

After following these four steps, you will be eligible for licensure in most jurisdictions.

Next steps

If you are considering licensure, there are several resources available:

  • The ANS Professional Engineering Examination Committee (PEEC) provides a one-day review course on the Sunday before the June Annual ANS meeting. Engineers considering the PE exam will benefit from a broad review of the main subject matters included on the test. The course’s review guide may also be separately purchased from the ANS store.
  • NCEES provides resources to engineers considering the PE, including the exam specifications (content areas), most recent exam pass rates, and testing details, such as calculator requirements.
  • Numerous websites including NSPE and The Power to Pass offer frequently asked questions and advice on the PE exam.

The Nuclear PE Exam has fewer resources available than some of the larger disciplines. Although members of the ANS PEEC who prepare the exam cannot help you study for the exam, we would still like to help. PEEC members can provide information including:

  • How to apply for the exam.
  • What types of references you might want to use to prepare for the exam.
  • Information on the workshop.

Please feel free to contact us through ANS.

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carstens 80x145Dr. Nate Carstens is a senior nuclear engineer at Numerical Applications in Richland, WA. He specializes in code development for thermal hydraulic modeling and simulation. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Oregon State in 2001, his Master’s degree from MIT in 2004, and his Doctor of Science from MIT in 2007, all in nuclear engineering. He is a P.E. in the state of Washington and a member of the ANS Professional Engineering Examination Committee.

8th International Conference on Isotopes—Chicago, August 24–28

The American Nuclear Society will welcome delegates from around the world to Chicago this August for the 8th International Conference on Isotopes (8ICI). It will be the first time that this prestigious conference is hosted in the United States.

The ICI is held every three years to discuss and promote current and future research in the field of isotopes—so important to advancing human health and welfare worldwide. Nuclear and medical physicists, radiochemists, engineers, material scientists, physicians, health physicists, and specialists in non-proliferation from around the world, along with national and international leaders in business, industry, and government, will discuss current issues and present their latest research at the beautiful Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago.

Complimenting the conference’s scientific and technical program will be an expo featuring companies and organizations involved in isotope production, distribution, devices, applications, and other services. Plenary speakers will include US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair Allison Macfarlane, opening plenary speaker Heino Nitsche of the University of California–Berkeley, and many other notable world leaders in research, industry, and government (see Meeting Highlights for more).

The 8ICI website is loaded with information about the conference, including registration information, call for papers (abstracts deadline is Friday, February 14), the Marie Curie plenary Celebrating 100 Years of Women in Nuclear Science, sponsorship and schedule information, technical tours to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Argonne National Laboratory, and much more.

Contact the conference organizers by email for even more information, or call ANS at 708-579-8287.

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A Century of Technology – Remarks by Richard Rhodes

by Richard Rhodes

[Richard Rhodes, historian and author of numerous books including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb, was the keynote speaker at a special dinner held in observance of the 75th anniversary of the discovery of nuclear fission at the American Nuclear Society 2013 Winter Meeting.  Many ANS members and others, both in attendance and unable to attend, have expressed a desire to see in print his remarkable presentation on the fundamental technological revolutions and advances of the past century, especially the monumental discovery and application of nuclear technology.  The speech is printed in its entirety in the January edition of Nuclear News, and below.]

Rhodes

Rhodes

Karl Compton, the American physicist who was for many years president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, liked to tell a story about his sister, who lived in India. She hired an electrician there to make improvements in her house. She didn’t know much about electricity, so she had trouble explaining what she wanted done. Finally she told the electrician, “Oh, you know what’s needed here, just use common sense and do it.” The man shrugged. “Alas, madam,” he said, “common sense is a gift of God. I’m just a humble soul with a technical education.”

I’m a humble soul without even a technical education, but I do know a little about history, particularly the history of technology. This evening I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve learned. You work on the front lines—you are people, as the writer William Burroughs liked to say, who know how to get the Spam to the front lines—Spam in this case being not unwanted advertising but the canned meat product that fed our troops in World War II. I thought you’d enjoy looking back a little at the last hundred-some years. Whatever the Luddites think, what technology accomplished across the past century is remarkable—not the least of which, of course, was the discovery of nuclear fission in December 1938 and its elaboration since then to produce today about 11 percent of world electricity.[i] That’s an extraordinary and, I have to say, an under-appreciated achievement.

In the late 1920s, a newspaper editor named Mark Sullivan reviewed the first quarter of the 20th century in a six-volume compendium of stories and statistics called Our Times. Early in the first volume, Sullivan looked back to the beginning of the 20th century. His portrait is focused on the United States, but it applies equally to the rest of the industrialized world.

“In his newspapers of January 1st, 1900,” Sullivan writes, “the American found no such word as radio, for that was yet 20 years from coming; nor ‘movie,’ for that too was still mainly of the future; nor chauffeur, for the automobile was only just emerging and had been called ‘horseless carriage’ when treated seriously, but rather more frequently, ‘devil-wagon,’ and the driver, the ‘engineer.’ There was no such word as aviator—all that word implies was still a part of the Arabian Nights.…In 1900 doctors had not yet heard of…insulin; science had not heard of relativity or the quantum theory. Farmers had not heard of tractors…nor sailors of oil-burning engines.” Sullivan continues this catalog of a world not yet invented for several more paragraphs, then turns to the condition of the land, finding a landscape far more blighted than nostalgia recalls:

Only the Eastern seaboard [Sullivan writes] had the appearance of civilization having really established itself and attained permanence. From the Alleghenies to the Pacific Coast, the picture was mainly of a country still frontier and of a people still in flux: the Allegheny mountainsides scarred by the axe, cluttered with the rubbish of improvident lumbering, blackened with fire; mountain valleys disfigured with ugly coal-breakers, furnaces, and smokestacks; western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio an eruption of ungainly wooden oil-derricks; rivers muddied by the erosion from lands cleared of trees but not yet brought to grass, soiled with the sewage of raw new towns and factories; prairies furrowed with the first breaking of sod. Nineteen hundred was in the floodtide of railroad-building: long fingers of fresh dirt pushing up and down the prairies, steam-shovels digging into virgin land, rock-blasting on the mountainsides. On the prairie farms, sod houses were not unusual. Frequently there were no barns, or, if any, mere sheds. Straw was not even stacked, but rotted in sodden piles. Villages were just past the early picturesqueness of two long lines of saloons and stores, but not yet arrived at the orderliness of established communities; houses were almost wholly frame, usually of one story, with a false top, and generally of a flimsy construction that suggested transiency; larger towns with a marble Carnegie Library at Second Street, and Indian tepees at Tenth. Even as to most of the cities, including the Eastern ones, their outer edges were a kind of frontier, unfinished streets pushing out to the fields; sidewalks, where there were any, either of brick that loosened with the first thaw, or wood that rotted quickly: rapid growth leading to rapid change. At the gates of the country, great masses of human raw materials were being dumped from immigrant ships. Slovenly immigrant trains tracked westward. Bands of unattached men, floating labor, moved about from the logging camps of the winter woods to harvest in the fields, or to railroad-construction camps.…

One whole quarter of the country, which had been the seat of its most ornate civilization, the South, though it had spots of melancholy beauty, presented chiefly the impression of the weedy ruins of 35 years after the Civil War. . . .

In 1900 the United States was a nation of just under 76 [million] people. . . [ii]

I count two fundamental technological revolutions in the 20th century and the beginnings of two more that are still unfolding. The two 20th century revolutions were in public health and nuclear energy; the two still unfolding are digital information and molecular biology.

Medicine, including public health, began a remarkable advancement in the early years of the century. I had occasion to understand that change some years ago when I wrote a profile of the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Brothers succeeded in part because they began their group practice just when surgery was developing aseptic technique. There was a reservoir of suffering humanity in the world at the beginning of the century; the dam that confined it was medical ignorance. People were afraid to risk abdominal surgery for fear of deadly infection. Blood transfusion had not yet been devised. Long before patients visited the Mayo Clinic from everywhere in the world, crowds of patients came to Mayo from the upper Midwest: chronic gallbladders and infected appendixes misdiagnosed as “colic” and “stomach disease” and “dyspepsia”; tens of thousands of goiters in that region without iodine in the soil (the Mayos treated 37,228 cases of goiter between 1892 and 1934); ovarian cysts that grew so large, filling with fluid, that women sometimes wore special harnesses their farmer husbands made for them to hold their abdomens up (the largest ever removed at Mayo, in 1920, weighed 140 pounds).

Not chronic suffering but stark death from disease was the lot of infants in those days. Life expectancy at the turn of the 20th century for both men and women throughout the industrialized world was less than 50 years—50 years—but that average masks a disproportionate loss in infancy. In the United States in the second half of the 19th century, between 15 and 20 percent of all infants died before their first birthday. In large cities that number reached 30 percent—one out of three. Today infant mortality in the United States—not the most progressive in the developed world—is barely one percent.

No other modern reduction in mortality—not that from controlling tuberculosis, venereal disease, or even epidemic infections—comes close to the reduction in infant mortality. A hundred years ago the New York Times editorialized that “There is no more depressing feature about our American cities than the annual slaughter of little children.”[iii] Much of the annual slaughter came during the summer, and the killer was contaminated milk. The great modern reduction in human mortality was generally the result of improved sanitation and nutrition, but pasteurization of milk was crucial to the reduction in infant mortality in the cities.

You won’t be surprised to hear that food purists in those days as well as many physicians opposed pasteurization, just as food purists today oppose food irradiation even though it would prevent tens of thousands of serious illnesses and save thousands of lives. The arguments offered today against irradiation are the same arguments offered a hundred years ago against pasteurization: that it wasn’t “natural,” that it changed the taste, that it destroyed some mysterious vital factor, that it encouraged farmers and processors to produce an unsanitary product. With pasteurization, at least, wiser heads prevailed. By 1921, pasteurized milk predominated in more than 90 percent of American cities above 100,000 population, and epidemics of summer mortality among infants had essentially ceased.

It’s obvious today that medicine and public health are triumphant technologies, but as late as 1937 in the United States, technology professionals evidently didn’t think of them as such. That year a commission chaired by Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes reported to President Franklin Roosevelt on “the kinds of new inventions which may affect living and working conditions in America in the next 10 to 25 years.” The commission’s remarkably pedestrian findings made no mention of military, public health, cultural, or ecological consequences.

Such striking omissions partly reflect an understandable preoccupation with the Great Depression. Millions of people had been thrown out of work. Some of them blamed machines. I find numerous attacks on industry and technology in the writings of that era, and a few sturdy champions. An essayist, George Boas, defended technology articulately:

We are first told [Boas wrote] that though man invented [machines] to be his servants, he has become theirs.… This argument is a gross exaggeration. Man is no more a slave of his machines now than he has ever been, or than he is to his body, of which they are…an extension. A farmer is certainly as much of a slave to his primitive plow or sickle as a factory hand to his power loom or engine.…Steam undoubtedly produces much of the ugliness and dirt of our cities, but we are not for the moment discussing the aesthetic aspects of the question. Why steam is more mechanical than wind or falling water or muscle-driven hammers is somewhat obscure. A sailboat, a rowboat, an inflated goatskin, a log are all equally machines. A linotype, a hand-press, a pen, a reed, a charred stick are all machines. They are all mechanical supplements to man’s corporeal inadequacies.…

When I have pointed this out in conversation with primitivistic friends [Boas continues] I have been invariably charged with sophistry. They have always insisted that my definition of “machine” was too broad. My answer is that the only alternative they offer, arbitrarily identifies a machine with a bad machine.…

As one digs into this discussion, one finds the instinctive hatred that many people have always had for innovation. We do not hate machines, we hate new machines.… I have heard a gardener in France inveighing against chemical fertilizers which [violate the earth], as if horse manure were non-chemical. Sailors in the windjammers railed against the steamboat, and steamboat crews think none too kindly of the johnnies who sail oil-burners. Greek and Roman literature is full of invective against any kind of navigation, for it takes the pine tree off its mountain top and sends men wandering.[iv]

“Obviously,” Boas concludes, “a new machine, like an old one, must be judged on its merits, not on its novelty.”

Here, I would add, is one basis for the continuing hostility among some of our citizens to nuclear power, a truly novel new source of energy that only emerged to the light of day 75 years ago next month—not a long time where great energy transitions are concerned. When the Elizabethan English had cut down their forests so far away around London that wood had become prohibitively expensive to transport, when they therefore had to begin to transition from wood to coal, which had been little used before, you wouldn’t believe the outcry from pulpit and parliament. Preachers argued that coal was literally the Devil’s excrement—it was black and dirty, after all, it stank of sulfur, and it was obviously unsuitable to burn in English fireplaces, which in those days often lacked chimneys so that the sweet woodsmoke they formerly produced could waft through Elizabethan houses, harden the rafters, and sweeten the air. Beef roasted over coal fires was nearly inedible. The English only began accepting coal as a substitute for wood when Queen Elizabeth died and was succeeded on the throne by the Scottish James I. The Scots had transitioned to coal earlier, and their coal was less sulfurous; when the king began burning coal it became fashionable, easing the transition—and incidentally, beginning the chain of technological developments that led to the industrial revolution.

Energy transitions are tough.

Public health is an organizational technology—software rather than hardware. But judged on its merits, public health was by far the most important technological development of the past century—dependent, of course, on progress in biology. Two American demographers, Kevin White and Samuel Preston, took its measure in a 1996 study that asked the question, “How many Americans are alive because of 20th century improvements in mortality?”[v] Their surprising conclusion applies with equal validity to the rest of the developed world.

“Mortality reduction throughout the world,” they write, “has been more rapid in the 20th century than in any previous period. The expansion in longevity ranks among the great social achievements of our time. Life expectancy at birth in the United States has increased from 47.3 years in 1900 to 75.7 years in 1994.” Today in the United States it’s almost 79 years. But White and Preston found their most startling result when they asked the question in the title of their paper:

If mortality had remained at 1900 levels throughout the [20th] century, holding everything else constant, the population [of the United States] in the year 2000 would be almost exactly half its actual size: 139 million people instead of 276 million. Half of Americans today can attribute their being alive to mortality improvements in the 20th century: 51 percent of females and 49 percent of males.…

Half [of that half] represent…those who would have been born but would subsequently have died [before they were old enough to reproduce].… [And therefore,] most of the additional people below age 30 would never have been born. They are the indirect beneficiaries of mortality reductions among their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers.

In other words, public health saved more lives in the 20th century in the United States alone than were lost throughout the world in all that century’s terrible wars, when losses of combatants and civilians are estimated to have totaled approximately 120 million deaths. And millions more lives would have been saved had the benefits of public health extended beyond the developed world to developing countries as well. That humane extension is still in progress. Smallpox has been eradicated; polio eradication is almost complete; measles will follow and other diseases as well.

War is one significant cause of premature death. So war is another problem in public health. In the first half of the 20th century, war was a seemingly intractable problem, escalating in destructiveness as governments improved its technologies and widened its acceptable range of victims. A graph of man-made deaths from war and war’s attendant privation in the 20th century shows annual peaks in the low millions during the First World War and the Russian Revolution, a huge peak four times as high during the Second World War—15 million deaths in 1943, partly from combat and privation, partly from the Holocaust—and then an abrupt drop-off after 1945 to a smoldering one or two million deaths annually ever since—nothing to be proud of, to be sure, but only about one-fifth as many as the annual toll of deaths from smoking. The world would celebrate a comparable drop-off in a disease epidemic and judge it to be clear evidence that the epidemic was being brought under control. Yet the claim that knowledge of how to release nuclear energy—knowledge embodied in weapons so deadly that no nation has dared to explode one in anger since the end of the Second World War—goes largely uncelebrated. Who can doubt that such knowledge put an end to world-scale war? What else explains the abrupt decline in man-made deaths from war after 1945?

I said earlier that nuclear energy was one of two profound technological revolutions our century has seen. I mean first of all its effect on the arbitrary exercise of power by nation-states. At the end of the Second World War, many people believed that the only way to prevent another such disaster was to install over the national governments that confronted each other in international anarchy, a world government armed with nuclear weapons—a truly frightening notion. A few visionaries had a better idea, embodied in a 1946 U.S. government document called the Acheson-Lilienthal Report. That report was prepared for President Truman by a committee of scientists, engineers, and industrialists familiar with the work of the Manhattan Project, a committee that included the American theoretical physicist and former Los Alamos lab director Robert Oppenheimer. Through Oppenheimer, the Nobel laureate physicist I. I. Rabi contributed ideas indirectly to its formulation, as did the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr.

The Acheson-Lilienthal Report envisioned a world where a distributed network of nuclear knowledge and infrastructure guarded the peace, where many countries conducted and benefited from nuclear research and nuclear power, where many, if not most, were therefore capable of, and had the materials for, building nuclear weapons in a matter of months, but where, by mutual agreement, no tangible arsenals of such weapons were stockpiled. Given sufficient transparency, technical monitoring, and intrusive inspection, the agreement would have policed itself, since any country that began building nuclear weapons would essentially have been declaring war, an act that would have triggered a similar response from others, effectively nullifying the escalation at a higher level of risk. Although the recommendations of the Acheson-Lilienthal Report were rejected at the United Nations, we have nevertheless voluntarily, because of the obvious benefits, moved a long way in the direction of installing such a world. We’re not there yet, but we’re not all that far away.

The main difference between the vision of the Acheson-Lilienthal Report and the real world we live in, of course, is that nine nations have in fact built and stockpiled nuclear weapons—10, if you count South Africa, the only nation which also, in 1993, dismantled and abrogated the small arsenal it had built. Our confidence falters when new nuclear powers emerge, as North Korea did a decade ago, but everyone here knows that many more countries could similarly burden themselves with the expense and reprobation and increased insecurity of actual nuclear arsenals if they chose. The marvel isn’t that we have several new nuclear powers in the wake of the Cold War; the marvel is that we don’t have dozens. When, in the years ahead, the declared nuclear powers come to trust that the world will be a safer place with three months’ delivery time from factory to target than it is with 30 minutes delivery time from submarines and missile silos, then the vision of distributed deterrence that the Acheson-Lilienthal Report described in 1946 will be fulfilled. Then, as Niels Bohr liked to say, nations can compete with the magnitude of their good works rather than threaten with their arsenals.

Not long before his death Joseph Rotblat, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, told Jonathan Schell that “The main enemy now is poverty, which we don’t need a war to fight.”[vi]  I agree. The ultimate cause of conflict in the world today is surely structural violence—meaning violence that’s built into the structure of societies by limitations and restrictions on development. Structural violence is mortality that vaccination could prevent if preventive medicine were more equitably distributed. Structural violence is malnutrition from poverty from lack of infrastructure such as roads, education, and energy that a more equitable distribution of resources might supply. Structural violence is the average 10 years’ shorter lifespan of African-Americans in the United States, a number that quantifies the effect of long years of racial discrimination in this country and that has its counterparts in racial and ethic conflicts in other places. Structural violence is the massive unemployment and diminished prospects of young men in the Middle East and North Africa, the breeding grounds of terrorism.

In a paper published almost 50 years ago, two aerospace engineers, T. J. Gordon and A. L. Shef, examined the effect of technology on human progress—that is, on the alleviation of structural violence. They found surprising regularities. “The technological status of the world as a whole,” they wrote, “advances at a roughly constant exponential rate, doubling every 20 years, or in effect every generation. Although slight temporal differences exist from an overall viewpoint, growth rate from at least the beginning of the 20th century has been relatively constant for the world as a whole. Furthermore, the present [meaning 1968] technological status of the world is roughly equivalent to the level of the United States alone at the beginning of the 20th century.” Gordon and Shef found, remarkably, that the technological growth rates for developed and developing countries were approximately the same. That finding might imply that developing countries would always lag relatively behind, but by 1965, the two engineers noted, Japan had managed to increase its technological growth rate sufficiently to cross over from developing to developed, and China was on its way.

Gordon and Shef drew several intriguing conclusions from their study, conclusions that would still seem to apply today. They found that technology is growing exponentially, with the technological index approximately doubling every 20 years. They found that the rate of growth of technology appears to be accelerating. National programs, they found, control the content of technology, not its rate of production.[vii] These findings remind me of the work of the Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti, who has identified remarkable regularities in human activity by starting with the assumption, in Marchetti’s words, “that society is a learning system, that learning is basically a random search with filters, and that random searches are characterized by logistic functions”[viii]—that is, by growth curves like those common to biological forms.

The ultimate goal of technology is the alleviation of human suffering. That admirable morality is inherent in the technological enterprise, not added on. The scholar Elaine Scarry, echoing Francis Bacon, defines the function of human imagination embodied in invention as “the progressive materialization of the world.” Out of the silence of the inanimate we shape material objects so as to inform them with human purpose:

The naturally existing external world [Scarry writes]—whose staggering powers and beauty need not be rehearsed here—is wholly ignorant of the “hurtability” of human beings. Immune, inanimate, inhuman, it indifferently manifests itself in the thunderbolt and hailstorm, rabid bat, smallpox microbe, and ice crystal. The human imagination reconceives the external world, divesting it of its immunity and irresponsibility not by literally putting it in pain or making it animate but by, quite literally, “making it” as knowledgeable about human pain as if it were itself animate and in pain.…

The general distribution of material objects to a population means that a certain minimum level of objectified human compassion is built into the revised structure of the external world and does not depend on the day-by-day generosity of other inhabitants.… It is almost universally the case in everyday life that the most cherished object is one that has been handmade by a friend; there is no mystery about this, for the object’s material attributes themselves record and memorialize the intensely personal, extraordinary because exclusive, interior feelings of the maker for just this person—this is for you. But anonymous, mass- produced objects contain a collective and equally extraordinary message: Whoever you are, and whether or not I personally like or even know you, in at least this small way, be well.[ix]

Nuclear energy, by offering essentially unlimited energy to the human project, promises equally exceptional alleviation, particularly of the structural violence that follows from inequalities in the distribution of material resources. Adding to the energy supply is a rising tide that lifts all boats. I personally believe that those who oppose increasing the supply of nuclear power are more than simply misinformed and elitist. I believe strongly that their opposition is immoral. It contributes to human suffering and premature death by perpetuating structural violence.

David Lilienthal, the first chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the Lilienthal of the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, spoke to this point long ago. “Energy is part of a historic process,” he said, “a substitute for the labor of human beings. As human aspirations develop, so does the demand for and use of energy grow and develop.”[x]

Satisfying human aspirations is what our species invents technology to do. Some people, secure in comfortable affluence, may dream of a simpler and smaller world. How ever idealistic they imagine such a dream to be, its hidden agenda is brutalizing. Millions of children still die every year in our resource-rich world for lack of adequate resources—clean water, food, medical care. The development of those resources is directly dependent on energy supplies. The real world of real human beings needs more energy, not less. As oil and coal continue their historic decline, as climate change accelerates, that energy across at least the next 50 years will necessarily come from nuclear power and natural gas.

Nuclear energy is an important part of the answer to climate change, of course. It’s poised to take off in Asia, as it originally did in the United States, partly as a remedy for noxious air pollution from coal burning, partly to meet the increasing demand for electricity from populations working and moving in the direction of greater prosperity.

To that point, and consistent with my emphasis on the public-health benefits of adequate supplies of energy, Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen, of the Columbia University Earth Institute and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology a detailed estimate of the effect nuclear power has had on preventing deaths related to air pollution. They estimate that global nuclear power production for the historical period 1971 to 2009 prevented some 1.84 million deaths from air pollution by replacing the burning of coal and natural gas. They estimate further that nuclear power could additionally prevent between 420,000 and 7.04 million deaths between 2010 and 2050, depending on which fuels it replaces. These public-health effects are in addition to its effects, past and future, mitigating climate change in comparison to fossil fuels, natural gas in particular.[xi] It has long seemed to me important, in discussing nuclear power, to emphasize its public-health effects. Years ago I interviewed the president of Duquesne Power and Light, the company in Pittsburgh that built the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States at Shippingport. He told me that the most important argument for building the plant had been its mitigating effect on the terrible coal smoke pollution around Pittsburgh. It was, he said, the greenest available energy. It still is.

How digital technology and genetic engineering will change the world we are only dimly beginning to see. The changes will be deep, perhaps as deep as the changes from the discovery of nuclear fission have been. But it’s incontrovertible that public health and nuclear energy have already saved and improved hundreds of millions of human lives. Of course both technologies have problems, as all technologies do—after all, they’re the work of humble souls with technical educations.

Technology has taken a beating across the modern era. It deserves better press. In the midst of your meetings, I hope you’ll pause occasionally to recall the value and the virtue of your work. I hope you’ll remind yourselves that the wholly honorable purpose of your enterprise is nothing less than the alleviation of human suffering.

Thank you.

Attendees at the 75th Anniversary Dinner

Attendees at the 75th Anniversary Dinner

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[i] 11 percent of world electricity: World Nuclear Association (online).

[ii] Mark Sullivan, Our Times (Vol. I: The Turn of the Century). Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926, pp. 22-31.

[iii]Quoted in Richard A. Meckel, Save the Babies, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990, p. 11.

[iv] George Boas, “In Defense of Machines,” Harper’s 165 (June 32).

[v] Kevin M. White and Samuel H. Preston, “How many Americans are alive because of twentieth-century improvements in mortality?” Population and Development Review 22(3): 415-428 (Sept. 96).

[vi] Jonathan Schell, “The Gift of Time,” The Nation, 2/9 Feb 98, p. 29.

[vii] T. J. Gordon and A. L. Shef, “National Programs and the Progress of Technological Societies,” in Philip K. Eckman, ed., Technology and Social Progress—Synergism or Conflict? AAS Science and Technology Series, Vol. 18, Proceedings of the Sixth AAS Goddard Memorial Symposium held March 12-13, 1968, Washington DC, AAS Publications Office, 1968, pp. 105-109.

[viii] Cesare Marchetti, “Society as a Learning System: Discovery, Invention, and Innovation Cycles Revisited.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change 18, 267-282 (1980), p. 268.

[ix] Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain, Oxford University Press, 1985, pp. 288-292.

[x] David Lilienthal, Atomic Energy: A New Start, Harper & Row, 1980, p. 10.

[xi] Environ. Sci. Technol. 2013, 47, 4889-4895.

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richard rhodes 100x150Richard Rhodes is a historian and best-selling author of numerous books, including The Making of the Atomic Bomb which won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award.

ANS 1st Annual Meeting Program

Editor’s note: December 11 marked the 59th anniversary of the founding of the American Nuclear Society. After posting a note on ANS Facebook with an image of the ANS 1st annual meeting program cover, the thought struck… “Well, perhaps some readers would be interested in perusing the 1954 meeting program itself.” So, presenting the ANS 1st annual meeting technical program—along with accompanying introductory letter at bottom of post.  Click images or here to access (enlargeable!) program .pdf

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 THE AMERICAN NUCLEAR SOCIETY

Incorporated

The enclosed folder describes the technical program of the first annual meeting of the American Nuclear Society. A cordial invitation is extended to you to come to Penn State for as many of the sessions as you can arrange to attend.

The American Nuclear Society was incorporated in New York State early in 1955.  The principal objectives in the minds of the incorporators were to aid in the integration of the several disciplines constituting nuclear science and technology, to hold meetings and public papers relating to these disciplines thereby providing a single forum for discussion, to encourage research in nuclear science and technology and to cooperate through technical committees with government agencies, educational institutions and industries.

The interim officers are Jerome Luntz, Chairman, and William Breazeale, Secretary.  A nominating committee has selected a slate of officers for terms beginning in June of this year as follows:  President, W. H. Zinn;  Vice-President, Philip Sporn;  Treasurer, Karl Cohen;  and Editor, J. G. Beckerley.  About five hundred members have been accepted in the last four months.

The ANS Bylaws and Rules require that the Board of Directors vote on the admission of each candidate for membership.  For this reason, members cannot be accepted directly at the annual meeting.  However, each nonmember who applies for membership during the meeting will find one-half of his ten dollar registration fee credited toward admission fee and dues when he is elected to membership.  Application blanks and a summary of professional qualifications required for the various grades of membership will be available at the meeting.

Jerome D. Luntz, Interim Chairman

William M. Breazeale, Interim Secretary

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From the 2013 Young Professionals Congress – On Reluctant Leadership

Young Member Group 200x52The following remarks were presented at the 2013 Young Professionals Congress, held in conjunction with the ANS Annual Winter Meeting on November 9. Participants recommended the text be made more widely available.

By Gale Hauck

“Welcome to the 2013 Young Professionals Congress – Engaging Our History and Creating Our Future – Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Fission. I’m really excited to see so much potential in this room! My name is Gale Hauck, and I am the General Chair for this year’s Young Professionals Congress [YPC]. I really think you will benefit from the great program we have lined up for you today. We will talk a bit more about that later, but for now I want to give you a little perspective about YPC and why it is so important to you. I can sum it all up in one word: Leadership.

Let me ask you a question: How many of you consider yourselves born leaders? How about just a regular ol’ leader? How many of you have found yourself in a leadership position because everyone else took a step backward, leaving you standing there alone? (You don’t need to answer that one—I think we’ve probably all experienced that!) In some ways, that is the story of how I came to be the YPC General Chair. I saw a need, something that was important to me—bringing young nuclear professionals together to meet each other, to learn and grow. I stepped up to help out. And, well, you know how it goes—everyone else took a step back.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I think stepping up is really critical right now, as we are looking forward to creating our future. Leadership is a very essential skill for young professionals to have. The industry is going through a lot of challenges. There is a global economic slowdown. There are so many technical challenges still being faced in Japan at Fukushima-Daiichi and elsewhere. Our experienced technical and professional industry leaders are retiring before we can even scratch the surface of their treasure trove of information. So it’s more important than ever for young professionals to step up and fill in the gaps, if we want our industry to remain vibrant. And I really believe that the continued success of the nuclear industry is essential.

Not everyone is born a leader. For those who are, our industry desperately needs you, and I thank you for stepping up whenever you have an opportunity. But for those of us—like me—who are not born leaders, we must learn to challenge ourselves and grow into those opportunities when everyone else steps back. It may surprise you to know that in high school I was voted quietest in my class. It’s true! Perhaps some of you were as well. You may also find it hard to believe that less than three years ago, someone counted 112 ‘ums’ in a short speech that I gave. (We’re actually good friends now.) I tell you this because I want you to know that we are not all born leaders! But it is essential to become a leader, for both our personal successes and the success of our industry.

People who reluctantly step up when everyone else steps back can actually make really great leaders. When I became General Chair of the YPC, I certainly didn’t want to do it all myself! I don’t need to say “Yes, that was all me, and isn’t it awesome?” I did what any reluctant leader would do—I found an awesome team, and I delegated.

Peter Shaw was the guy who stepped up and wanted to do EVERYTHING. He became my go-to guy for pretty much anything, and eventually stepped up to fill the role of Program Chair. I’m not sure YPC would have happened without him; it certainly wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome. Felix Meissner, our Finance Chair, was really so much more than that. He was a problem solver, an issue-fixer, and a getter-done-er. So many amazing people made today happen—Allison Miller keeping me sane and always keeping things moving in the background. Kati Austgen dealing with so many changes and always cheerfully finding a solution. Liz McAndrew-Benavides, our advisor and thinker of things that would otherwise be unthought, and Shannon Farr, who made sure that you were all able to find out about the meeting. Cory Stansbury, Bristol Hartlage, Ben Holtzman, and Art Wharton, helping bring the great content we have lined up to you today.

You see, leadership isn’t about having all the answers. It’s not about doing everything yourself. All that’s required is that you devote your energy to a cause that’s important to you. Maybe, like me, you’re inspired to bring other nuclear professionals together to learn and grow. Maybe you’re inspired to build the safest nuclear power plant that’s ever been built. Maybe you want to bring safer, more effective nuclear medicine to the world. Maybe your inspiration is to build a nuclear-powered spaceship to bring people to Mars.

That is what the Young Professionals Congress is really about – Engaging Our History and Creating Our Future. You’re here—you’ve already stepped up. I want you to take that knowledge back to your plant, your lab, your office. So when you see an opportunity to step up, take it. Don’t worry if everyone else steps back. All you need is a little inspiration—you’ll find a team. Others will be there to support you, perhaps some of the people who you meet today. Together, you’ll have a chance to create something new that wouldn’t have existed without you. You’ll have a chance to change the world.”

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hauck 120x120Gale Hauck is a nuclear engineer at Westinghouse Electric Company, former Chair of the ANS Young Members Group and former Chair of the ANS Pittsburgh Local Section; she has been an ANS Member since 2004.

Past, Present, and Promise 3: Return to the NS Savannah

By Will Davis

Previous articles in this series were published on November 8 and November 14; this is the third and final installment of the series, which concludes just prior to the 60th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s famous “Atoms for Peace” speech.  That speech, whose official title was “Atomic Power for Peace,” was delivered to the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 8, 1953 and its ramifications for the future of civil nuclear energy the world over were immense.

November 14, 2013—This was the day on which I was to see my old friend again, the nuclear-powered passenger and cargo ship NS Savannah, after 20 years. As about 30 American Nuclear Society members boarded the bus at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. on the afternoon of that day, I wondered how many of them had ever seen the ship before, or had a similar personal connection with it.

On arrival, to say that I found the ship better than I’d left it would be a supreme understatement; she’s in absolutely wonderful shape in comparison; although, frankly, there is yet major work to be done. The ship seems for now to be in no imminent threat for disposal; according to Erhard Koehler, who administrates the Savannah for the U.S. Maritime Administration, an annual budget of about $2 million keeps the ship docked and maintained (sales of souvenir items on board also benefit the ship). The ship is stipulated, legally, to be decommissioned by 2031, which simply means that the primary nuclear plant components must be removed and disposed of, and doesn’t mean the ship will be scrapped—but as we have seen, the federal government does not always adhere to its own laws (Yucca Mountain, anyone?). So, this deadline being a “hard” line seems pretty unlikely. The problem in getting this done, Koehler told us while we were assembled in the Eisenhower Room on board the ship, is that eventually the Congress must budget money to do it—and it never comes.

What does come are visitors. People who are curious, or “nukes” who want to see the storied ship, or even people like me who have some sort of past attachment to the ship. The ship is opened at least once a year on Maritime Day for the public, and arrangements can be made for tour groups to visit the ship as well. The NS Savannah may not be as easily visible today as she was while she was at Patriot’s Point in South Carolina in the 1980s and early 1990s, but she’s in better waters, we might say—with dedicated caretakers, secure funding for upkeep, and more than a skeletal plan for the future.

What follows is a photographic tour of the ship. Photos for this piece were taken by myself and by ANS’s Paul Bowersox, who accompanied me on this tour. I’ve placed them in the order in which they were taken, duplicating our tour route throughout the ship. My observations are included in the captions and following the photo-essay. Please remember to click on the photos to enlarge them; some will be quite large and spectacular when clicked.

The NS Savannah is docked at a pier location which is largely blocked from view by land by a giant grain elevator.  This view shows the port side of the ship from the gangway leading to the passenger reception area.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

The NS Savannah is docked at a pier location that is largely blocked from view by land by a giant grain elevator. This view shows the port side of the ship from the gangway leading to the passenger reception area. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

One accesses the ship the same way that she was accessed when in service; via a brow leading up to the original reception area. This area was never open to the public during the time span 1981–1994 when the ship was at Patriots Point, when access to the ship was via a side opening.

Some of the contingent from the American Nuclear Society climbing up to the NS Savannah.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

Some of the contingent from the American Nuclear Society climbing up to the NS Savannah. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

Maritime Administration 'Visitor' badges were issued at the original purser's desk location inside the passenger lobby, which features a spectacular original piece of furniture.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Maritime Administration ‘Visitor’ badges were issued at the original purser’s desk location inside the passenger lobby, which features a spectacular original piece of furniture. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Erhard Koehler, administrator of the NS Savannah for the US Maritime Administration, addresses the assembled visitors.  He is flanked by Larry Kenworthy (left, wearing ball cap) and Francis "Bucky" Owens (right, yellow shirt) who led the two tour groups around the ship.  Both Kenworthy and Owens were reactor operators on the Savannah.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

Erhard Koehler, administrator of the NS Savannah for the US Maritime Administration, addresses the assembled visitors. He is flanked by Larry Kenworthy (left, wearing ball cap) and Francis “Bucky” Owens (right, yellow shirt) who led the two tour groups around the ship. Both Kenworthy and Owens were reactor operators on the Savannah. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

This is the Veranda, the public (passenger) bar / lounge on the NS Savannah.  The lighted, sculptured wine rack behind the bar is meant to be a representation of the periodic table and is one of many striking decorative features in this space.  A glass bulkhead looks aft from this space over the former swimming pool and shuffleboard areas. Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

This is the Veranda/Cocktail Bar area, the public (passenger) bar/lounge on the NS Savannah. The lighted, sculptured wine rack behind the bar is meant to be a representation of the trilinear table of the elements, and is one of many striking decorative features in this space. A glass bulkhead looks aft from this space over the former swimming pool and shuffleboard areas. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The tables in the cocktail bar area, which are original, display a wonderful "modernistic" motif right out of the 1958-1961 period during which the ship was designed and built. These tables were originally lighted internally, so that the lexan table tops provided a glow.  This space made extensive use of indirect lighting. Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

The tables in the cocktail bar area, which are original, display a wonderful “modernistic” motif right out of the 1958-1961 period during which the ship was designed and built. These tables were originally lighted internally, so that the lexan table tops provided a glow. This space made extensive use of indirect lighting. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The original tour brochure for the ship states that the overall design was the responsibility of George C. Sharp, Inc. As to the veranda/cocktail bar, “the veranda is carefree, open and light in feeling to suit daytime gatherings as well as evening festivity.” There is no question that the ship was built as a ‘showboat,’ albeit a completely functional one.

The starboard side (right side for landlubbers!) of the cocktail lounge area is bordered by large windows and this attractive seating area. A passageway leads along the starboard side forward to what used to be called the Main Lounge, and is now the Eisenhower Room.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

The starboard side (right side for landlubbers!) of the cocktail lounge area is bordered by large windows and this attractive seating area. A passageway leads along the starboard side forward to what used to be called the Main Lounge, and is now the Eisenhower Room. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The NS Savannah is simply full of wonderful artifacts - there wasn't time to see them all, and some aren't even yet properly mounted or labeled.  One such item was this print signed by the crew, which was spotted leaning against a podium in the Eisenhower Room.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

The NS Savannah is simply full of wonderful artifacts – there wasn’t time to see them all, and some aren’t even yet properly mounted or labeled. One such item was this print signed by the crew, which was spotted leaning against a podium in the Eisenhower Room. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The tour visits the bridge of the Savannah.  The ship's control console is at right, under the bridge windows, with the right most device on the upper section being the engine order telegraph, and the device to the left of it being the shaft RPM indicator.  The ship's wheel is just out of view on the left of the photo.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

The tour visits the bridge of the Savannah. The ship’s control console is at right, under the bridge windows, with the right most device on the upper section being the engine order telegraph, and the device to the left of it being the shaft RPM indicator. The ship’s wheel is just out of view on the left of the photo. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

The Engine Order Telegraph is used to transmit the desired ship’s speed from the bridge to the power plant. Perhaps as an expression of hope for the ship’s future, the telegraph is presently rung up Ahead Full.

View directly forward out of the bridge windows, over the ship's wheel.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

View directly forward out of the bridge windows, over the ship’s wheel. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox

The after end of the Main Dining Room on "B" Deck.  The Captain's Table is seen, with the original sculptured wall art which is meant to depict fission.  If one looks carefully, splitting atoms and straight lines of flight of emitted particles can be made out.  This is one of the most impressive spaces on the ship, and is almost entirely still original.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

The after end of the Main Dining Room on “B” Deck. The Captain’s Table is seen, with the original sculptured wall art which is meant to depict fission. If one looks carefully, splitting atoms and straight lines of flight of emitted particles can be made out. This is one of the most impressive spaces on the ship, and is almost entirely still original. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

All of the overhead light fixtures in the main dining room incorporate a wonderful atom motif.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

All of the overhead light fixtures in the main dining room incorporate a wonderful atom motif. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

Entryway into the Main Dining Room.  A wonderful original depiction of the SS Savannah, first ship to cross the Atlantic with aid of steam power in 1819 and after which N.S. Savannah is named, is visible in the glass partition.  To the left in the photo is the passageway to the passenger elevator and passenger stairwell.  These are forward of the dining room. Passage to the ship's galley is to the right of the painting seen mounted on the bulkhead.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Entryway into the Main Dining Room. A wonderful original depiction of the SS Savannah, first ship to cross the Atlantic with aid of steam power in 1819 and after which NS Savannah is named, is visible in the glass partition. To the left in the photo is the passageway to the passenger elevator and passenger stairwell. These are forward of the dining room. Passage to the ship’s galley is to the right of the painting seen mounted on the bulkhead. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Original seating down the port side of the dining room.  The carpet is original.  Historic photos showing the exact original appearance of this and other spaces are placed around this, and other, spaces in the ship as some features are no longer perfectly original.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Original seating down the port side of the dining room. The carpet is original. Historic photos showing the exact original appearance of this and other spaces are placed around this, and other, spaces in the ship, as some features are no longer perfectly original. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Either side of the foyer leading to the dining room is an interesting "two top" table, with button style vinyl seat backs affixed to the bulkhead.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Either side of the foyer leading to the dining room is an interesting “two top” table, with button style vinyl seat backs affixed to the bulkhead. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

A display case in the dining room contains original servingware from the ship, complete with atom motif.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

A display case in the dining room contains original servingware from the ship, complete with atom motif. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Painting depicting N.S. Savannah, foyer of Main Dining Room.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Painting depicting NS Savannah, foyer of Main Dining Room. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

This is the most interesting piece of equipment in the ship's galley - the RADAR RANGE.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

This is the most interesting piece of equipment in the ship’s galley – the RADARANGE. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The NS Savannah put to sea with one of the very earliest available microwave ovens. This oven carries the brand name “RadaRange” clearly on the front—and we were told on the tour that Amana, the company with whom this brand name is associated, was a division of Raytheon Corporation (well-known as a provider of radar equipment for both commercial and Navy ships.) It’s interesting to note, however, that this particular microwave oven says “Amana” nowhere on it, but only says “Raytheon” in an oval-shaped emblem seen further down the front of the oven.

This oven has two interesting features. First, it is water-cooled; water cooling piping runs from the overhead down to, and back from, the oven inboard (and just out of view here.) Second, the oven had no safety shutoff interlock on its door; the oven could run with the door open. The output of the oven was not stated, but given its size and the fact that the timer runs up to 21 minutes, it cannot be high compared to today’s appliances.

The rest of the galley was indeed fascinating—the ship’s fittings were extensive and elaborate, even to the point of including a separate butcher’s shop.

After exiting the galley and viewing some crew spaces, we found, in an athwartships passageway, the first 'real' nuclear component on the ship; the entry door to the reactor plant containment.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

After exiting the galley and viewing some crew spaces, we found, in an athwartships passageway, the first “real” nuclear component on the ship; the entry door to the reactor plant containment. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The ship still needs help - many areas are not fully restored.  We passed an open door, which our guide informed us led to the control rod drive hydraulic pump room.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

The ship still needs help – many areas are not fully restored. We passed an open door, which our guide informed us led to the control rod drive hydraulic pump room. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

This is a photograph of a photograph.  New York Shipbuilding constructed a complete but non-operative mockup of the Savannah's PWR reactor plant to test for access and clearance.  The mockup was scrapped years ago.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

This is a photograph of a photograph. New York Shipbuilding constructed a complete but non-operative mockup of the Savannah‘s PWR reactor plant to test for access and clearance. The mockup was scrapped years ago. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

In the illustration above, it’s clear that the NS Savannah used an early style of steam generator like that found at the Shippingport Atomic Power Station and at Indian Point Unit 1, with separate (lower) heat exchanger sections and upper steam drum sections connected by riser and downcomer pipes. Two steam generators (one for each loop) are visible here. The reactor of course is at center, and the tall vessel at left is the pressurizer.

Each of the steam generators was rated to deliver 136.5 million BTU per hour at full rated reactor power, with shells, heads, and tubes made of 304 stainless steel. The pressurizer (which as its name implies pressurizes the primary coolant system to prevent boiling) had 160 cartridge type replaceable heaters, with a total heat capacity of 224 kw. The maximum heatup rate allowed was 75F/hr. This vessel was also made of 304 stainless steel.

The reactor was rated 80 MWth, and contained 8050 kg of uranium dioxide, enriched to 4.2% U-235 (inner 16 elements) or 4.6% U-235 for a total U-235 load of 312 kg. The fuel pellets were contained in 304 stainless tubes, with an active height of 66 inches. Each element had 164 of these rods and was 8.5 inches square; 32 fuel elements total made up the reactor. Twenty-one control rods, made up of boron stainless steel and Zircaloy-2 followers all clad with 304 stainless, were fitted. The designed core life was 40,000 megawatt-days, or 700 days at an actual average power of 63.5 MWth. The plant did not operate with boron poison in solution in the primary coolant, although provision for emergency boron injection for shutdown was installed.

(Information above from “NS Savannah Technical Specifications, May 1964—NS Savannah Technical Staff/Babcock & Wilcox—Todd Shipyards” in Will Davis collection.)

One of the most memorable features of the ship is the provision of a gallery deck surrounding the engine room.  The inboard side of this three-sided gallery contains windows looking down while the outboard side features many illustrations of the power plant and its workings.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

One of the most memorable features of the ship is the provision of a gallery deck surrounding the engine room. The inboard side of this three-sided gallery contains windows looking down while the outboard side features many illustrations of the power plant and its workings. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

In the photograph above, at the bottom we see (with black handwheels) the throttle box of the high pressure ahead steam turbine; the Savannah used compound turbines, in which steam drives first a high pressure and then a low pressure turbine. The drive pinion mounted to this turbine contacts an intermediate gear inside the rounded yellow housing seen a bit further away; on the end of the pinion housing as a green 750 HP electric motor, called the “Take Home motor” that can propel the ship at roughly 6 knots should steam from the reactor plant be unavailable. (The Savannah has two 12 cylinder Electro-Motive 567 series diesel engines that we today would call EDG’s or Emergency Diesel Generators,  which would provide emergency power for this motor and ship’s loads if required. Each diesel was rated 750 KW or about 1000 HP.)

This spectacular photo clearly depicts the control room at the after end of the NS Savannah's engine room.  Click to enlarge.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

This spectacular photo clearly depicts the control room at the after end of the NS Savannah’s engine room. Click to enlarge. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

The control room seen above, which was located at the after end of the Savannah‘s engine room, was the space from which the reactor was controlled and monitored. The control and indicating equipment seen here was the responsibility of Bailey Meter Co., Cleveland, Ohio, which had been a subsidiary of Babcock & Wilcox (which was the vendor for the nuclear power plant of the ship) since 1925. As announced in the October 1959 issue of Nucleonics, this control and indication equipment for the Savannah included “20 flow indicators, 15 level indicators, 45 pressure indicators, 35 temperature indicators, 55 meters, 31 valve selector switches, 60 selector switches and 120 push buttons” and had a total of over 480 control and indicating devices. A complete simulator, using a duplicate of this control panel, was built by Westinghouse and fitted with an analog computer including 54 switches to enable “simulations of various malfunctions.” That simulator was eventually installed at a training facility at Lynchburg, Virginia. (Nucleonics, October 1959, copy in Will Davis collection.)

The turbines and reduction gears, products of DeLaval Steam Turbine Company, were rated for a maximum 22,000 SHP ahead, and 8000 SHP astern using saturated steam variable from 430-700 psia. The turbines had interstage moisture extraction to prevent erosion. The ship also had two 1500 KW steam turbine generators, not shown. (Technical Specifications, NS Savannah and Nucleonics, October 1959.)

Returning to the cocktail lounge, we found time to buy souvenirs, and to examine this fantastic model of the ship, with an accurate depiction of the reactor plant and containment.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Returning to the cocktail lounge, we found time to buy souvenirs, and to examine this fantastic model of the ship, with an accurate depiction of the reactor plant and containment. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

This lounge, with its distinctive bar, is an absolutely unforgettable space.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

This lounge, with its distinctive bar, is an absolutely unforgettable space. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Distinctive time-zone clocks, not all of which have survived, line part of the bulkhead by the bar.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Distinctive time-zone clocks, not all of which have survived, line part of the bulkhead by the bar. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

A look over the stern of the NS Savannah.  The ship's screw can be seen on deck; the ship has been completely disabled, and the screw and main reduction gear were removed.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

A look over the stern of the NS Savannah. The ship’s screw can be seen on deck; the ship has been completely disabled, and the screw and main reduction gear were removed. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

Many of us took advantage of the ship's well-stocked gift shop; these are only a few of the available items.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

Many of us took advantage of the ship’s well-stocked gift shop; these are only a few of the available items. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

The American Nuclear Society's tour group, along with some of the Savannah staff.  Photo courtesy Erhard Koehler.

The American Nuclear Society’s tour group, along with some of the Savannah staff. (Photo courtesy Erhard Koehler)

The feeling I had leaving the ship after several hours’ worth of touring and photographing and talking can’t be described. I had erased the old suppositions about what she might be like with real, new memories—and facts. The facts are that while the ship is in good hands, much more work is required to plan out the decommissioning and fund it. While the people involved are desperately dedicated to the ship, there just aren’t enough of them. The fate of the ship doesn’t so much presently hang in the balance, as it has a cloudy future; the funding per year is steady, but there are not sufficient accumulated funds to decommission the power plant in the legally binding time frame… although I’ve already given my impression on that mark.

Erhard Koehler spoke the most memorable quote of the day, even before most of the tour had commenced; he said to the assembled group that

“The Savannah here is really the only remaining, intact example of President Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ program. For that reason alone, she needs to be preserved and cared for.”

I could not agree more—and will do everything in my power in the future to aid those efforts.

I personally would like to thank the American Nuclear Society, the U.S. Maritime Administration, and the NS Savannah Association for setting up this tour and providing their support and information. Also, Paul Bowersox of ANS HQ staff provided an invaluable service during this pre-planned tour as photographer, ensuring that we’d have great shots.

I would like to finish this piece by adding something—there is a great deal of this ship not shown in this article. Many thousands of linear feet of passageway, many views topside and below, and many distinctive areas remain for visitors to see and explore should they tour the ship. This photo-essay in no way relieves anyone interested in the ship of a need to visit—and what’s more, in most cases the photos don’t do the ship justice. I personally encourage those with an interest in America’s atomic history to find a way to visit the NS Savannah.

Recognition after Removal From Service:

•NS Savannah was given an American Nuclear Society Nuclear Historic Landmark Award in 1991.

•The ship was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

•The American Society of Mechanical Engineers named the ship as an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1983.

•The ship was named a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1991.

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SavannahTourWillPhotoWill Davis is 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, is secretary of the Board of Directors of PopAtomic Studios, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants. He’s also an avid typewriter collector in his spare time.

SavannahTourPaulPhotoPaul Bowersox works for the American Nuclear Society at its Chicago, Illinois, headquarters on staff where he manages social media. Although an avowed landlubber, he also holds in high regard those who go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters.

Enrollment Diversity in Nuclear Engineering

By Rita Patel and Suzy Baker  [originally published at Nuclear Undone]

A panel discussion on Enrollment Diversity and Nuclear Engineering was held last week at the American Nuclear Society conference in Washington DC, featuring:

David Roelant from Florida International University
Lisa Marshall from North Carolina State University
Craig Williamson from South Carolina Universities Research and Education Foundation

Perhaps Williamson summed up the current status best, beginning his presentation by saying:

“We still [stink] at diversity in the nuclear industry.” 

Fortunately, the three panelists (pictured below) offered innovative ideas for increasing diversity at nuclear engineering and technology programs on college campuses.

Roelant spoke on behalf of Florida International University (FIU), a school with a “majority minority” student population. He noted that FIU is the top producer of Hispanic graduates in the country. Many students at FIU are the first in the family to go to college. This can be attributed in part to community programs that FIU is involved in, which include a dual-enrollment program for local high school students and outreach events for elementary school students.

Panelists Roelant, Williamson, and Marshall

Panelists Roelant, Williamson, and Marshall

Likewise, Marshall from North Carolina State University (NCSU) expressed a need to reach underrepresented populations early, when they are forming their professional aspirations as preteens and teens. Marshall mentioned capitalizing on the “cool factor”—emphasizing unique opportunities such as NCSU’s on-campus nuclear reactor available for student education and research. She has found success partnering with existing programs designed to support girls and minorities. The NCSU programs for high school students result in an astounding 30-percent enrollment in nuclear engineering.

Marshall wants to focus more on the relationship with students who are enrolling in the program, rather than just allow them to be another statistic. Through a nurtured relationship, students naturally transform into ambassadors, reaching back to their own communities and encouraging other students to follow a similar path.

Williamson rounded out the panel, beginning with his rather frank assertion that the nuclear industry has a great deal of work left to do in cultivating a diverse workforce. At the South Carolina Universities Research and Education Foundation, Williamson crunches the numbers on enrollment at nuclear programs and works to support programs throughout the state to actively increase diversity. As evidenced at South Carolina State, targeted programs work—this spring they will reach a new milestone: A student who completed her bachelor’s degree in a nuclear engineering program in South Carolina will be receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.

All of the panelists seem to agree that we must do more to be inclusive and active in promoting diversity at our universities and beyond.

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Past, Present and Promise 2: The N.S. Savannah… Then

By Will Davis

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NS Savannah

An odd sidelight of my years in the Navy as a Reactor Operator was the time that we were called upon to perform work on the preserved ships at Patriot’s Point Naval Museum in Charleston, South Carolina.  This interlude allowed me to become intimately familiar with a ship that was totally out of place at that anchorage of the aged: the nuclear powered commercial ship N.S. Savannah.

As I recall now, over twenty years later, we were requested to visit the curator of the museum (whose name I have forgotten) after M-Division (the Mechanical Division of the Engineering Department) on our ship performed some work there – painting spaces on the USS Yorktown, I believe.  The curator had a peculiar request and needed technicians who could work on electronic equipment.  Of course, since the Navy base had a major community outreach/awareness program going at the time I’m sure no one could have said no.

We (Reactor Controls Division) arrived on the Yorktown to be herded to the curator’s office and then told that the museum was under pressure to have public announcing capability on the ships … a good thing in case of emergency!  The big hitch was that the curator wished to use the long-dead original announcing equipment on board the ships to accomplish this task.  Our chief informed him that while we weren’t exactly familiar with the old IC (interior communications) gear on the ships, we’d give it a look.

That first day, we all went down to IC central on the Yorktown, which was down many decks inside the armored citadel and next to DC (damage control) central, and examined the equipment.  As I recall, the assessment was essentially “fire hazard,” and the idea was dropped for that ship.  We also examined the USS Laffey, a destroyer on site, and I do not recall the outcome of that inspection.

Our reward that first day was a tour of the engine room and control room of the nuclear ship Savannah – areas never toured by the public and generally off limits to anyone for years.  I was fascinated by how different the equipment looked, and the many different ways there were to skin a cat, you might say, without getting into detail.  We visited the control room, and noted the complicated requirements for outward rod motion.  We noted the hydraulic throttle control, and various other features of the control space which was odd in that its panels were mounted so that operators faced the rear of the ship. The front was covered by windows so that the operators could be seen by people (originally, passengers) from the glass gallery deck above the engine room.

This was not, of course, the first time I’d seen the ship.  I’d been to the museum numerous times before with family and friends, and while most of them concentrated one hundred percent on the historic warships, the white Savannah – a dulling, not gleaming white, diminishing with age but not yielding to yellow – stood out most to me.  It was like a swan in the midst of storks; it was completely out of place.  It was also almost completely ignored.  Its tour spaces were slight, the signage was abysmal, there was a different (lower) standard of cleanliness.  The ship wasn’t abandoned… but it was a stepchild to most everyone.  Most everyone except me, that is.

The second day, showing up to Patriot’s Point was optional, and only a few of us showed up.  My chief and I worked on the AN/WIC stack (Navy lingo for interior communications setup) on the SS-343, USS Clamagore and it worked.  He left, leaving just the curator and I to work on the only ship remaining – the Savannah.  I knew I’d have to see places off the tour, and I was thrilled walking down the pier toward the ship as he jangled through his keys.

I can’t recall exactly where we gained access to normally off-limits places, but a sturdy lock opened somewhat rustily to reveal darkened passageways… areas that smelled of flaking paint, and musty, stale air.  I felt that if the ship lived, still, it lived in here – not in the antiseptic and frankly meager spots that were allowed on the unaccompanied tour route.  And live it did – even to the point of still having what appeared to be the final watchbill still on a bulletin board, and remains of what might have been a fuel, oil, and water report as well.  Staterooms had no furniture, or rusting racks with destroyed mattresses.  Paint flakes were everywhere.  Lights were nowhere.  The ship existed, here, as it really was – in a state of total neglect, but not quite yet dead.

Access to the wheelhouse was easy enough, and the communication equipment was not far from it; that equipment lit off right away.  I used the mike in the wheelhouse to speak the words “Test of the Savannah announcing system.. test one two three… ” and the curator shot up and assured me that, although I’d heard nothing but my own voice in the stifling heat of the wheelhouse, the system had worked and he’d heard speakers around the ship broadcast it. He was almost gleeful. We decided it could work, but I recall telling him that I had no idea and could make no professional assessment whatsoever as to whether or not any compatible replacement equipment was available commercially.  What if something failed – what if anything failed?  Were there other units on board?  Was the equipment still in use in older ships, perhaps lake freighters?  We had no answers, but for the moment, it had worked.  All we were really trying to do was prove feasibility, anyway.  Maybe prove the guy right – or maybe just try a dream once.

The curator must have known that I was enamored of the ship, because we ended up taking quite a walk through the ship, talking about it, why it was there, why wasn’t anyone interested in it, and its state of repair.  He told me there were dozens of things that were really impressive about the ship that few knew about – did I know that the portholes had double panes of polarized glass, the inner of which could be rotated to block the sun?  He showed me, and darned if they didn’t work wonderfully… decades before electronically dimmed windows of any conception.  Did I know that the tables in the lounge were made of an early heavy plastic like Lexan, and were lit from the inside?  Did I know that the lounge had recessed lighting many years before it was common in homes and businesses?  There were many things he told me of, and some he pointed out, as we walked around slowly finding our way back onto the pier.

I had no idea, but that was the last time I’d see that curator or get to tour off limits places on the ship.  Apparently, commercial announcing equipment was purchased for the ships – and he’d moved on by the time we got back from the next patrol.  But I never got that feel out of my system; never forgot those two days.  Every time I toured the ship again, afterward, I walked even a little slower, just to get the most out of the now-not-enough of the ship I could see.

Years later, after I’d gotten out of the Service, I read somewhere that the ship had actually left Patriot’s Point, and been moved to the James River Reserve Fleet – maybe not exactly the death knell, but not even as good as the “Island of Misfit Toys,” either.  I wondered how that had been allowed to happen… why was the ship taken out of Patriot’s Point?  Of course, the reasons were perfectly practical and sensible, having to do with condition, cost, and upkeep – but that rang hollow to me, knowing the ship’s historical place (which has been written about so exhaustively that duplication of the story here isn’t necessary.)

What was worst to me, personally, was something rather selfish, but inescapable:  Would I ever see her again?  Better yet, would I ever set foot on her again?  Many years would pass with that question unanswered.

And out of the blue, within the last six weeks or so, that question was answered definitively:  Yes, and not only yes, but I will do so Thursday.  THIS Thursday, November 14th, 2013.  Thanks to the American Nuclear Society, the Maritime Administration and some supreme luck, I’ll be touring the ship with an ANS Technical Tour group.  I’ll enjoy every minute, and I’ll let you go along with me by writing – and with luck, with both photo and video.

What matters about the N.S. Savannah today isn’t that she wasn’t, in the final analysis, economical to operate; what matters rather is that the promise the ship offered when built wasn’t realized, but was also never withdrawn.  That promise exists now, today – in 2013 – exactly as it did when the N.S. Savannah toured the world’s oceans, proved the safety and reliability of seagoing nuclear power in a very real way that the Navy ships (considering security) couldn’t effectively do, and secured dozens of agreements with nations to allow nuclear powered merchant shipping into their waters.

Under restoration, the way she looks now, as compared to how she looked when pulled out of service – or worse, as I remember her at the end of the 1980′s and the start of the 1990′s – is a lot more like that ship which blazed a trail that no one else trod back in the early, hopeful days of nuclear energy.  How does she look up close?  Inside?  How does she feel, underfoot?  We will know soon.  I will know soon, rather – and I will show you.

For More Information:

NS Savannah – US Maritime Administration

NS Savannah Library

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WillDavisNewBioPicWill Davis is 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, is Secretary of the Board of Directors of PopAtomic Studios, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy Reactor Operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.  He’s also an avid typewriter collector in his spare time.

Nuclear Undone: A Familiar Advocate Takes Charge

Lenka Kollar

Lenka Kollar

Readers of the ANS Nuclear Cafe blog will have seen, from time to time, the work of Lenka Kollar, educating and informing about a wide variety of nuclear issues.  Kollar, formerly of Argonne National Laboratory, has made the bold decision to make her own way as a nuclear advocate and consultant. We had a chance to catch up with Ms. Kollar during the 2013 American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. and ask her a few questions about her just-launched and exciting new initiative Nuclear Undone.

ANS:  When and how did you get the idea to start Nuclear Undone?

Kollar:  “I actually came up with the idea about two years ago; I purchased the domain name in 2011 but didn’t do anything with it for a while.  I recognized that there were problems with communication in the nuclear industry, and I was interested in outreach.  I decided to add to my scientific degree with a business degree, and began investigating jobs… when I didn’t find one I liked, I essentially invented it.”

ANS:  You essentially created your own space, first on the net.

Kollar: ” ….My health blog got very popular, fairly quickly with very little effort, and that showed that I could do this… and I have the entrepreneurial spirit because my parents immigrated here at the time I was born, and they’re entrepreneurs; I always thought I’d like to try that sort of thing, but it happened a little earlier in life than I’d expected!”

ANS:  Tell us about the choice of the name “Nuclear Undone.”

Kollar:  “I want to undo the present thinking about nuclear.  Many people in the world think they know about nuclear but either don’t know or are badly misinformed.  I want to help them open their minds.”

ANS:  How would you describe Nuclear Undone?  The site describes it as a ‘grass roots effort,’ so will it eventually have speakers and papers?  How will the operation look?

Kollar:  “The operation is actually an LLC; I’m the owner, and editor (of web content).  I want to provide good, general articles about a range of nuclear-related issues for everyone.  I’m assembling a young panel – some students, some professionals in the business – to help.  Eventually I’ll be established personally as a consultant for policy research; my specialty is nonproliferation policy and spent nuclear fuel policy.”  (Kollar told us that a separate outreach effort, perhaps in ways divided but under the same roof, will come later on.)

ANS:  What do you think of the competitive environment in which you operate?  There are other efforts out there, after all.

Kollar:  “True, but most of them aren’t full-time bloggers; they have jobs, and some are limited by those.  I want to make sure my communications are simple, visually pleasing, easy to understand for all.”

(Kollar also informs us, after inquiry, that the modern, organic looking logo found on the website is her own work.)

ANS:  Do you believe that nuclear is part of a rational “all of the above” approach to generation?

Kollar:  “Yes, very strongly.  We’ll need a different mix in different regions; the southeast is better for nuclear, clearly, but it can have a role everywhere.  We have to take resources and public perception into account as well.  It’ll continue to be a strong part of our base load generating mix.”

ANS:  You mentioned your specialty is nonproliferation policy; will Nuclear Undone incorporate a non-pro education component?

Kollar:  “Absolutely it will.  Lots of people don’t understand nonproliferation policy, the reach and power of the IAEA, or nonproliferation issues.  Many think they do, but the realities are different… I want to educate people on nonproliferation policy, and what the issues really are and how they differ from nuclear energy issues.”

ANS:  So your general areas of focus might be…

Kollar:  “Well, in addition to nonproliferation, I’d say nuclear waste, radiation, and security.”

ANS:  We noticed that your site carries the statement that it’s not… a mouthpiece for the ‘nuclear industry’ per se.

Kollar:  “That really just means that it’s not a site for passing on fixed talking points for the industry.  The writing is all my own – or later, as other team members contribute, will be edited by me – so that it’s clear and accessible.”

ANS:  Tell us about the team you’ve assembled.  Did you select them after launch, or did the group exist among acquaintances and friends and you banded it together?

Kollar:  “Kind of both.  There had been talk for some time about a peer advocacy group, but nothing really happened.  Until now, that is.  I want engaging people who are passionate about nuclear issues and about communications.”

We wish Lenka all the best of luck as she continues with the launch of Nuclear Undone.  There can never be enough people engaging the public about the realities of nuclear issues and nuclear policies; the outcome of any such effort can only be positive.

(Interview and article by Will Davis for the ANS Nuclear Cafe)

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Small Modular Reactors at ANS 2013 Winter Meeting

by Will Davis

Small Modular Reactors in the US definition are below 300 MWe output, and typically have all components concentrated within the reactor vessel or attached directly to it - as with the South Korean SMART SMR design seen here.

Small Modular Reactors are below 300 MWe output and typically have all components located within the reactor vessel or attached directly to it, as with the South Korean SMART SMR design here

2nd American Nuclear Society SMR Conference

As Topical Meeting Chair Tom Sanders noted at the conference opening plenary this morning, Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) have been a part of ANS Meetings for five years – signaling the importance of these reactors to the industry and to the future of nuclear energy.  Talks this morning further showed the promise of the SMR as a ‘game changer’ – and in some ways, warned of some perils to be avoided lest the concept die on the vine.

Dr. Sanders explained that a lucrative field in fuel sales to foreign nations which had purchased US-built SMR’s could develop, if buy-burn-return contracting were included.  Such contracts could also alleviate proliferation or spent nuclear fuel concerns.  Sanders added that it’s up to the industry to convince the United States government that SMR’s are worthwhile – and noted the difficulty of the US ensuring safety control or proliferation resistance regarding reactors built overseas which did not come from the US.

Peter Lyons, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the US Department of Energy stated unequivocally that the SMR could truly usher in a new paradigm for how we build nuclear plants, but he added that this would not obviate the need for large, gigawatt class reactors in the field of power generation.  Lyons pointed out that 99% of the coal plants in the US that are older than 50 years are below 300 MWe – placing their capacity and replacement solidly in the SMR output range.  Lyons gave DOE expected figures for SMR plant costs at roughly $4700 to $6000 per KWe, or about $900M to $1200M total for a 200 MWe plant; he compared this to a total cost of about $5B to $7B for a gigawatt class nuclear plant.

In an interesting observation, Lyons said that he believes that eventually the economies of mass production for SMRs may roughly equal in importance the economies of scale which drive utilities toward very large, powerful reactors.  While the first few orders for SMR plants would not be enough to convince a vendor to construct and operate an automated factory for building these plants, SMRs will be built with present or expanded resources and facilities until orders of ‘several plants per year’ are on the books, at which point large dedicated facilities would be built, to realize the full economies of SMRs.

Lyons observed that in the United States we’ll need about 50 GWe of new generating capacity just to replace coal plants alone in the decades to come (hinting at openings for SMR plants), and that the Executive Order for DoD sites to reduce carbon footprint might also open the door for government/DoD ownership of SMR plants somewhere down the line.

As always, Bruce Lacy of Lacy Consulting gave an excellent, detailed talk – this time on the economics of nuclear power in general, as well as SMR plants specifically, as viewed by actual investors on Wall Street.  Lacy’s remarks, far too voluminous to reprint here, contained great pieces of information for those interested in SMR plants – and for those who wish to build them.

Lacy made it clear that in the vast majority of cases, Wall Street investors aren’t against nuclear power – however, they are against impractical or risky investments.  Lacy said “they’re against giant projects that are a large percentage of a company’s balance sheet, have an open-ended completion time, and are faced with regulatory uncertainty.”  He pointed out that investors looking at a company that wishes to build a plant would “like to see a balance sheet at least five times the cost of the nuclear plant project.”  This rules out very many companies for large gigawatt class plants.  What all of this means, of course, is that investors may well be interested in SMR’s which will have, in theory, vastly lower costs per unit.

Lacy pointed out that Wall Street views government funding not as a guarantee that a project will launch and continue, but rather as a fleeting resource which can disappear at any time.  While government lends to solar and renewables now, if and when the funding is taken away, Wall Street will still invest money somewhere else.  It’s here that nuclear in the form of SMRs or, perhaps for large utilities or utility groups, large commercial plants, has an opportunity.

Lacy made a number of points about prospects in the coming years for the SMR market, and while some were familiar (for example, the concept that SMRs must be viewed, right out of the box, as a truly global industry), one stood out above all: avoid hype.  The nuclear industry should “under-commit and over-perform” to retain credibility with investors, who are familiar enough with overruns and cancellations in the 1980′s to run at the sound of hype.  Incidentally, Lyons reported that an announcement on a 2nd round of SMR R&D funding would be “soon.”

The opening speeches at the SMR topical meeting once again showed that the door is in fact open to SMRs as a concept.  Progress remains slow – painfully slow for some of us.  Much work remains to be done, but in measured ways, all signs still remain “go” from just about every perspective – which, during this current season of nuclear rollbacks, cancellations, and even plant closures, is good enough news for now.

For further information:

SMR plants have been discussed, as noted above, for use as direct replacements for coal-fired plants.  Small nuclear plants were already built, many years ago, that were actually added on to existing steam plants.  Read an extensive ANS Nuclear Cafe piece on such plants

SMRs were discussed in-depth at an ANS Winter Meeting last year in San Diego.  Read about that event by clicking here

WillDavisNewBioPicWill Davis is 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, is Secretary of the Board of Directors of PopAtomic Studios, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy Reactor Operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.  He’s also an avid typewriter collector in his spare time.

US Secretary of Energy Moniz at ANS Opening Plenary

Moniz on Nuclear

By Will Davis

Moniz

Moniz

One of the many distinguished keynote speakers at Monday morning’s ANS 2013 Winter Meeting Opening Plenary Session was the Honorable Ernest J. Moniz, Secretary of Energy of the United States.  Secretary Moniz has often mentioned nuclear as part of an “all of the above” approach to energy, but on Monday we were treated to more extended remarks.

During his presentation, Secretary Moniz detailed the DOE’s three-pronged approach to advancing nuclear energy.  The first is the DOE’s $8B loan guarantee extended for construction of two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle in Georgia.  Moniz elaborated that the cost and schedule are being closely monitored, not just from within DOE but in many sectors, and expressed the opinion that if cost and schedule remain relatively within expectations and if positive returns are seen, there is no reason not to expect further investments… that is, additional utilities constructing large commercial nuclear plants in the ~1000 MWe class.

The second thrust for nuclear in the Department of Energy is the continued expenditure on Research and Development.  Moniz described the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) concept as an extremely interesting development and went so far as to say it could be a possible “game changer” in the outlook for nuclear energy.  He mentioned the $452M committed over 6 years by DOE for the development and construction of SMR plants in the United States (award of a second round of funding, more limited in coverage, has yet to be made).

The third DOE focus is an effort to resolve issues relating to spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste.  Moniz warned that the nation must act to prevent a potential $20B liability to the US Government if spent fuel lawsuits by utilities, for monies paid into the fund, continue to be decided in favor of the utilities.  Worse, the unresolved spent fuel situation “…limits any options we have for fuel leasing constructs to small countries wishing to build nuclear reactors – preventing us from helping to limit proliferation risk by returning spent fuel here.”  He noted that the amount of spent nuclear fuel returned from such agreements back to the United States would be quite small up through the mid-century point, but that we’re blocked on any development whatsoever by having no finality in the spent fuel situation – a position that both prevents us from selling nuclear fuel under complete contract, and prevents us from affecting proliferation risk.  Moniz indicated he does in fact expect action by Congress ‘shortly.’

Moniz also remarked with some pride that the final shipment of downblended uranium from the Megatons to Megawatts program will arrive on US shores soon, and lauded the program for its production of reactor fuel ‘for roughly 10 percent of US electric power generation’ while eliminating a great amount of weapons-grade material from the world.  Moniz also noted the complete removal of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from 12 nations now, with the latest being Hungary.

During the Q&A session at the end of the Opening Plenary, Secretary Moniz made further remarks on how DOE is working to contribute to nuclear energy’s future.  He said that the DOE program is designed to drive down the cost of generating methods (in this case referring to SMR’s as well as other competing methods) so that they can all compete in the marketplace.  He highlighted the “All of the Above” approach to fuel mix and again reiterated that President Obama’s intention is that nuclear energy have a place at the table.

Moniz’s remarks once again show that DOE and the Federal Government are committed to nuclear – perhaps to a lesser extent than many here at the ANS Winter Meeting would prefer, but committed nonetheless.

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WillDavisNewBioPicWill Davis is 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, is Secretary of the Board of Directors of PopAtomic Studios, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy Reactor Operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.  He’s also an avid typewriter collector in his spare time.

From the ANS President’s Reception at the Winter Meeting (photoblog)

The ANS President’s Reception at the 2013 Winter Meeting on Sunday, November 10 was a chance for old friends to reunite and new friends to meet with their colleagues and ANS elected leaders.

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ANS President Donald Hoffman, Vice President/President Elect Michaele Brady Raap, and Immediate Past President Michael Corradini (left to right) welcome President’s Reception attendees

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Bryndol Sones, US Army Military Academy at West Point, and Harold McFarlane, Generation IV International Forum and Idaho National Laboratory

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The Services and civilian populations were well-represented among attendees at the Expo Hall

Thanks to Yossi May for Washington Photo

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Past, Present, and Promise

The SS Savannah

NS Savannah

By Will Davis

Next week, the American Nuclear Society (ANS) will be hosting a Technical Tour of the only nuclear powered commercial vessel ever built in the United States: the NS Savannah.  Will Davis and Paul Bowersox will report from the tour in word and photos. 

Below is the first of Will’s narratives on why this technical tour – and a tour last year – are so important to him.

Deliberately revisiting, face to face, the ghosts of one’s past is something few of us choose to do – and rarely do we do it publicly.  Next week, I’ll have the chance to do just that for the second time in a year, by courtesy of ANS – and I wonder if the impact on me will be as profound as that which occurred last year.

At the 2012 ANS Winter Meeting, a Technical Tour of a submarine at Naval Base Point Loma was offered, and I jumped at the chance to again set foot on an active US Navy nuclear powered submarine for the first time in twenty years.  The last time I’d stepped off of the USS Simon Bolivar, SSBN-641 as a Reactor Operator was in 1993, and at that time (although I didn’t know it yet) I was also walking, at least temporarily, away from nuclear energy as a vocation.  What I did not walk away from was my passion for the technology of nuclear energy and the people who both design it and make it work… it always comes down to people.

After many years I did occasionally find myself having dreams about being back on the boat; it turns out that many of us who leave the fleet as young men and women do.  They became more frequent and more vivid, and the questions about having left the Navy began.  I could, perhaps, find the answers by taking the ANS tour of a boat and see what sprang up.  As the meeting approached, I wondered if my mind would focus on the tour more than anything else, but the work load and long days didn’t allow it.  But soon enough, it was time to force the echoes of my past to meet the realities of today, and see which stood after.

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USS Albuquerque

The bus ride was brief, and I presently found myself on the pier with a group of “nukes” of various backgrounds and ages, all ready to tour the USS Albuquerque, SSN-706.  On the pier, I struck up a conversation with Steve Seaman of Westinghouse Nuclear who talked about his past in Instrumentation & Control (I&C) with Navy nuclear plants.  We talked a bit about why each of us was there, and I let slip part of why I was on the tour.

Immediately when on board, I knew I had done the right thing; the boat smelled like a nuclear boat should smell, at least to a sub sailor  a scent not necessarily for everyone, a mixture of various substances one won’t find just anywhere and when I got below I knew that the boat (even though of an unfamiliar class) “looked right” and that I hadn’t been able to make it all the way down the ladder without a banged knee.  It had been over two decades since the last time I’d navigated such a ladder.

The tour showed me active, young, bright men in the prime of their lives, I imagined concerned (as we all were at that age) about a dozen different things that won’t matter nearly as much in middle age.  The brief talk with the EDEA on the mess decks made me feel frankly a bit old; how is it that as a new RO on board my boat so many years back, the EDEA’s seemed so old, and now here I was seeing a man many years my junior?  The memories weren’t erased, weren’t corrected; they were jogged, and my perspective altered.  For the better.

Over an hour later, as the group of attendees walked in clusters here and there, seemingly more slowly back up the pier than when they had come down, and as we all ‘debriefed’ the tour, Steve and I had various small talk about how some of the things looked familiar  how some things never change, but how some things did.  After a short pause, he said “Did you find what you were looking for?”  I smiled a bit, and said, “I think so.  I am pretty sure now, seeing those guys, that I couldn’t still be doing what they’re doing  not as well, not now.”  “It’s a young man’s game, all right,” Steve observed back, perhaps echoing my sentiment or perhaps validating it.  Maybe both.

As I got to the end of the pier, I thought it was odd that I didn’t really want  or need  to take a look back one last time over my shoulder, as I clearly recall having done while still in uniform in King’s Bay only a week before receiving my honorable discharge back in 1993.  The nuclear Navy is in good hands  it’s the same.  Sure, Admiral Rickover took care of a good part of that; his echoes still resound in the program, there’s no doubt.  But the excellent young men (and now women!) of the nuclear Navy (and the Navy in general) have things well in hand.

I haven’t had another dream about being on a submarine since.  I’ve walked away, finally.

Next week, I’ll get the chance to make another trip  again, courtesy of the American Nuclear Society  part of another set of memories, and emotions, of which I have no intention of walking away.  That which got me interested in nuclear energy as a cause, not just as a job the NS Savannah.  I worked on the ship, in a set of curious circumstances, while in the Navy but that part of the story will wait until next time.

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WillDavisNewBioPicWill Davis is 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, is Secretary of the Board of Directors of PopAtomic Studios, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy Reactor Operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.  He’s also an avid typewriter collector in his spare time.

2nd ANS Small Modular Reactor Conference, Nov 12-14, Washington DC

The American Nuclear Society’s Operations and Power Division will host the 2nd ANS Small Modular Reactor Conference during the ANS Winter Meeting on November 12–14, 2013, in Washington, DC.  The Opening Plenary for the Conference will begin on Tuesday, November 12, at 8:00 a.m. at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

Speakers at the Opening Plenary include:

Donald Hoffman, ANS President and President and CEO, EXCEL Services Corporation;

Thomas Sanders, Associate Laboratory Director, Savannah River National Laboratory;

Philip Moor, Vice President, High Bridge Associates;

Peter B. Lyons, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, US Department of Energy;

Ron S. Faibish, Science Fellow, Senate Committee on Energy and National Resources;

Bruce Lacy, President, Lacy Consulting Group

In addition, the Conference will feature three days of technical sessions covering all aspects of small modular reactors design and development:

  • SMR iPWR Refueling Designs and Operations
  • SMR Research and Development
  • SMR Nonproliferation and Security
  • SMR Emergency Planning and Execution
  • Plenary II: SMR iPWR Owner-Operator Nth of a Kind Vision
  • Plenary II: SMR iPWR Licensing-Generic Issues-Siting-Construction
  • SMR Site Suitability
  • SMR Research and Development—II
  • SMR Codes and Standards
  • Department of Energy Investments in Advanced Nuclear Power
  • SMR PRA Advances and Challenges
  • US Government Stewardship of Public Lands/Hosting of SMR /Energy Security Services
  • SMR Simulators/Control Room Design/Staffing and Human Factors
  • SMR Manufacturing/Modular Construction Processes
  • International SMR Development

Interest in small modular reactors continues to grow as an option for future power generation and energy security.  Modularized construction of smaller reactors holds the promise of reduced costs and construction times, as well as enhanced siting flexibility and improved safety and performance.

All ANS members are invited and encouraged to attend this topical meeting.

If you have questions or need additional information, feel free to contact General Chair Thomas Sanders, Assistant Chair Philip Moor, Technical Program Chair Vince Gilbert, or Assistant Technical Program Chair Mark Campagna.

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