Tag Archives: MOX Fuel

TN-Chattanooga participants recognized at ANS Winter Conference

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

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

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

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

The future of nuclear at #MOXChat

By Laura Scheele

On September 11, the National Nuclear Security Administration (U.S. Department of Energy) hosted a public meeting in Chattanooga, Tenn., concerning its Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the disposition of surplus weapons-grade plutonium as mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for use in power reactors. You may have seen the ANS Call to Action for the hearing and perhaps read the ANS position statement or background information.

L to R: Stephanie Long, Nick Luciano, Alyx Wszolek, and Suzy Hobbs Baker.

This is the story about how ANS members fulfilled the mission set forth in the position statement:  to inform the public and media about the nonproliferation benefits of the MOX fuel program. It’s also the story of how ANS student members answered the Call to Action and contributed to the success of this event for the Society.

The Chattanooga ANS Local Section and the Chattanooga State Community College ANS Student Section both committed to supporting the September 11 hearing as a priority outreach project. ANS Public Information Committee Chair Dave Pointer e-mailed nearly 700 ANS national and student members within a 5-state radius and asked them to come to the hearing to represent the Society, to explain why MOX fuel use makes sense, and to make a stand for nuclear in an area where nuclear opponents had monopolized the public discussion about nuclear.

ANS members showed up.

ANS student members from University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UT-K): (l to r) Hailey Green, Remy Devoe, Tyler Rowe, Seth Langford, John Wilson, and Brent Fiddler. (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

LOTS of ANS members showed up.

Chattanooga State Community College ANS students wear their blue-and-orange shirts in a standing-room-only public hearing.

MOST of the ANS members who showed up were students.

The faculty and student delegation from University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UT-K). (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

ANS members who couldn’t show up replied to the e-mail to say they couldn’t come, but wanted to pass along their encouragement and their belief that this was the right thing to do.

We can take pride in how well the Society was represented in Chattanooga.

The students took pride in representing the Society and the profession—and did so very well.

Chattanooga was a communications victory for ANS across the board: a great turnout for nuclear professionals and students and a great event for explaining the benefits of MOX fuel technologies.

Defying expectations

The presence of so many young people supporting the ANS position on MOX fuel made a definite impression upon attendees. The most common question I was asked by non-ANS participants was, “How many Chattanooga State students are here today?” One gentleman who opposed MOX fuel prefaced his remarks by saying that he once taught at Chattanooga State and was thrilled to see so many students attending the hearing.

Chattanooga ANS Local Section Chair Samuel Snyder wrote following the hearing:

Samuel Snyder, Chattanooga ANS Local Section Chair

Samuel Snyder comments during the hearing.

One thing that struck me last night was the average age of those who attended the meeting in support of the nuclear science and technology industry. When you take last night’s “pro-nuclear” group as a whole, I would say that the average age was in the 20s.

A good number of students were willing to get up in front of the group and provide public comments in favor of the ANS-backed proposal for the disposition of surplus plutonium. The comments were very civil from the “pro” side, and mainly civil from the “anti” side, though my biased opinion is that the “pro” side did a much better job of presenting facts and providing sound arguments for their position.

It’s good to have friends…

This was the first public hearing experience for most of the participants. Recently, Chattanooga has seen a lot of anti-nuclear activity, including opponents who stage protests dressed as zombies.

In asking ANS members to attend this hearing, we were asking nuclear professionals to venture outside of their comfort zone in terms of making public comments on an issue that might not really be their area of expertise—and oh, by the way, you might also need to wade through a crowd of zombies who will be heckling you. No worries!

Three ANS students wisely team up and keep their backs to the wall to prevent a zombie sneak attack. (L to R: Alyx Wszolek, Steven Stribling, and Stephanie Long ) (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

That’s what friends (and professional membership societies) are for—to watch your back when you’re surrounded by zombies. Being the only science-informed person in the room can sometimes be uncomfortable and even intimidating. There is strength in numbers, and so coming together on a vitally important issue strengthens our association by strengthening our professional and personal bonds.

…Especially social media friends

Suzy Hobbs Baker of the Nuclear Literacy Project drove from South Carolina to support the hearing. (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

The social media promotion of this event contributed to its success. The ANS Social Media Group is an amazing collection of people with wildly different perspectives and backgrounds who share one thing: the conviction that the nuclear community needs to improve how we communicate if nuclear energy’s promise is to be realized.


Alex Woods, Chattanooga State

Alex Woods, Chattanooga State Student Section president, led off the comments.

Individually and collectively, they have shed much blood, sweat, and tears in their efforts—and they are willing to lend a hand so that your blood, sweat, and tears might be spared.

#MOXChat was the twitter hashtag for the Chattanooga hearing. The live-tweeting provided a minute-by-minute rundown of the comments and observations by nuclear professionals across the country who followed this on twitter. Unfortunately, the tweets have expired on Twitter.

A roundup of social media coverage of #MOXChat is at the end of this article. Many thanks to everyone who supported this event via social media. Your observations and advice were invaluable, and many of the students brought printouts of your entries to the hearing as prep material.

Steven Skutnik

Steven Skutnik

A special tip of the ANS Nuclear Cafe cap to Steve Skutnik, who did it all at this hearing: made public comments, live-tweeted the hearing, live-blogged the hearing here at the ANS Nuclear Cafe, blogged pre- and post-hearing at his Neutron Economy blog, and helped prep students in his capacity as UT-K assistant professor. Thanks, Steve!


The power of  showing up

Howard Shaffer, Meredith Angwin and Eric Loewen

Howard Shaffer and Meredith Angwin receive presidential citations from ANS Past President Eric Loewen.

Meredith Angwin and Howard Shaffer have spearheaded a nuclear advocacy effort in Vermont that has changed the public debate over nuclear energy. They often talk about the value of  ‘Showing Up’ to support nuclear. By showing up, Meredith and Howard have built a pro-nuclear grassroots movement in a place where people sometimes seem to think nuclear is a four-letter word.

Pro-Nuclear Rally in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Go Team Nuclear!

We asked ANS members to come to the hearing and comment on behalf of ANS—but we also asked those who could not comment to show up and support their friends and colleagues. They did—and they applauded every comment. Some who couldn’t stay for the hearing showed up to meet with the students and answer questions that they had about MOX fuel and reactor operations.

ANS members mingle before the public hearing begins.

Everyone there contributed to the success of this event—just by showing up.

Having fun is contagious

The disposition of excess weapons-grade plutonium is a serious issue. The ANS student members took seriously the responsibility of speaking on behalf of the ANS position and the need to counter some of the more implausible assertions by the nuclear opponents who attended.

Chris Perfetti preparing his public comments.

Taking the responsibility seriously, however, doesn’t mean being humorless. Sometimes we err too much on the side of serious and need to remember that positive experiences build upon themselves: having fun at an event makes it more likely that you’ll do something similar in the future.

Besides, we’re hilarious! Why try to fight it?

Sometimes a little #MOXSnark needs to be vented due to the wild claims made by nuclear opponents.

And sometimes brilliant ideas—like ANS Man, or a YouTube show featuring Sarcastic Science Guy in a Turquoise Shirt, or setting future public comments to cheering cadences—are born of these shared experiences.

All I will say is this:  My understanding of  plutonium dispersion factors has been forever transformed. Or, as Steve Skutnik live-tweeted, #youprobablyhadtobethere.

You know, in Chattanooga.


*in a technically credible, knowledgable, and thoroughly polite and eloquent manner, while adhering to the highest standards of safety (no zombies were harmed in the writing of this post).

L to R: Remy Devoe, John Wilson, Rob Milburn, and UT-K Student Section President Ryan Sweet

Social media roundup

Rod Adams, Atomic Insights:
Plutonium Power for the People

Meredith Angwin, Yes Vermont Yankee:
MOX & Hearings in Chattanooga
Meeting Success Story in Chattanooga
Show Up for Nuclear in Chattanooga

Steve Skutnik, Neutron Economy:
Wading into the Zombie Nuclear Horde
Mixing it up over MOX – a wrapup from Chattanooga

Dan Yurman, Idaho Samizdat:
Mix it Up about MOX in Chattanooga
Calling Out Red Herrings about MOX Fuel for TVA

US Areva:
Can you Talk MOX? 10 Things You Need to Know about MOX Nuclear Fuel

Chattanooga State students stand near a MOX fuel assembly mock-up at the open house. (L to R: Geneva Parker, Mark Hunter, and Brian Satterfield) (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information

ANS was able to support this important effort thanks to funding provided through its Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information.


 Laura Scheele is the Communications and Public Policy Manager for the American Nuclear Society’s Communications and Outreach Department.

Dr. G. Ivan Maldonado presents ANS comments at TVA Board hearing

On August 16, G. Ivan Maldonado, PhD, Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering with the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, attended a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board Meeting on behalf of the American Nuclear Society to present comments on the use the of mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel technology to accomplish the timely disposition of surplus weapons-grade plutonium.

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) has long regarded the timely disposition of surplus weapons-grade plutonium to be vitally important to national security. In 2001—and again in 2009—ANS endorsed the application of MOX fuel technologies to accomplish this goal. Society members also endorsed the important role that ANS should play in informing the public about the nonproliferation benefits of the MOX fuel program and the safe and successful track record of manufacturing and using MOX fuel.

The ANS Nuclear Cafe caught up with Professor Maldonado to ask him about this experience.

Why did you feel it was important to submit public comments to the TVA Board?

Dr. G. Ivan Maldonado at Oak Ridge National Laboratory office

I have attended a few public meetings before.  In particular, I recall a visit to in Piketon, OH, several years ago when the DOE was entertaining the possibility of a collocated recycling/reprocessing facility and a fast reactor somewhere around the US.  So they visited several selected sites to hear the locals and public comments.

My colleagues at the University of Cincinnati (where I worked then); Dr. Henry Spitz and Dr. John Christenson (may he rest in peace), and Professor Rich Denning from Ohio State University joined me to help provide some educated comments on behalf of the positive impact such project would have upon an economically depressed area of Ohio, and also upon universities such as UC and OSU (research, industrial jobs, etc.) all which would benefit the children of Ohio and the surrounding states.

Our positive thinking and the good message we genuinely believed we brought forth seemed to “drown” within a sea of dozens and dozens of out-of-town activists who had apparently mobilized from all points across the US, sometimes driving for several days in large clusters with the sole purpose of “simulating” a public majority that had greatly suffered for years from the evil doings of the US DOE and the nuclear industry.  Each of their stories was more off the wall than the previous one, many of them designed as scare tactics with unfounded data or events that nobody could corroborate or verify.  Most of these individuals obviously had no ties to, or represented, the public interest of the local town or of the State of Ohio, and part of their tactic was to also loudly cheer each other.

In this manner, when I and my colleagues spoke, we were met with sepulchral silence or even a few boos.  I learned that day that these environmental activist groups were simply much more organized and better prepared than any of us were.  I thought that day they accomplished their mission, which was to simulate a mostly anti-nuclear public providing endless stories (rarely documented evidence) and, thus, overwhelming most of the available time for public comments.

I was happy to present a position statement to TVA on behalf of the ANS and was actually proud of the fact that my professional society was making a deliberate effort to mobilize our troops to help our voice be heard.

Could you describe the setting for the TVA Board of Directors meeting?

I thought it was very interesting that the TVA building was surrounded by cop cars and riot/bomb type squads with canine units all over the place.  The entrance to the meeting had a metal detection portal, much like going through airport security.  The registration table had a couple of ladies who checked your name against the list of pre-registered public speakers.  The order of the speakers (your number) was based on when you pre-registered on the Internet.  My number was 29, so I knew I’d be there for a while.

For people who haven’t submitted public comments before:  What were the mechanics?

The public comments for the TVA Board meeting were well organized. Speakers were summoned in sets of about 5 individuals at a time. When you started to speak, a clock/timer began to count down your 3 minutes.  The light was green until there was about 1 minute left, then turned yellow.  Finally, it turned red.

I had rehearsed “in my head” while waiting for my turn, timing it with my phone, and quickly learned that my brain talks to itself much faster than when speaking into a microphone!  Three minutes go by very quickly, but I managed to squeeze it all in.

What were some examples of other public comments?

Given that TVA is a large public utility, public concerns extend over a very large footprint of issues surrounding coal, hydro, gas, and nuclear generation, transmission lines & vegetation management.  So during the first 2 hours of the Board meeting, there was one statement against MOX, and two technically-based talks that supported MOX: mine and that by Dr. Thom Mason, the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  So I heard a lot of concerns from the public about presumedly indiscriminate cutting of trees near power lines, particularly affecting the looks of suburban neighborhoods and thus housing prices.  Folks traveled a long way to express their concern with marinas being built and developed in the lakes that serve the TVA dams, etc.

Inevitably, as it was my experience back in Ohio, probably 6 or more years ago, I noticed groups of activists who were present, and their reciprocal cheering & clapping that followed every one of their talks.  Funnily enough, after I spoke… “you could hear a pin drop.”


ANS Man vs. the Anti-Nuclear Zombie Plague

Adventures of the Charismatic ANS Man





By Dave Pointer

I grew up in the green rolling hills of east Tennessee and graduated from the University of Tennessee.

University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Photo by Wade Rackley/Tennessee Journalist
Link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tnjn/4110732198/
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en
Modified by Dave Pointer


I moved north to the great city of Chicago to work as a nuclear engineer.

Dave Pointer in Chicago

 Photo by Nimesh Madhavan.
Link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nimeshm/3012399375/
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en
Modified by Dave Pointer


But it wasn’t long before I started hearing strange reports from home. Unsettling rumors—almost too strange to believe—of the dead returning to life and congregating in the streets of Chattanooga.

Zombies in Chattanooga TN

 Photo by Just Shooting Memories.
Link: http://justshootingmemories.com/2011/10/11/chattanooga-skyline
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Original zombie art by Dave Pointer


Their sole purpose—to oppose the use of nuclear science and technology, especially for the generation of electricity.

Zombies with chainsaws

 Photo by Richard Webb
Link: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2445748
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Chainsaw clipart: http://openclipart.org
Original zombie art by Dave Pointer


As the cooler temperatures of autumn approached, we learned that the zombie plague had spread: the zombies were closing in on the public hearing on the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), scheduled for 5:30pm–8:00pm on September 11, 2012, at the Chattanooga Convention Center!

Zombies in a conference room

  Photo by Dries Buyaert
Link: http://buytaert.net/album/drupalcon-chicago-2011/conference-room-for-3000-people
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Original zombie art by Dave Pointer


I knew that I must act—and ANS Man was born!

ANS Man is every ANS member and no ANS member—a mystery figure armed with a PASSION for nuclear energy and the FACTS about nuclear science and technology.

A Nuclear Superhero is born!

 Original ANS Man art by Dave Pointer


Faster than a speeding neutron, ANS Man traveled to Chattanooga and registered his intention to address the zombie crowd. He also stopped by the ANS Member Hospitality Room in MEETING ROOM ONE for a delicious cookie.

ANS Man arrives at the Chattanooga Convention Center

 Photo by Dries Buyaert
Link: http://buytaert.net/album/drupalcon-chicago-2011/conference-room-for-3000-people
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Original ANS Man and Cookie art by Dave Pointer


When it was his turn to take the microphone in hand, ANS Man spoke eloquently and passionately about the benefits of nuclear science and technology and the safety of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.

  • Nuclear science and technology improves our lives in many ways and in many different areas: generates over 20 percent of U.S. electricity; makes our food safer; improves the quality of our tools, gauges, and machines; helps diagnose injuries and illnesses; treats cancers; and powers our exploration of the solar system.
  • MOX fuel has been proven to be a safe and reliable fuel source over many reactor years of operation. The safety and performance record of MOX fuel is comparable to that of low-enriched uranium fuel.
  • MOX fuel has been produced in five countries and is widely used in many reactors all over the world. Many nations view MOX as an essential part of their energy and fuel cycle management policies.
  • The concept of using MOX fuel to dispose of surplus plutonium has received broad national and international support from scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the US-Russian Independent Scientific Commission on Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium, Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, and the Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Eloquent Nuclear Super Hero

 Original ANS Man art by Dave Pointer
Podium clipart from http://openclipart.org


The zombies were overwhelmed by his presentation, and, as they filled with new facts, new brains began to grow inside their zombie skulls.

The zombie plague was cured!

ANS Man cures zombies!

Original ANS Man art by Dave Pointer
Brain clipart from http://openclipart.org


Hopefully, this was entertaining. Unfortunately, there are people who will stop at nothing to reduce the use of nuclear energy, regardless of the consequences.

By opposing the safe and responsible use of MOX fuel technologies to reduce or eliminate excess weapons-grade plutonium stockpiles, the anti-nuclear zombies really do pose a threat: they make our world a much more dangerous place.  As a nuclear engineer, I know that we can and should advance nuclear science and technology for the benefit of society. And we can do so safely and responsibly.

This issue is so important that the ANS Position Statement on Utilization of Surplus Weapons Plutonium As Mixed Oxide Fuel (ANS-47-2009) takes the unusual step of including a call to action—asking professional organizations to help inform the public about the nonproliferation benefits of the MOX fuel program and the safe and successful track record of manufacturing and using MOX fuel.

Don’t wait for ANS Man to act on your behalf. Plan to attend and give your statement at the SEIS public hearing on September 11, 2012!

Capes are optional.

ANS Member Hospitality Room

The ANS Member Hospitality Room will open at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, September 11, 2012, in Meeting Room One of the Chattanooga Convention Center.