Category Archives: Meetings

2011 ANS Student Conference: April 14-17

By Brian Dyke

The 2011 ANS Student Conference, hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology, is only a week away! We’re building upon the successes of previous years, and it’s already shaping up to be the best conference to
date. If you’ve never been to an ANS Student Conference, I’d like to offer you some great reasons to attend.

If you’re looking for a full-time job, internship, co-op, or even a grad
school, we will have a nuclear-specific Exhibit Fair with dozens of
companies, organizations, and universities specifically looking to recruit
students in the nuclear field. Many companies will be conducting on-site
interviews, so there’s a chance you could leave Atlanta with a new job! The
Student Conference is also a great opportunity to hear talks and view
posters of cutting-edge research undertaken by your student colleagues from around the nation.

Gwyneth Cravens

We’ll also be hosting the 2nd annual public forum on nuclear energy, a new student conference tradition started last year by the University of Michigan. A broad panel of nuclear experts representing specific areas of interest to the industry (utilities, regulation, nonproliferation, Department of Energy national labs, public advocacy) will answer questions posed by you and other members of the public. ANS Vice President/President Elect Dr. Eric Loewen will serve as moderator for the forum, and the keynote will be delivered by prominent nuclear energy advocate and author of Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy,  Gwyneth Cravens.

Ocean Ballroom at the Georgia Aquarium

Be sure also to catch our “Nuclear in the Arts” night on Thursday with a nuclear-themed gallery opening by PopAtomic Studios and a special performance of “Manya: A Living History of Marie Curie.” To top things off, our Saturday night awards banquet will be held in the Ocean Ballroom of the Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest aquarium, and will be catered by Wolfgang Puck.

With most of your meals being covered by your registration and travel
reimbursement available, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t come enjoy
Atlanta with us this April. The conference will take place from April 14-17
at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. For more information, please visit

Thank you and we hope to see you next week!

Brian Dyke

Brian Dyke is the Publicity Committee chair for the 2011 ANS Student Conference. He is a fourth-year undergraduate in Nuclear and Radiological Engineering. Much of his interest in nuclear science can be attributed to growing up in South Carolina, where many of his neighbors worked at the Savannah River Site.  After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in the power generation side of the nuclear industry.

NETS 2011 Lifts off in Albuquerque

By Paul Bowersox

This article was originally scheduled to appear on March 14.

The 2011 Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space meeting in February was by all accounts a great success. A total of 190 registrants attended, distributed almost evenly among NASA, the Department of Energy/national laboratories, industry, and universities. Conference participants were pleased to once again have a venue for discussing and publishing the latest research and development in space nuclear technologies and the exploration missions enabled by those technologies.

The efforts of General Chair Shannon Bragg-Sitton of the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, and General Co-Chair Michael Houts of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, in initiating and organizing this conference resulted in a very important stepping stone toward major new advances in space exploration.

Opening Plenary

The NETS-2011 Opening Plenary welcomed a highly distinguished panel of speakers to discuss historical space nuclear programs, current programs (and currently desired programs), and how to make these more successful in light of budget constraints, public perception, politics, and policy. Harry Finger’s opening presentation outlined successful developments in nuclear rocket propulsion in the 1960s, so that by 1970 detailed planning of human exploration of Mars had become possible. That development was cut short, but NETS-2011 will serve as a stimulus to move forward in those areas.


John Casani of NASA Jet Propulstion Laboratory, and then James Adams of NASA headquarters, discussed potential and current mission applications for space nuclear systems. Robert Lange of the DOE presented developments in radioisotope power generation, a critical power source for exploration of the solar system. Michael Griffin, former NASA administrator, concluded the opening plenary by presenting viable development strategies for space fission power and propulsion. These presentations and session summaries can be found at the NETS-2011 meeting website.

Meeting Chair Bragg-Sitton received numerous enthusiastic comments from those attending the plenary sessions.  Attendee Don Palac, lead for the Fission Surface Power Program at NASA Glenn Research Center, commented this was the best plenary he had seen in 10 years.

Opening plenary panel

Special Session on Politics, Policy, Non-Technical Challenges


Griffin and moderator Elizabeth Newton asked panelists in a special session to discuss the non-technical challenges of developing space nuclear technology.  “The US space program has enjoyed little stability in space-related policy over the years, and this fluctuation in space program goals can wreak havoc on our attempts to complete a program,” commented Newton to start the session.

Chuck Atkins, retired chief of staff for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology, noted the non-technical challenges faced by space nuclear technology are far greater than the technical ones. An example cited by Atkins is that while a Congressional committee might authorize program spending in a certain area, a program is not funded unless an appropriation is made by another committee. Differences are frequent among committees, between the House and Senate, between the administration and Congress, among various stakeholders within the space program, sometimes within the space nuclear community itself. As long-term programs must survive the entire budgeting process each year, Atkins advocated crafting a long-term nuclear space policy, along with efforts toward longer-term authorizations and appropriations.

Griffin stated the policy timelines in Washington do not correspond to programmatic timelines—combining two challenging technologies such as space travel and fission power takes more time than it takes for an administration to turn over. Griffin asserted the stakeholders in the space nuclear community need to come together to help form a strategic policy to carry space exploration “to the next level.” Bragg-Sitton: “This policy session inspired numerous questions and insightful discussions with the audience, and I urge readers to explore the complete session summary at the NETS-2011 website.”

Special session panel

Technical Sessions

Numerous technical sessions were held, exploring the most advanced research and development in nuclear technologies for space propulsion and power, surface power, radiation mitigation, and many other related fields. Detailed meeting topics and abstracts of presented papers can be found here.

Exhibit Hall

Opening Dinner with Dr. Glen Schmidt

The opening dinner at NETS-2011 featured a keynote address by Glen Schmidt, test engineer for SNAP-10a—the only fission reactor the United States has flown in space. SNAP-10a overcame many significant engineering challenges on the way to mission success. “I believe we need to take a close look at past programs to understand both how and why things were done a certain way as we endeavor to get a fission system to a flight program once again,” said Bragg-Sitton. “We can certainly learn from such a successful flight program.”

Evening at National Museum of Nuclear Science and History

National Museum of Nuclear Science and History

At another special evening event, conference participants were treated to a presentation by Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, former U.S. Senator for New Mexico and Apollo 17 astronaut—the last man (and the only scientist) to walk on the moon. “Hearing Dr. Schmitt’s reflections about the Apollo program and why there might be reason to return to the moon was truly inspiring,” said Bragg-Sitton. “So few people have had the opportunity to gain this first-hand perspective—Dr. Schmitt’s discussion was truly insightful and inspiring.”


The NETS organizing committee is currently planning NETS-2012. Check the NETS meeting website for more details.

If you would like to be added to a mailing list to receive notification of future NETS meetings, please send email to



Paul Bowersox is a space exploration enthusiast and freelance writer who holds a master’s degree in science policy.

He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

40th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The fuel cycle is a frequent topic in the nuclear blogsphere

This is the 40th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs. The carnival  features blog posts from the leading U.S. nuclear bloggers and is a roundup of featured content from them.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

Bloggers call foul on NRC licensing and Yucca Mountain

The staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission might feel like a soccer ball at a World Cup match after reading the critiques of three nuclear bloggers. In their view, the NRC is not scoring any points with them. Their issues are decision processes for relicensing, how fast the agency moves applications for new licenses through its approval process, and the increasingly muddy waters of the end of the Yucca Mountain project.

Yes Vermont Yankee

Yes Vermont Yankee notes that Duane Arnold and Vermont Yankee are sister nuclear plants. Duane Arnold’s license review took two years and two months.  Vermont Yankee’s license review is at five years and counting. It is pointed out that if the NRC were actually using objective criteria to evaluate plants, this would not happen.

Next Big Future

The NRC does not have enough money to process all the COL (combined operating license) applications in 42 months. Some of the applications, however, are not ready for prime time because of deficiencies, and other license reviews have been suspended at the applicant’s request. The situation is better with reactor design certification. There, NRC expects to finish by 2011 (claim made in 2009) all three that it has docketed.


The NRC has just released a heavily redacted version of the Yucca Mountain review. This action has been justified using a maneuver within the Freedom of Information Act, the process by which the Heritage Foundation sought access to these documents.

What was redacted, you ask? Well, it was the scientific analysis and unbiased recommendation of the NRC staff, something that the taxpayers and nuclear utilities have paid millions upon millions of dollars for, but Chairman Jaczko seems bent on preventing.

Spent fuel is here to stay

An example of dry cask storage

Three states are suing the NRC over the issue of spent fuel stored in dry casks at the Indian Point nuclear plant. New York’s attorney general led the charge.

Idaho Samizdat – New York’s AG sues over spent fuel at Indian Point.

Idaho Samizdat reports that the state of New York has sued the NRC over the issue of storage of used nuclear fuel in dry casks at the Indian Point reactors in Westchester county. It is a politically motivated act promoted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ,who campaigned on a platform of closing Indian Point.

Idaho Samizdat – New York may have lost the case before the ink was dry. New York’s lawsuit may fail as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled against an anti-nuclear group in California that sued over the very same issue at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. If courts in New York look at the Ninth Circuit ruling for precedent, it could turn serious litigation into nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Learning from the opposition

People who are opposed to nuclear energy are good at what they do. The public is scared silly about radiation as a result. Are there ways to push back?  Several bloggers explore the landscape.

Pop Atomic – Learning from anti-nukes: An alternative strategy.

Save Vermont Yankee ~ original artwork by Pop Atomic Studios

Anti-nuclear activists are good at exploiting cracks in the media coverage of thenuclear industry. Can the nuclear industry learn from this tactic? Is is a good idea?

It may seem like anti-nukes “don’t get it,” but you must admit that they are good at what they do, and they do make nuclear projects as difficult as possible.

It is time to take a closer look at what is working for anti-nukes, and examine exactly what they are trying to achieve. Is it possible that we have a lot to learn from each other?

Nuke Power Talk – Are people finally getting it or not?

People are beginning to capture the subtleties of the issues of nuclear power compared with other energy sources. An editorial entitled “Energy Roulette” in  the Washington Post calls for a technology-neutral carbon reduction standard, saying that if “the government interest is in reducing climate change…why should government aid only wind and solar?”

NEI Nuclear Notes – big splash in USA Today.

Editions of USA Today in many regions of the country include a special section on the nuclear energy industry. The section includes a foreword by Nuclear Energy Institute president and chief executive officer Marvin Fertel on the value of nuclear energy, as well as articles and advertising from many nuclear energy companies.

Nuclear Fissionary – Greenpeace activists swarm Spanish nuclear site.

Greenpeace activist on cooling tower at Spanish nuclear plant

Twenty Greenpeace activists entered a nuclear reactor compound in eastern Spain and several of them climbed a cooling tower to protest the use of nuclear power, a Spanish official and Greenpeace spokeswomen said.

Some of them attacked and injured three security officers. The men were assaulted as the angry mob of activists painted the word “peligro” or danger on the cooling tower.

Greenpeace claims that this reckless stunt demonstrates that nuclear power plant security is weak. The truth is, the cooling tower is outside of the secure areas of the plant and the activists never got anywhere near the reactor or the redundant security barriers.

Nuclear Town Hall – Report on fuel rods creates false fears.

A story about potential defects in reactor fuel rods was siezed upon by citizens groups opposed to nuclear energy. On closer inspection, however, the story reveals that alarmist hand-wringing over a gloom-and-doom scenario is not warranted.

If the rods begin to crack, they release boron and tritium into the cooling water, a condition that can easily be monitored.

“As long as there is no significant increase in boron or tritium observed, the recommendation would be continue operation until the end of the operating cycle,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan, told the Wall Street Journal.

Areva North America Next Energy – Survey says American support nuclear energy.

A survey found that 79 percent of respondents agree that “to jump-start investment and maintain U.S. competitiveness, the federal government should provide guarantees backing loans for buildings solar, wind, advanced-design nuclear power plants, or other energy technology that reduces greenhouse gases.” Nineteen percent of those surveyed do not agree, and two percent don’t know.

Those who “strongly agree” outnumber those who “strongly disagree” by a similarly lopsided margin, 46 percent to 10 percent.

This was a telephone survey of 1000 U.S. adults was conducted on February 10-13 by Bisconti Research Inc./GfK Roper for the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Thorium fueled reactors generate interest

Nuclear Green – Rising interest in thorium fueled reactors.

Full-size thorium fuel assembly for a 1000 MWe Russian VVER-1000 nuclear power plant

Now that China has announced interest in developing innovative thorium-fueled reactor designs, a lot of people are paying attention.

Despite [the Chinese announcement of LFTR development plans] not making a ripple in the wider press, there’s a chance this development could be very significant. If the advocates of LFTRs are proved correct—and their arguments are certainly very compelling—then the Chinese could be taking one of the first substantial steps in a new type of nuclear race.

And the stakes are high: as Kirk Sorensen reports, the project “aims not only to develop the technology, but to secure intellectual property rights to its implementation.” It will be very interesting to see what happens next.

Oil company business model v. nuclear energy

Atomic Insights – Embargo oil business model.

The Atomic Insights blog has been covering the business competition between oil, gas, and nuclear energy. This week, it takes on the oil company business mode,l exploring reasons why it is low on innovation, yet high on profits.

ANS launches India Section

ANS Nuclear Cafe – A passage to India.

ANS India Local Section officers (from left: Kumar, Deshpande, Joshi, and McDaniel)

The American Nuclear Society presented the charter to the ANS local India Section at its inaugural event held in Mumbai, India, on February 11, 2011. ANS Past President Harold McFarlane led the presentation of the charter, which was granted in November 2010 by the ANS Board of Directors.

The keynote address for the meeting was given by Vice Admiral John Grossenbacher, director of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), who talked about recent U.S. developments in nuclear research and development.

The event was hosted by the U.S. Counsel General for Mumbai, Paul A. Folmsbee, and attended by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. The event took place with the simultaneous visit to India by representatives of 24 U.S. firms on a trade mission. A delegation from INL also visited.

Reprocessing used fuel

Recovering uranium and plutonium from used fuel can power a nation’s factories and cities. We recycle aluminum, glass, and paper, so why not used fuel? The logic appears to escape some in the United Kingdom and elsewhere

Canadian Energy Issues

Get ready for a righteous fight over plutonium in the UK. The coalition government has launched consultations on the question of whether to recycle it in power reactors, or entrain the stuff permanently in glass logs and dispose of it, or just keep it in long-term storage.

Expect the professional environmental lobby—with the full support of the professional anti-proliferation lobby—to oppose recycling, and to back up that opposition with reasoning that is either weak or outright contradictory.

Brave New Climate – Safeguarding the nuclear fuel cycle.

The purpose of this post is to compare the safeguards challenges presented by two nuclear recycle approaches, relative to the current U. S. approach of a once-through fuel cycle. If these nuclear fuel cycles are evaluated solely on the basis of the safeguards needed, one finds the following:

PUREX recycle offers no safeguarding advantage over the once-through fuel cycle. Beyond that, this approach presents a significant concern over handling of separated plutonium in the power plant environment. Since chemically pure Pu is inherent in the PUREX process, safeguards inspections must be highly intrusive.

Adding recycling fast reactors with pyroprocessing (“PYRO”) to an existing fleet of LWRs absorbs all of the plutonium produced by LWRs. There will be no inventories of plutonium other than what is in active use. PYRO is a new class of facility requiring safeguards, but batch-process inventory controls, coupled with a simple mechanical layout, will make the inspectors’ jobs more straightforward than for a PUREX facility.

The facility for recovering usable material from used LWR fuel may require safeguards similar in approach to those in PUREX facilities, but no separated plutonium will be involved. If plutonium were to be diverted from a PYRO facility or from the LWR recovery facility, it would be useless (for weapons use) without further processing in an otherwise unneeded PUREX type of facility.

Realistically, a full transition to recycling fast reactors is a process that will take decades. If, however, all the LWRs were retired and replaced with recycling fast reactors, in addition to the above advantages, there would be no further need for uranium enrichment.

This is a guest post by William Hannum, a member of the Science Council for Global Initiatives who has worked for more than 40 years in nuclear power development, stretching from design and analysis of the Shippingport reactor to the Integral Fast Reactor.

Hannum earned his BA in physics at Princeton and his MS and PhD in nuclear physics at Yale. He has held key management positions with the U. S. Department of Energy.

Hannum is a fellow of the American Nuclear Society, and has served as a consultant to the National Academy of Engineering on nuclear proliferation issues.

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Registration opens for 2011 ANS Student Conference

The ANS 2011 Student Conference, Living in the Heartland of the Nuclear Renaissance, will be hosted by the ANS Student Section from Georgia Institute of Technology at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, April 14-17, 2011. Registration for the conference is now open.

The 2011 Student Conference will provide attendees with a full range of opportunities to attend paper presentations by students, hear world-class speakers from the nuclear industry, participate in tours of nuclear facilities, experience workshop presentations, network with recruiters, attend social events, explore Atlanta, and enjoy the closing awards banquet at the Georgia Aquarium. Students and professionals will both find value in the conference.

The registration fee is $25 for student members and $70 for non-members during the early registration phase.  Early registration ends on Friday, March 4th. Early registrants will receive a free round-trip MARTA pass for travel between the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the Hyatt Regency.  Tour capacities are limited and will be granted on a first-come, first-serve basis, so register early to guarantee a spot.

For more information about the conference and access to the registration page, please visit Further information and updates on the Georgia Tech ANS Student Section can also be found on Twitter —@GeorgiaTechANS—and Facebook.

Space, the final nuclear frontier: NETS-2011

By Paul Bowersox

From high in orbit above planet Earth… to the dusty surface of the moon… to the stunning cloud tops and moons of Jupiter… to the dazzling rings of Saturn… even to the darkness at the edge of interstellar space—nuclear technology has made possible incredible journeys to extraordinary destinations in our Solar System, and opened doors to some of the most profound discoveries of all time. Yet, the future of nuclear technology for space exploration promises even more remarkable journeys and more amazing discoveries.

The Mars Science Laboratory is powered by nuclear technology and scheduled for Mars landing in August 2012.

The 2011 Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space conference (NETS-2011), to be held at the Albuquerque Marriott Hotel in New Mexico on February 7–10, 2011, will bring together top engineers, scientists, and administrators in nuclear and aerospace technologies to share their latest discoveries and advances in their fields, and to help build the future of space exploration. NETS-2011 is the foremost conference for advanced power and propulsion for human and robotic space exploration, lunar and planetary surface exploration, and space environment protection.

NETS-2011 is sponsored and organized by the Aerospace Nuclear Science & Technology Division (ANSTD) of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), sponsored by the ANS Trinity Section, and cosponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

A unique venue for information exchange and collaboration


Nuclear and aerospace are related, but often disparate fields. “ANS tends to attract nuclear engineers to its meetings, and AIAA tends to attract aerospace engineers to theirs,” said Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Ph.D., general chair of NETS-2011. “What is unique about the NETS-2011 venue is that papers are presented not only by engineers designing space power and propulsion systems, but also those completing mission planning and analysis for proposed space missions, and sometimes scientists who are designing payloads for those missions.”

Benefits flow both ways among nuclear professionals and mission designers. “The NETS-2011 venue allows nuclear professionals to hear about missions that require high-power or advanced propulsion systems—and conversely, it allows mission designers to learn more about what advanced power and propulsion systems, such as nuclear systems, are available, or that could be developed, to meet the needs of those missions,” said Bragg-Sitton. “Establishing these lines of communication—and then working to keep them open through collaborative work—will more rapidly advance technology development, as it will be developed to specifically meet the needs of the user community.”

The Cassini Equinox Mission is powered by nuclear technology and is currently studying Saturn, its moon Titan, and other satellites.

To that end, the promise of nuclear and emerging technologies for upcoming NASA space science, missions, and architectures will be the subject of many technical sessions at NETS-2011, and addressed by opening plenary keynote speakers Honorary Chair John Casani, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Jim Adams, deputy director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters. An opening day plenary panel on space science missions enabled by nuclear power and propulsion will be led by chair Steve Howe, director of the Center for Space Nuclear Research.

Bragg-Sitton notes: “At standard professional society meetings, telling other nuclear professionals about the benefits of nuclear technology does not solve the problem of “getting the word out” to potential users of the technology—NETS-2011 does just that.”

Radioisotope power

The New Horizons Mission spacecraft, powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator battery, will encounter Pluto and its three moons in July 2015.

Radioisotope power generators, which convert heat from a radioactive substance into electricity, have powered (and kept warm) dozens of historic space exploration missions, as well as current missions focusing on more distant planets and their moons, and the upcoming surface exploration of Mars. Radioisotope power will continue to be the mainstay power source for space exploration in harsh, cold, and dark environments—however, future goals will require new technologies, using new materials, more efficient and lighter systems, at reasonable cost. Robert Lange, deputy assistant secretary for Business and Technical Support, U.S. Department of Energy, in the opening plenary will discuss the status and future of radioisotope power for space.

This critical technology will also be the subject of many technical sessions at NETS-2011, as well as a panel session on the critical issue of the dwindling supply and production of plutonium-238—the historically unanimous isotope choice for nuclear spacecraft power.

Fission power, fission propulsion

Nuclear fission provides some enormous advantages over chemical and traditional systems for spacecraft power, surface exploration, and spacecraft propulsion. Nuclear fission for space is not a new field, as the United States launched the SNAP-10a fission reactor into orbit in 1965, and the Soviet Union deployed more than two dozen nuclear reactors in orbit on naval monitoring satellites during the Cold War.

A KIWI design prime nuclear thermal rocket engine was built and tested in the 1960s.

While those fission systems were used for spacecraft power, many nuclear thermal fission reactors for space propulsion were also successfully built and ground tested, and by the 1970s development had progressed essentially to the point of flight prototypes. NETS-2011 Honorary Chair Harry Finger, retired, Atomic Energy Commission and NASA (as well as key positions in other agencies), is featured in the opening plenary session to discuss why these early space fission programs were so successful—and will offer some suggestions as to how we might recapture that success and move forward more quickly in current programs.

A proposed lunar surface fission reactor would use lunar soil for secondary reactor shielding.

Research, development, and testing of fission reactors for spacecraft and surface power, and spacecraft propulsion, continues to the present day. These nuclear technologies, which can bring the advantages of fission directly into space, will be the subject of an invited panel session and numerous technical sessions at NETS-2011.

Advanced concepts

Advanced technologies, including fusion and other very high energy sources of power and propulsion, may someday prove essential to meet, or set, challenging space exploration goals. Technical sessions at NETS-2011 will explore some of these impressive possibilities.

Navigating the worlds of politics and policy

A special session on nontechnical challenges for nuclear and emerging technologies for space, chaired by former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, features numerous top policy makers and administrators, and promises to be a highlight of NETS-2011. “I am particularly excited about the special session, as it will present a different perspective than typical technical sessions,” said Bragg-Sitton. “There have been a number of programs to develop radioisotope and fission systems in the past, some of which have led to flight systems. However, space nuclear systems development often suffers greatly from fluctuating funds and political cycles.”

The goal of this special session will be to assist implementation of space nuclear systems and other technologies to completion, by identifying nontechnical challenges to space nuclear systems, their causes, possible solutions, and possible implementation strategies.

Bragg-Sitton notes: “Long-range planning and sustainable funding will go far in developing advanced power and propulsion systems. These long-term issues are often political in nature, which is why we have planned a nontechnical special session on the challenges facing the continued development of nuclear technologies for space.”

Click to Enlarge

Distinguished presenters to address conference

Conference participants will enjoy two highly distinguished dinner key speakers: Glen Schmidt, retired, former test engineer for the SNAP-10a space fission program, and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator.

Registration and other information can be found in the NETS-2011 meeting program. About 200 participants are expected, and 89 technical papers are scheduled for presentation.

Exhibitors at NETS-2011: Center for Space Nuclear Research, Hamilton Sundstrand, Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, NASA Glenn Research Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Sandia National Laboratories, University of Leicester.

Contact: Shannon Bragg-Sitton, general chair NETS-2011, chair of ANSTD at ANS.


Paul Bowersox is a space exploration enthusiast and freelance writer who holds a master’s degree in public policy. He is a freelance writer living in Ohio.

He is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

ANS to sponsor teacher workshop in Phoenix, Arizona

The American Nuclear Society’s Public Education Program will be sponsoring a one-day teacher workshop on Sunday, February 27, at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz. The workshop—Detecting Radiation in Our Radioactive World—is intended for science educators (including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, physical science, life science, environmental, and general science) at the high school and middle school levels. WM Symposia, Inc., is cosponsoring the workshop, which will be held prior to WM2011, the international waste management conference that is held in Phoenix.

The full-day workshop will prepare attendees to teach the basics about radiation, how we detect radiation, and the uses of nuclear science and technology in society. Teachers who complete the workshop will receive a wealth of materials—background information, hands-on activities, and supplementary resources—and a Geiger counter. Career opportunities in nuclear science and technology will be highlighted during the sessions.

“We’re excited to be offering this overview of radiation and nuclear science to teachers in the Phoenix area,” said Chuck Vincent, ANS Outreach administrator. “Workshop participants are always eager to receive their free Geiger counters and learn about hands-on demonstrations that they can use in their classrooms.”

Hands-on activity at a 2010 ANS teacher workshop

The teacher workshop provides information and training to help teachers address National Science Education Standards, as developed under the aegis of the National  Research Council, for grades 5–8 and 9–12. Specific content will help teachers address physical science content standards at grades 5–8 (transfer of energy) and 9–12 (structure of atoms and interactions of energy and matter). The workshop and materials will provide information useful in addressing topics in the history and nature of science, as outlined by the standards, for both grade levels. Teachers will receive information that helps them assist students in grades 9–12 as they develop scientific models, an activity that is part of the inquiry standards.

Currently, scheduled presenters include:

  • Mansel Nelson, program coordinator, Environmental Education Outreach Program, Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, Northern Arizona University
  • Terry Price, mechanical engineer, Palo Verde Generation Station of Arizona Public Service Company
  • Walter Thomas, chemistry teacher–district science coordinator, Wickenburg Unified School District
  • Dr. Debra Thrall, executive director, Albert I. Pierce Foundation, Albuquerque, N.M.

There is a $60 nonrefundable registration fee for teachers to reserve a place at the workshop. The registration deadline is 12:00 noon (Central Time), Tuesday, February 15, 2011. Please visit the ANS website for more information, including an announcement and online registration form. The workshop will be limited in size to optimize interaction with presenters. Registration is on a first-come first-served basis.

This post first appeared on the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Chernobyl and nuclear knowledge transfer

By Peter Caracappa

At a session on educational programs during a recent ANS meeting, a fairly new graduate student in nuclear engineering described a nuclear survey course that he had taken at his university. The graduate student had not studied nuclear engineering as an undergrad, and when he said, “I had never really heard of Chernobyl before I took this course,” you could almost hear an audible gasp among the more, well, mature members of the audience.

Chernobyl-4 reactor after the accident (center), its turbine building (lower left), and Chenobyl-3 (center right).

This year—2011—marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, which occurred on April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine  (then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union). While I am certain that there will be plenty of coverage of the event a few months from now, the anniversary serves as a reminder of just how long ago it was, and how many of the younger members of the nuclear industry were not alive or were not aware of the accident and simply have no real knowledge of it.

In full disclosure, I myself was not quite 10 years old at the time, but like the Challenger space shuttle accident that same year, Chernobyl and its aftermath were an impacting memory.

When a generation shares a major event, it can be easy to never realize that later generations have limited knowledge of the event, if any knowledge at all. It is not the technical lessons of the accident that we have to worry about losing. These lessons become part of the fabric of our educational programs, and they are built into the training, policies, and procedures throughout the industry. What we can’t replicate, however, is the emotional impact of the event. Young engineers may be able to give 20 reasons why an accident like happened at Chernobyl can never occur in the United States, but does that mean that they can frame the answers in a way that addresses the fears of their audience?

When we talk about knowledge transfer from one generation to another, we are usually talking about the technical knowledge. Even absent a strong program in that area, technical history does become part of our education, formally or informally. We learn about how regulations have changed over time, or we redo some calculations based upon a new set of standards, or we absorb some of the “war stories” from more experienced people around us. We don’t want to miss the important details, which is why knowledge management programs are so important. Whichever side of the conversation we find ourselves on, we should not forget to talk about those things—such as the emotional impact—that engineers sometimes have a more difficult time putting into words.



Peter Caracappa is a clinical assistant professor and radiation safety officer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in New York State. He was a founding executive committee member of the Young Members Group and currently serves as its chair. He is a contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.