Green Nuclear Energy

No, not Homer Simpson’s version of Green Nuclear Energy

Of late, I’ve been doing a great deal of communication about nuclear power to journalists in various mediums, including newspapers, TV’s and blogs. Last week, I spent some time with Kevin Voigt at CNN talking about Fukushima and the nuclear renaissance. It was an interesting, and fairly long interview. Of course, he could only use a portion of our discussion in his final article.

It was a philosophical discussion about nuclear power and Mr. Voigt was interested in why I became a nuclear engineer in the first place. Of course, our discussion was only a part of his article and so, much of that story didn’t end up in the article. I think that story might be interesting for others to hear.

I’m from a small town in Iowa and went to Iowa State University in 1977 straight out of high school. In the prior decade we had experienced two oil embargos that crippled the nation’s economy and put our dependence on foreign oil in sharp focus. We were also suffering from acid rain and the other effects of nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions from coal plants. I went to college determined to make a difference.

So how did I get into nuclear power? Well, in high school my first exposure was to write papers about the structure of the atom and the devastating effects of the atom bomb in Japan. Not your typical papers for a high school student, but it’s probably an early indicator of my fundamental engineering nature. When I got to Iowa State, I did not initially declare a major, joining what was then the college of Science and Humanities, I considered a major in applied math or physics. Then I heard about the new undergraduate program in nuclear engineering. It was a way to learn about a technology that was used for weapons and was now being used for producing emissions free energy for the world.

I joined the program in the spring of my freshman year and four years later in 1981 graduated with a shiny new Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering. It was a fascinating journey that combined my love of math and physics with a field that I felt was contributing to making the world a truly better place to live.

I’ve always considered myself to be an environmentalist supporting an energy source that is the most responsible in the world. We track our waste from cradle to grave and work to prevent ANY of it from reaching the public. There are few other industries that can make that claim. Certainly the ecologic impacts of coal, oil, and natural gas have continued to plague us with their atmospheric emissions as well as the solid waste and impacts of extracting these sources from the environment.

Even when one looks at the impacts of Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island, nuclear energy is one of the safest and cleanest forms of electricity production on the planet. I am proud to be a part of that industry.

6 thoughts on “Green Nuclear Energy”

  1. I am happy to learn your back story. I wish more nuclear folks would tell theirs. I met a young woman at a Los Alamos National Labs book-signing who told me that she had campaigned against the building of nuclear plants in CA and decided that in order to defeat nuclear power she needed to study nuclear engineering for a year. She was amazed by what she learned, got her engineering degree, and was working on a fusion project at LANL.

  2. Margaret, sounds like a great beginning to an excellent career. My interest in nuclear went back to my days in San Diego. I was 11 and returning from a trip to Disneyland. My father was always a gizmo fan, and the visitor center at San Onofre was a good place to break the trip and take a breather.

    While I understood the exhibits, I wasn’t all that impressed until the end of the tour. That is when I was given the card with the plastic pellet. It really hit home when I read that if the pellet were real, it would have the energy of 157 gallons of gasolene. I imagined our old Volvo with one of these pellets flying across the highways to New York at some outrageous speed. I have always been fascinated by nuclear energy ever since. My family wasn’t thrilled, but that is another story… 😉

  3. I looked you up as I saw you as a contributor to an article in the NY Times on Japanese reactors “Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel.” I noticed that the other contributors were “anti-nucs” so I suspected that you were too. I guess I was preparing to write the NY Times and ask why they only get info from the “Other Side” even though this article appeared to be fairly neutral in stating simple facts. I’m pleased to see you are still proud to be a Nuke. I am too. I’m currently writing a few articles on my blog trying to get the real dangers of radiation back into perspective with other risks. I know it may scare some of my other responsible Nuke friends to hear what I have to say and how I say it, but I don’t have to be a “spokesperson” anymore. I can be like many of our enemies – and just put it out like we I see it and be as flamboyant and colorful and ride as close to the ragged edges of truth as they do on a regular basis (even though I do want to always be responsible and tell only the truth as to do otherwise would do no one any good). Take Care, Keep up the good fight. Stay Proud.

    • Thank you. I’ve been trying to put out “just the facts” since this accident began. I will continue to do so. Keep up the good fight.

  4. How can anybody consider nuclear energy safe?? When the whole nuclear chain is deadly dangerous?

    • Nuclear power causes FAR less deaths per MW of energy generated than almost any other source of electricity. That is why I call it safe.

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