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ReActions – February 2015

February 16, 2015 Volume 32
Featured Highlight

Melanie the Environmentalist Nuclear Engineer

Melanie is a nuclear engineer from Quebec who refuses to drive cars (or even acquire a driver’s license) due to environmental concerns. Check out this video produced by American Nuclear Society Student Members during their I’m a Nuke campaign.

Latest News

In 2013, the Center for Energy and Workforce Development (CEWD) reported that 55 percent of the energy workforce may need to be replaced in the next 10 years. This did not include nuclear facilities. However, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) estimates that 32 percent of the nuclear workforce (20,000 jobs) will need to be replaced over the next five years.

You may have heard that energy companies, including nuclear, have been impacted by an aging workforce. You also may be asking yourself, “How is the energy industry addressing this issue?” At the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona, work has been underway over the past eight years to implement a comprehensive workforce strategy to address the station’s workforce challenges.  Palo Verde  is the nation’s largest nuclear power plant, and the programs they have adopted can be implemented at any other plant.

Palo Verde’s workforce planning and training strategy ensures that the plant will have the right employees with the right skills for the future. They are not only working on building the skills of their current employees, but they are developing a future workforce by building pipeline programs. Students from secondary schools, technical institutions, and two- to four-year colleges are benefiting from  new outreach programs designed to capture and retain those interested in the exciting nuclear field.

What Can Educators Do?

Teachers can help students prepare them for energy careers by introducing them to this career option, encouraging an interest in energy, and helping them find the right program. If your students are interested in engineering and energy, give them the ANS Career Brochure.

Three Rivers Community College’s Nuclear Engineering Technology coordinator talks about what makes the program one of the best in the country.

The Nuclear Engineering Technology program at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT, is an intensive two-year program leading to an associate in science degree.  Since 1983, working first with Northeast Utilities and later with Dominion Generation, the college has been a workforce pipeline for the commercial nuclear power industry.

In 2014, Three Rivers purchased a new glass-top nuclear simulator from Western Services Corporation.  ANS spoke to James Sherrard, coordinator of the Nuclear Engineering Technology program, about the new simulator and other factors that have helped the Three Rivers program gain national recognition.


Throughout history, engineering has advanced civilization – from the way we connect with each other, to the way we heal, to how we get around and simply have fun. But society still faces major obstacles which may have engineering solutions.

The National Academy of Engineering is sponsoring a national video contest which you may be interested in entering. NAE has outlined 14 game-changing opportunities for the 21st Century called the Grand Challenges for Engineering. You may create and submit a 1-2 minute video that shows how achieving one or more of the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering will lead to a more sustainable, healthy, secure and/or joyous world!

Nuclear engineering plays a role in some of the contest Grand Challenges, such as: Provide Energy from Fusion, Provide Access to Clean Water, Engineer Better Medicines, Prevent Nuclear Terror, Engineer the Tools for Scientific, Discovery Improve Urban Infrastructure, and Secure Cyber Space.

The Grand Prize of $25,000 will go to the most inspiring 1-2 minute video.

For a complete list of Grand Challenges, please see the contest website. The submission deadline is 12:00 PM Eastern time on March 2, 2015. Good luck!



The Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information (the Center) conducted a survey in December 2014 of more than 500 educators who have attended one of its teacher workshops over the past two years. We learned that 78 percent have already implemented at least one activity they learned as part of their curriculum.  Of the 22 percent who did not, a majority has not had the opportunity to do so because they took the workshop after the topic was already covered in the year.  Most have plans to implement the Center’s  activities during the next school year.

We would like to thank all the teachers who answered the survey, and also congratulate Jonathan Crymes from Norcross High School in Georgia for being the winner of a $50 gift certificate to Steve Spangler’s Science for his participation in the survey.

The Center and  American Nuclear Society Local Sections throughout the country host teacher workshops throughout the year.  Please visit our Events page to locate a workshop in your area.  If you live near one of these locations, or are able to travel, please join us.  If you are unable to attend a workshop, take advantage of our Teacher Resource Guide online. The Guide will give you detailed instructions and background information about all of the activities covered in our workshops, including the popular  Mini-Rutherford, Half-Life and the Cloud Chamber.

What would you do if you came across a small metallic substance labeled, “First sample of Pu weighed. 2.7 µg”? In 2008 Phil Broughton, a University of California-Berkeley health physicist, knew exactly what to do when he found such a substance sitting on a shelf in the U.C.  Hazardous Materials Facility (HMF).  Believing it was Glenn Seaborg’s actual first sample of chemically separated plutonium 239, Broughton asked the University of California – Berkeley’s Department of Nuclear Engineering to study it.  Last summer, Prof. Rick Norman and his students led a forensic study of the encased sample. They were informed it was purported to be the first macroscopic sample (2.77 micrograms) of plutonium 239 created at the Berkeley and Washington University cyclotrons, and chemically separated by Glenn Seaborg and collaborators at the Chicago Met Lab, concluding on September 10, 1942.

Their measurements of the passive x-ray and gamma spectra from the sample confirm the mass and provenance of the plutonium. The Berkeley team has confirmed the sample is indeed Seaborg’s, and are making arrangements to return it to a permanent, secured exhibit hall.

There was considerable concern within the nuclear energy community about Michael Mann’s cyber-thriller Blackhat before its release. Much of the pre-release angst was generated by the movie’s trailer, which depicted a catastrophic nuclear explosion blowing open the domed containment building. ANS member Leslie Corrice debunks some of the film’s misconceptions in his Nuclear Cafe article.

With the movie still in theaters, this may be a good time to educate your students about normal and high radiation doses, where natural radiation comes from, and how we measure it. Check out the following resources found on this site.

Teach Nuclear Science With Confidence Detecting Radiation in Our Radioactive World March 15 / Phoenix, AZ

This full-day professional development workshop will prepare attendees to teach the basics about radiation, how we detect radiation, and uses of nuclear science and technology in society. Teachers who complete the workshop will receive a wealth of materials – background information, hands-on activities, supplementary resources – and a Civil Defense surplus Geiger counter.

Detecting Radiation in Our Radioactive World 90-minute workshop March 13 / Chicago, IL

The American Nuclear Society has been invited to host a 90-minute version of our Detecting Radiation in Our Radioactive World workshop at the NSTA National Conference in Chicago. You must register for the conference to attend the workshop. Teachers who attend will receive a complimentary CD V-700 Geiger counter and a copy of our new Teacher Resource Guide.

Electricity Generation Equivalents Infographic

Learn what it would take other electricity generation sources to match the power of a nuclear plant.

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