Teaching Nuclear Science to bright, open-minded, questioning teenagers

Some of you might have been missing irregular, but frequent, updates here on Atomic Insights for the past few weeks. You may have wondered why most comment threads have been closed. You may have even noticed that the Twitter tool in the right hand column didn’t include any new tweets for days on end.

I have a good excuse for my nearly complete silence in the virtual world; since the beginning of July I have been teaching a course in Nuclear Science as part of the Duke TIP summer program. Here is the course description as listed on the organization’s web site.

Nuclear Science
Nuclear science plays a vital role in the lives of Americans, providing approximately one-fifth of our energy and diagnosing and healing millions of patients with nuclear medical procedures. Nuclear science is used to enhance the food we eat, control pests, track materials flow in industry, date archeological artifacts, and identify chemical compositions. Through hands-on activities, computer simulations, and discussions, learn the science within the atom, study the history of key discoveries in the field, and debate the ethics of nuclear weaponry. Apply Einstein’s famous formula E=mc2, and learn about atomic structure, isotopes, half-life, radioactivity, nuclear reactions, fission, and fusion.

Even with a good level of knowledge, teaching 17 really smart young people for six hours per day, 5 days a week plus 3 more hours on Saturday is a time consuming challenge, especially the first time through. I’m sure I’m not saying anything new to the admirable people who teach others full time, but preps and follow ups add a considerable effort to the 33 hours of face time. I’m glad there is no grading requirement for this kind of summer program.

The term is coming to an end. I’ll have some interesting stories, new ideas, and thoughts to share with you about the experience. For example, have you ever heard of a neutristor? Before beginning my TIP experience, I had no idea that it was possible to hold a neutron generator in the palm of your hand.

I will, of course, be eventually getting back to a more regular publishing schedule, but it might take a few weeks before that happens. It is, after all, still the heat of the summer and everything moves a little more slowly in the southern US during late July and early August.

Corvallis to Richland and back


After an informative tour of the NuScale facilities in Corvallis, OR on October 20, I continued my quick visit to the Pacific Northwest. I had originally arranged my travel plans to fly into Portland, OR instead Richland, WA — which was my ultimate destination — for a variety of reasons. It enabled the visit to […]

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Grand Opening of the Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding

Yesterday, on an unusually warm December day, I attended the grand opening of the new Apprentice School building in downtown Newport News, Virginia. It was an event that made me proud to be an American, proud to be a Virginian and proud to be a veteran of the US Navy. I was a member of […]

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Bruce Power – Unique public-private-trade union partnership to enhance and restore assets

> Bruce Power has successfully restored the four units at Bruce A with the cooperation of private industry, trade unions and the provincial government. The relatively compact site now houses 8 large nuclear units with a total generating capacity of 6,300 MW of emission free electricity. The successful project was driven by creative people applying […]

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Atomic Show #200 – Celebrating atomic communicators

On March 9, 2006, Shane Brown and I recorded the first episode of The Atomic Show. We formatted the show as a couple of geeks chatting about atomic energy and published it on Cameron Reilly’s The Podcast Network. On March 17, 2013, I hosted and recorded Atomic Show #200 as a roundtable discussion that included […]

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Is an employee buyout a win-win-win solution for Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station?

Dominion’s October 2012 announcement that it is closing the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant took the nuclear industry by almost complete surprise. My friends who write about nuclear topics on a regular basis had no clue about the possibility before it was announced. None of the contacts that I have developed over the past few decades […]

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San Onofre steam generators – honest error driven by search for perfection

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), the supplier that sold four new steam generators to Southern California Edison (SCE) for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), has issued a redacted version of its root cause analysis of the u-tube failures that have kept both of the station’s 1100 MWe units shut down since January 31, 2012. […]

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Atomic Show #188 – Wheeler and Harding discuss ANS Utility Working Conference

During the first week of August each year, the American Nuclear Society hosts a conference called the Utility Working Conference (ANS-UWC). It is one of my favorite ANS meetings because it draws a crowd of professionals whose daily employment is focused on safely operating electricity production facilities powered by atomic fission. Those facilities produce 20% […]

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Atomic Show #187 – Women In Nuclear (US WIN) 2012

During the period from July 15-18 2012, more than 440 nuclear professionals attended the annual U. S. Women In Nuclear (US WIN) conference held in Orlando, FL. I spoke to three of the attendees – Julie Ezold, Sandy DePirro, and Savannah Fitzwater – about the conference and about the organization. The women work in three […]

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Different Perspective on Nuclear Construction Project Costs

There are many stories on the web this week about cost overruns at Vogtle and VC Summer, the two active new nuclear power plant projects in the United States. TVA has also had well publicized cost increases and schedule delays at Watts Bar II, a construction project that was started more than 30 years ago […]

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Advice to Fairfield County SC – DO NOT expunge criminal records

I noted a disturbing comment in an article titled Fairfield County hopes reactors will boost economy The article is about the understandable desire among leaders in Fairfield County, SC to ensure that the construction of VC Summer units 2 and 3 result in local benefits. They want local people to have a shot of landing […]

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