This afternoon I shared an overflowing ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, DC with about 300 excited young professionals that are members of the North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NA-YGN). The theme for this year’s conference is “Investing in Our Future With Nuclear”.
I felt really old when one of the speakers asked all of the members of the crowd who were not yet born in April 1979, the month when Three Mile Island Unit 2 experienced a core meltdown. Nearly everyone in the crowd stood up. It is kind of nice, however, to be in a crowd of people for whom TMI is a fading historical event that mainly useful as a reminder of how the industry learns from its mistakes.
Marvin Fertel, the President of the Nuclear Energy Institute welcomed the crowd with some encouraging words about new nuclear plants, career opportunities and importance of nuclear energy in meeting North America’s need for reliable electricity generation that does not emit any pollutants to the environment. Ross Ridenoure, the Chief Nuclear Officer for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) told the crowd that life was full of lessons disguised as experience and concluded by telling the crowd to keep cool but do not freeze. Gregory Jaczko gave his first public address as the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (I am planning on using the audio of that talk as the basis for a soon to be prepared Atomic Show.)
One thing that I cannot help noticing whenever I am around the NA-YGN group is the fact that meeting attendance is more balanced between men and women than many other technically oriented gatherings that I have attended. (My direct experience is mainly with computers, communications, power plants, equipment maintenance, and ship propulsion. Perhaps my impression would be different if my experience included other technical fields.) This balance may offer some hope for the future shift in public acceptance of nuclear power, which a recent Gallup poll indicates is much lower among women than among men.
NA-YGN is in Washington at a fortuitous time; the Clean Energy Deployment Administration bill is being marked up. There are also important discussions and edits taking place on other energy and carbon emission bills. I hope that Congress is ready to receive some well-informed and articulate young visitors who will challenge their positions if they are not thinking that nuclear energy is a part of the solution to the challenges that our nation faces.