The ANS winter meeting for 2016 will officially begin today, but the weekend has been full of committee meetings, hallway gatherings and organized sessions for the Young Members Group and the High Temperature Reactor (HTR) embedded topical discussion.
I learned long ago that I needed to arrive at ANS meetings well before the President’s Reception on Sunday evening, but I now regret that I made my arrangements to be here Sunday morning instead of Saturday morning. I apparently missed some useful sessions on HTRs, a couple of spirited discussions among the young members, a gathering of the Clean Power Coalition and a highly praised concert featuring a cover band who played the standards from the 1970s and 1980s.
Margaret Harding was tweeting highlights of the HTR sessions @M2harding.
As usual, the area near the registration desk turned out to be a target-rich environment for running into old friends and long time acquaintances. I’m not going to tie commentary to names, but I’d like to share some impressions from my highly unscientific and biased sample.
There was a relatively balanced mix of optimism, pessimism and equanimity about the future of the nuclear enterprise in the US.
Researchers were, as is often the case, concerned about the lack of sufficient grants and other forms of funding for their interest areas. They shared stories of colleagues who had decided to find other interest areas. Those at the meeting are hanging on, hoping that money will eventually follow at least some of the nicely worded pro-nuclear legislation introduced — but not passed — during the Congress that has almost finished its work.
People at advanced reactor and SMR start-up enterprises described intense levels of fascinating work, some frustration with paperwork burdens, and a bit of concern about long-term funding and market issues.
I did not find anyone who is working on the AP1000 construction projects. That’s no surprise; they are likely to be working long hours with few, if any days off from activities that are on the critical path for completing those projects.
There is a strong student and young members contingent. One of the best hours of my day was participating in the Mentor session and talking with people who are technically trained, but very interested in communications, policy and advocacy.
I attended part of the decommissioning committee meeting. As I departed, I tossed out the question for them to ponder about idling or mothballing nuclear facilities as an option to destroying their future utility. I think one of the members of the group was involved in the study that resulted in a finding that Ft Calhoun could never be economically competitive; I’d really like to engage in a more detailed discussion about the assumptions and methods used.
The communications committee meeting was well attended and covered some interesting future programs. One of the more intriguing discussions involved a gentleman who has wanted to accomplish something in encouraging better writing about nuclear science for the general public but he had never had the resources he thought he needed. He’s come into some money that he did not expect or depend on and is now going to make it useful. We need more people like this!
I had a couple of depressing discussions with people who were concerned about the future of nuclear energy in the US. They pointed to the plant closings, the project cancellations and the lack of substantive action from the federal government to help the public recognize the value of clean nuclear energy. They described a noticeable exodus of talent to other industries; people who qualify to be nukes are eagerly sought by many employers in various fields of endeavor.
I also had an uplifting conversation with a young friend who has impressive international experience and technical expertise who has decided to focus more on the business and policy side of the nuclear enterprise. She’s started a position with one of the up and comers where she will be building business relationships and working public and policy issues associated with her new employer’s product. I’ve always said that nuclear needs more talented marketers.
This year, I didn’t attend the President’s Reception so I have no reports to share about that event. That might have been an incorrect decision, but my frugal upbringing couldn’t allow me to cough up $75 for a 2-hour cocktail hour. (Regular and student attendees don’t pay extra; the reception comes with their normal fees.)
On that note, I wonder when Vegas hotels changed their habit of moderately priced food and beverages as a way of encouraging expenditures on tables and slot machines. My in room Kuerig coffee maker has a $13/serving price tag while burgers at one of the “bar and grill” restaurants in the casino area were listed at $20+ on the menu. Food court for me.
Aside: Now might be a good time to remind readers that Atomic Insights operates on a value for value model. It’s ad free and there are no paywalls, but readers who like what we do can help retain those features by making non-tax deductible payments for value received. There’s a button on the front page. If you prefer to send checks, use the contact form to request payment and address information. End Aside.
I’m looking forward to today’s plenary sessions for both the general meeting and the HTR2016 embedded topical. I also have the President’s Special Session Identifying The Nuclear Grand Challenges on my list of “must attend” sessions.
I’m also looking forward to participating in a panel discussion on Tuesday titled U.S. Reactor Fleet Viability in a Challenging Financial Market.
Here is the blurb about the session taken from the meeting agenda.
Sponsored by: OPD Cosponsored by: YMG
Session Organizers: Timothy M. Crook (Texas A&M), Catherine Perego (Westinghouse)
Cochairs: Timothy M. Crook (Texas A&M), Hitesh Bindra (KSU)
Location: Octavius 6 Time: 1:00-4:00 pm
The U.S. nuclear fleet is faced with both external and internal nancial pressures. As the industry internally attempts to reduce costs through Delivering the Nuclear Promise, operating plants are being forced into early shutdown because of unfavorable market conditions driven by external factors. This panel will discuss the financial impact of corporate and governmental policies, socio-technological changes, decommissioning, and operational challenges on the nuclear energy industry. Representatives from nuclear engineering academia, nuclear energy industry, and environmental protection organizations will participate in this panel to envision the current and future roles of education, outreach, policy, and advocacy in addressing these challenges.
Michael Shellenberger (Environmental Progress) or Eric Meyer (Environmental Progress)
Kathryn McCarthy (INL)
Paul Wilson (Univ of Wisconsin)
David Fein (Exelon Corp.)
Rod Adams (Atomic Insights)