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NTH: Up and Atom — What’s It Going To Take To Make Nuclear Cool Again

NTH Reporter | January 22, 2020


This week our intrepid NTH reporter attended a “Up and Atom” morning briefing on Capitol Hill that featured as special guest Dr. Steven Ashly, the Director of DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and moderated U.S. Nuclear Industry Council’s (NIC) Bud Albright, former DOE Under Secretary.

Up and Atom event is a quarterly bi-partisan educational series sponsored by DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy and is designed as to be a conversation on topical nuclear energy issues and U.S. Lab innovations. These events are part of DOE NE’s efforts to meet former Secretary Rick Perry’s challenge of “making nuclear energy cool again.”

As aptly described by Dr. Ashly, PNNL is one of 17 national laboratories that represent the U.S. crown jewels of science and innovation and are supported by our federal government and managed by the DOE.  With a staff of over 4,700 people and annual budget of about $1 billion per year, PPNL is a dynamic engine of innovation – turning out one of two patents a day and one major documented invention a year according to Dr. Ashly. 

Historically established to support the nation’s Manhattan Project, PPNL is the nation’s premier chemistry and materials lab operating at the frontiers of science and engineering and is involved in all things nuclear including advance reactor development to national security to nuclear medicine. 

As part of its wheel house, Dr. Ashly reported that PNNL supports the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) licensing process for advanced reactors by performing the environment impact assessments  required by NEPA. With some obvious pride of accomplishment, Dr. Ashby stated that as a result of PNNL’s efforts, the time required for preparing TVA’s environmental assessment to support the Clinch River Early Site Permit was cut in half to two years from the four years it normally takes.

Now that’s progress and that’s what it is going to take to make nuclear cool again!

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