Seth Kanter never suspected that his love of the ocean, and more than eight years in the Navy, would eventually lead him to a career in the high desert of eastern Idaho. But as the Radiological Engineering manager at Idaho National Laboratory, Kanter feels very much at home, and fortunate.
Kanter supports the development of new technologies for the nuclear power industry, specifically testing and analyzing fuel and cladding materials.
“Here at INL, we are doing lots of very cutting-edge research, including looking at ways to make the plant designs as safe as possible,” Kanter said. “It’s a great culture, a great team and a great mission.”
Outside of the lab, Kanter is a vocal advocate for nuclear as a safe, clean and sustainable energy source. This month he is serving as an expert panelist on a series of employee and community discussions about the Three Mile Island accident and its health impacts.
On March 28, 1979, an accident caused a partial reactor meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. This resulted in a small release of radioactive noble gases. While experts estimate that roughly 2 million people were exposed, the Pennsylvania Department of Health found no adverse health impacts to the 30,000 people who lived within 5 miles of the site.
The event led to increased safety for U.S. nuclear power plants, but it eroded public support for nuclear energy. Kanter hopes that by being a responsible spokesperson, and by providing technically accurate information and context to reassure employees, residents and the general public, he can help rebuild confidence in nuclear power.
A DESIRE TO SERVE
Initially, Kanter attended a small liberal arts college in New Paltz, New York, in the early 1970s during a spirited time for students. “But I was a serious student in a very unserious time,” Kanter said.
By the end of his second semester, Kanter knew he wasn’t going back. Instead, he joined the United States Navy, where he started his training in nuclear power as an engineering laboratory technician. The work allowed him to see the world and exercise his desire to protect and serve.
After his training, Kanter served on a Sturgeon class fast attack submarine, which traveled the world’s oceans performing a multitude of Cold War missions.
In 1979, when a group of Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran taking more than 60 American hostages, Kanter’s submarine spent almost a year stationed in the Indian Ocean in a protective role until the hostages were released.
A COMMITMENT TO SAFETY
After leaving the Navy, Kanter spent almost 30 years at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona, where he started as a technician. But by then, he knew he wanted to do more and trained as a radiological engineer at Arizona State University.
On the side, Kanter became involved in politics, serving as an elected official. He also became a member of the California Radioactive Materials Management Forum, an organization charged with the safe management and disposal of low-level radioactive material for the Southwest Compact of Arizona, California, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The work aligned with his mission of securing and demonstrating the safety of nuclear power, Kanter said. “People don’t understand the long track record of just how safe nuclear power is,” he said.
SPREADING THE WORD
In 2015, Kanter moved to Idaho to work at INL. He works to ensure that nuclear power is as safe as possible while spreading the word about its benefits. “It is the best way to make electricity reliably, with minimal environmental impact,” Kanter said.
Kanter stresses the importance of meticulous work –everyone working in nuclear needs to be alert to even the smallest mistakes. “That’s going to be the key to getting nuclear to where I think it should be,” Kanter said.
Outside of the lab, Kanter gives talks to educate people about the benefits of nuclear power, its safety track record and INL’s role in helping provide a clean and sustainable energy source. He believes that every INL employee should be a reliable vote for the lab’s research. It’s a role he takes seriously.
Inside the lab, Kanter strives to help his coworkers understand their role in the big picture –the importance of helping provide safe and reliable energy to American people. He admits that being an advocate for nuclear power is his passion, one that he never tires of talking about.
“If you look at the track record in the United States, more than 90 percent of the time, nuclear power plants are producing electricity reliably 24/7, 365 days a year,” Kanter said. “It’s an incredible way of making power – it is as close to alchemy as you can get.”