Idaho National Laboratory has taken another leading role in the worldwide advocacy of nuclear energy with the recent election of Luca Capriotti as president of the International Youth Nuclear Congress (IYNC).
Capriotti, 30, works at INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC) on the Advanced Fuel Campaign, performing post-irradiation examination (PIE) under the guidance of Jeff Giglio and Mitch Meyer. A native of San Benedetto del Tronto, a city of 50,000 on Italy’s Adriatic Coast, he came to INL in 2015.
While he studied energy engineering as an undergraduate, he became interested in nuclear energy after moving in 2011 to Karlsruhe, Germany, where his graduate studies involved using lasers to examine high-temperature melting point behavior of oxide materials.
His work for the European Commission (EC) introduced him to scientists from INL and the Nuclear Science User Facilities, including NSUF Director Rory Kennedy and Heather Chichester, director of MFC’s Hot Fuel Examination Facility. He kept in touch the whole time he pursued his doctorate, conducting PIE of metallic fuel with minor actinides. In July 2015, finishing his dissertation, he’d applied and been accepted for a job at INL.
Capriotti said he also met plenty of INL people through IYNC, which he joined while working for the EC. IYNC’s goal is to provide a global network for young professionals in the nuclear field, especially when it comes to the transfer of knowledge from the current generation of leading scientists and engineers to a new generation.
“The NSUF seeks to develop and maintain relations with top researchers and capabilities from across the globe,” Kennedy said. “Luca’s participation in organizations like the International Youth Nuclear Congress provides him with a valuable perspective on international nuclear developments.”
The organization holds its congress every two years. This year’s event was March 11-17 in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. As vice president for the past two years, Capriotti had an inside track to become president, but his election still involved a vote from 50 national representatives – his peers from all over the world.
The IYNC conference was held in conjunction with Women in Nuclear Global’s annual meeting (IYNCWIN18), and both events got special attention from the United States Department of Energy, which called it “the perfect place to engage roughly 600 young professionals, particularly women, in joining the clean energy workforce to move the industry forward.”
Suzie Jaworowski, senior adviser with DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, joined energy officials from Canada and Argentina to talk about a new global initiative to be launched in May at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Denmark, one of the world’s largest forums on clean energy policy.
“We are here to revitalize international interest in nuclear,” she said. “We need young people who care about the environment to take the time to study the diverse and new solutions that nuclear energy can contribute to the clean energy systems of the future.”
Millennials like Capriotti are a key demographic to move the nuclear industry forward, Jaworowski said. “They can influence its success in a variety of ways, ranging from advocacy to innovation. They are also the people that will manage, operate and support these future energy systems.”
Another Italian transplant, Fidelma Di Lemma, joined INL in 2016, taking a job in the Irradiated Materials Characterization Laboratory (IMCL), conducting research on irradiated materials with the scanning electron microscope (SEM) and electron probe microscope (EPMA). She is also developing techniques for sample preparation for electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) research. Di Lemma participated actively in the organization of the IYNCWIN18 by organizing various sessions on nuclear innovation. In particular, she managed the first edition of the IYNC International Innovation Congress I4N (Innovation for Nuclear), which saw teams from all over the world proposing innovative solutions to the challenges facing the nuclear industry.
Capriotti said he has never looked back since coming to the United States. “When friends and family ask how I am, I always say that I’m living the dream,” he said. “The nuclear industry (here) is more developed and the national laboratory system offers great research and professional development opportunities.”
Since joining INL, he has become fully qualified on the Physical Property Measurement System (PPMS), which will be installed and up and running at IMCL by this summer. He estimates he spends about 20 percent of his time working for the NSUF, the rest for MFC.
Asked to describe Capriotti on the job, Meyer offered “gregarious,” “honest,” and “outspoken,” adding, “Luca is passionate about nuclear energy, especially about the nuclear fuels and materials that make it possible.” As for his leadership role with IYNC, “This is a great opportunity for Luca to be an ambassador for nuclear energy and for INL,” he said.