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Big Event aims to showcase nuclear field’s best and brightest

June 11, 2020

By Paul Menser

Idaho’s roots in nuclear energy will shine this year as Idaho National Laboratory plays host to the Nuclear Science Week “Big Event” Oct. 13, which kicks off Nuclear Science Week 2017, Oct. 16-20.

Nuclear Science Week dates back to 2009, when the Smithsonian-affiliated National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, along with industry partners, decided a week celebrating nuclear science might help get their story out to the public — especially younger people possibly unaware that their Xboxes, PlayStations and laptops have been powered by electricity from nuclear power stations for as long as they have been alive.

Nuclear Science Week came into being the following year, and as part of the celebration, a different city each year hosts a Big Event. The first one was hosted in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Given that Experimental Breeder Reactor-I, at what is today the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, was the place where nuclear energy first lit up an electric light bulb (four of them in 1951, to be exact), it was only a matter of time before Idaho Falls was chosen. The Idaho Section of the American Nuclear Society successfully formed a team to propose that Idaho Falls host the 2017 Nuclear Science Week Big Event.

Chairing the Big Event this year will be Dr. Harold McFarlane, who retired in March after more than 40 years at INL. He arrived in 1972 and, 20 years later, became Argonne National Laboratory-West’s site director. When that site became part of INL in 2005, McFarlane served in two roles: deputy associate laboratory director for nuclear programs and director of the lab’s Space Nuclear Systems and Technology division. In 2011, following the tsunami and its aftermath at Fukushima, Japan, he was called to Washington, D.C., to advise leaders about what expertise the United States had to lend. McFarlane is a past president of the American Nuclear Society and a past chair of Idaho ANS.

The theme for this year’s Big Event is “Our New Energy Horizons.” The main message is an inspirational one — clean energy is key for people, the planet and prosperity; nuclear energy is a clean source of always-available electricity; and new applications of nuclear energy systems, like the capture of process heat, can be immensely valuable in advanced manufacturing. The Big Event makes the strong case for nuclear energy systems playing a key role in the energy mix now and moving forward.

Speakers and panelists at the Big Event include some of the leading lights of the nuclear industry. They include:

  • Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy and author of “The Myth of the Oil Crisis,” who will speak about the key role for nuclear energy as we move into the fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • Kathryn McCarthy, vice president for R&D at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, represented INL for 25 years until 2017, including serving as director of Domestic Programs for Nuclear Science and Technology and director of DOE’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program Technical Integration Office.
  • Robin Bedilion, senior technical leader at Electric Power Research Institute, coordinates activities to monitor worldwide science and technology developments and identify high-value opportunities for the electricity sector.
  • Sarah Spath, member of Mothers for Nuclear, has worked in managing and mitigating risk in day-to-day operations at R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant and James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant. She will speak to the importance of maintaining the current U.S. reactor fleet.
  • Kirsty Gogan, co-founder of Energy for Humanity, is an established expert in climate and energy communications with extensive experience as a senior advisor to the U.K. government, industry, academic networks and nonprofit organizations.
  • Rita Baranwal, director of Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), was previously director of Technology Development in the Engineering Center of Excellence at Westinghouse Electric Corp.
  • Kevan Weaver, director of Technology Integration at TerraPower, worked at INL for more than nine years, serving as national technical director for System Interface and Support Systems for the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative.
  • Irfan Ali, senior advisor for the Energy Innovation Reform Project, has a proven track record of building global businesses and organizations, involving a number of innovative, emerging technologies.

The Big Event will be from 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 13 at the INL Meeting Center. Space is limited; anyone interested in attending should RSVP to [email protected] to ensure a seat.




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About Idaho National Laboratory

Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, celebrating 75 years of scientific innovations in 2024. The laboratory performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. 

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Posted June 11, 2020

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