President Eisenhower presented his dramatic "Atoms for Peace" speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 1953, proposing international knowledge-sharing for development of civilian nuclear science and technology. While a number of associations already had nuclear divisions or groups, many people felt that a new organization was needed. These pioneers of the nuclear industry recognized the need to unify the professional activities within the fields of nuclear science and technology. Following the establishment in 1954 of ANS as a not-for-profit association of individual members, the Society quickly added breadth and depth to its activities, resulting in an organization that was both reflected and influenced the growing nuclear field.
The name of the organization generated considerable discussion back in 1954. Among the other names suggested were Society of Nuclear Engineering, American Society of Nuclear Technology, Institute of Nuclear Engineering, Association of Nuclear Engineers, Association of Nuclear Science and Technology, and Society of Nuclear Scientists and Engineers. Ultimately (in October 1954) the name American Nuclear Society won the day -- and the decades.
By the late 1950s, ANS had put into place many of the elements that still make up the organization. In June 1955 ANS held its first Annual Meeting and elected its first President, in March 1956 launched its first journal (Nuclear Science and Engineering), and in November 1956 formed its Standards Committee. By the end of the 1950s, ANS had three professional divisions, 14 local sections, and 11 student branches.
During the 1960s ANS grew rapidly, driven in no small part by the construction of many nuclear plants in the United States and elsewhere for generating electricity, and also by the research in using the technology for a variety of other uses, from aerospace to merchant ships to medicine. By the end of the 1960s, radiation-induced grafting methods produced new permanent press clothing and irradiation processes revolutionized the food packaging industry with shrinkable plastic wrap. ANS grew aggressively and by the end of the decade had 12 divisions, 28 local sections, 40 student branches, three periodicals (two journals and a magazine). The Society was running two national meetings and several topical meetings each year.
Each succeeding decade has brought changes both to ANS and to nuclear science and technology. In the 1970s, ANS became more international minded and formed new relationships abroad. Seven local sections formed outside of the United States, contributing to the growth of the 46 total sections active through the decade. Fifteen professional divisions were active and one technical committee was formed. The Society also cultivated the role that Organizational Members would play in ANS. The Public Information department was formalized from the committee structure and ANS intensified its public outreach activities, including the development of a teacher's workshop program.
ANS in the 1980s reflected the industry's focus on operating the plants, since there were no new U.S. plant orders. Members also concentrated on radioactive waste management. Local sections numbered 53 by 1990 and two additional non-US sections were formed. The U.S. federal government enacted major legislation about both low- and high-level wastes and ANS started its Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division, bringing the number of divisions to 17.
In 1983, members benefited from the establishment of ANS News as a stand-alone publication providing Society updates. ANS also created the Public Education Program (PEP) to fund an effective and innovative series of teacher workshops, classroom activities, and public outreach.
This decade demonstrated important advancements in systems to improve nuclear plant safety and performance. The Society underscored its important role in increasing public confidence in nuclear technology by serving as a credible resource.
In the 1990s, amid consolidation in the industrial area, ANS increased its visibility in Washington, D.C. ANS supported 55 local sections, 18 professional divisions, and 9 non-US sections as the millennium approached. Workforce issues became a focus of ANS outreach activities and the Society worked on increasing the supply of qualified people for the nuclear field by encouraging math and science education among students. Teacher outreach remained a focal point of outreach efforts, working to equip teachers to teach nuclear science in the classroom. RadWaste Magazine was launched and Nuclear News remained one of the industry's leading publications.
ANS has made, and continues to make, important contributions to the use of nuclear science and technology. ANS brings together professionals in the nuclear field to explore, discover, and invent solutions for the challenges facing society today. Today, ANS continues to be a professional organization of scientists, engineers, and other professionals devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. Its 10,500 members come from diverse technical disciplines ranging from physics and nuclear safety to operations and power, and from across the full spectrum of the national and international enterprise, including government, academia, research laboratories, and private industry.
Nuclear professionals develop and share their technical expertise through a variety of ANS-sponsored activities including:
Making it all succeed are a Board of Directors, 21 standing committees, 18 professional divisions, 1 technical group, 54 local sections (including 7 overseas and one affiliated society), 34 student sections, 24 plant branches, liaison agreements with some 30 non-U.S. nuclear societies (and one organization), and a headquarters staff of about 50 people.
Last updated June 1, 2012, 12:20pm CDT.