Past DOE officials reflect on their tenures and future of nuclear industry

June 10, 2024, 3:04PMANS News

At the “Past Department of Energy Nuclear Energy Officials Roundtable” webinar on May 20, the American Nuclear Society gathered six past assistant secretaries for the Office of Nuclear Energy for a very special discussion. The group of stellar leaders, who have shaped the current state of innovation and growth around nuclear energy, shared insights from their time as NE-1 and their perspectives about where we must go from here.

ANS held this special event featuring current and former impactful civil servants in honor of ANS Fellow Peter Lyons (1943–2021), appointed assistant secretary of energy for DOE-NE in 2010. ANS Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director Craig Piercy moderated the session.

Known as NE-1, the assistant secretary of energy for DOE-NE is the most senior nuclear energy official in the U.S. government and is a presidential appointee.

The panel: The panelists were former NE-1s Rita Baranwal (who served from 2019 to 2021), Kathryn Huff (2022–2024), Warren “Pete” Miller (2009–2010), and Dennis Spurgeon (2006–2009); John Kotek, former acting assistant secretary of energy (2015–2017); and William “Bill” Magwood, former director of nuclear energy for the DOE (1998–2005).

The panelists gave an overview of their tenure as NE-1, the policy environment at the time, and their main takeaways about their own accomplishments. Huff, who stepped down from the position on May 3, began her term in 2022 during the COVID-19 pandemic—and during a lull in the U.S. nuclear industry as several plants were in the process of shutting down. Fortunately, things have changed over the course of her term.

Quotable: “We’ve largely been building on what everyone here built. It was so important I think from a policy perspective that we had the bipartisan support that everyone here built,” she said. “By remaining trusted sources of information, nuclear engineers really changed the communication over time, and we’ve really established that nuclear is part of our climate goals, our national security goals. The Biden-Harris administration has been so climate-forward. . . it’s really helped.”

Note: The full webinar recording is available for ANS members to view.


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