A bright future ahead for nuclear engineering students

April 5, 2021, 3:00PMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Happy spring to you, my nuclear comrades. As I write this column (in early March), I’m glancing out the window at the 10 inches of snow still remaining in my backyard. By the time you read this, the snow may be gone, and spring flowers may be poking out of the earth. Every year, I look forward to gardening season, which is short but fun in Idaho.

Over the past year, unfortunately, many of the things we looked forward to didn’t happen. Hardest hit, of course, were the people who fell ill with COVID-­19 and those who lost jobs. But in the “disappointed” category, our students were especially vulnerable. Elementary school students, who most need face-­to-­face contact with their teachers, were isolated at home. Adolescents and teens had no dances, football games, or lunchtimes with their friends. High school and college seniors couldn’t celebrate graduation. University freshmen, who already cope with significant change and stress, added to their agendas the threat of a global pandemic and the complication of distance learning.

Calming fears about low-dose radiation

March 8, 2021, 12:00PMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

During my time as vice president and president of ANS, I have been advocating for a new approach to implementing dose limits across the nuclear industry. A lack of understanding and an unfounded fear of radiation has resulted in widespread efforts to minimize dose, rather than to optimize radiation protection in a holistic sense. I want to put the “reasonably” back into ALARA (“as low as reasonably achievable”). Such a paradigm shift, from minimization to optimization, while easily said, equates to a major cultural change spanning international government agencies, industry, nongovernmental organizations, professional societies, and even academia. It is essential to have the active participation of all stakeholders in a transparent process to effect such a change. This process will not only lead us toward a more level playing field for nuclear, it will also greatly impact public perception of nuclear and radiological technology.

Do you love nuclear?

February 11, 2021, 9:29AMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

February, the month of love! Well, at least the month in which we celebrate Valentine’s Day. I don’t pay much attention to this holiday, though I’ve never turned down a gift of flowers or good chocolate. I love my husband and I try to express that year round. If someone asked me what I love about him, I’d say, “He’s intelligent, hardworking, handsome, and makes a really good pizza.” What I wouldn’t say is, “I love him because he isn’t a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater.”

The new normal?

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope that each of you found time to refresh and rejuvenate over the holidays, or at least have fun. Many indicators suggest that 2021 will be a better year than 2020, including a growing understanding of COVID-19 and its impacts and the availability of a vaccine. So many have suffered from job loss or even loss of businesses in 2020. Even for those of us fortunate enough to be healthy, gainfully employed, and able to work from anywhere thanks to Zoom and its competitors, uncertainty is still a challenging aspect of the pandemic.

The value of “fluffy” stuff

December 16, 2020, 9:23AMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

You know the old saying that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach? Well, I say anyone thinking that way should be kept far away from students!

In my time at Argonne National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory, I worked with incredible scientists and engineers doing cutting-edge research. Unfortunately, making progress in research is not always conducive to the education and training of those who haven’t yet gained the necessary expertise. And there is an interesting phenomenon that occurs the more one gains in education and experience: We tend to forget what we were like before, what it was like not to know everything we do now. More than one of my PhD colleagues at the national labs dismissed the education and outreach efforts that I pursued in my spare time: scouts, K-12 classroom visits, teacher workshops, science expos, etc., viewing any focus other than the truly technical as just “fluffy” and a waste of valuable time and effort.

Is nuclear scalable and sustainable?

November 5, 2020, 3:07PMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

In the August issue of Nuclear News, I asked if you’ve ever wondered why nuclear isn’t commonly considered the choice for clean power production. In that and subsequent columns, I provided some information about the cleanliness, safety, and reliability of nuclear for your use in everyday conversation as you make the case for this clean energy source. This month, let’s tackle the scalable and sustainable aspects of nuclear.

The cost of unreliability

October 13, 2020, 12:00PMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

In the September issue of Nuclear News, I asked if you’ve ever wondered why nuclear isn’t commonly considered the choice for clean power production. In that column and in August’s, I provided some information about the cleanliness and safety of nuclear for your use as you make the case for this clean energy source to friends and neighbors. This month, let’s talk reliability.