The male business of nuclear diplomacy

November 30, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear CafeMaria Rentetzi

Maria Rentetzi

An unusual event during the recent General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency distracted the delegations of member states and the press from the Russian war in Ukraine and the fear of the next nuclear disaster. It was a small exhibition, Building the IAEA Headquarters and its Laboratories, at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, which brought to life the history of the agency’s laboratories through photographs, original letters and documents, explanatory texts, and timetables.

I was invited to participate in a related panel discussion that shed light on the early days of the “world’s first full-fledged laboratory of a truly international character” (in the words of an article about Seibersdorf Laboratory that ran in the January 1962 edition of the IAEA Bulletin) and its role in science diplomacy. There, I spoke of something that had struck me: Women were totally missing from the agency during this early period—making nuclear diplomacy an exclusively male business. To a large extent (as, for example, the recent IAEA missions to Ukraine show) nuclear continues to be a gendered endeavor.

Nuclear Technology publishes special issue on the Manhattan Project

December 7, 2021, 12:01PMANS News

A special issue of the ANS journal Nuclear Technology, published last month, observes the 75th anniversary of the Trinity experiment, the world’s first nuclear explosion, on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, N.M. The experiment was a first step toward the conclusion of the Manhattan Project and the end of World War II. The special issue, The Manhattan Project Nuclear Science and Technology Development at Los Alamos: A Special Issue of Nuclear Technology, was sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory and curated by Mark Chadwick.

Thanks to LANL, the 23 papers published in the issue are open access, which means that a subscription is not required to read this contribution to the history of science. The issue can be accessed on the journal’s platform, hosted by Taylor & Francis, publisher of ANS’s technical journals.

The Economist asks why are people afraid of nuclear

March 23, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Economist published a video earlier this month trying to answer the question of why is nuclear so unpopular. The video is paired with a story that appeared on The Economist's website advocating for a well-regulated nuclear industry. The video starts off with very dramatic images of nuclear weapons and scenes from popular culture like Godzilla, The Simpsons, and the recent HBO miniseries Chernobyl. The video provides a quick history of nuclear science and technology starting with Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace speech in an attempt to prove to the viewer that "nuclear is one of the safest, most reliable, and sustainable forms of energy, and decarbonizing will be much more difficult without it."

Happy birthday to the American Nuclear Society!

December 11, 2020, 1:30PMANS News

The American Nuclear Society turns 66 today! ANS was founded on December 11, 1954, at the National Academy of Sciences on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The beginnings: ANS was launched in the mid-1950s, a time of growing interest in employing peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology for bettering the lives of people in the United States and around the world. President Eisenhower had presented his dramatic 1953 "Atoms for Peace" speech to the United Nations, proposing international knowledge-sharing for the 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. Following its establishment in 1954 as a not-for-profit association of individual members, ANS quickly added breadth and depth to its activities, resulting in an organization that was both influenced by and had an influence on the burgeoning nuclear field.

2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: Observing the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

November 17, 2020, 4:27PMNuclear News

The 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting opened on November 16 with a plenary session moderated by ANS President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar and more than 700 people in attendance. The opening plenary session was followed by nearly 40 panel and technical sessions. Recordings of all the sessions are posted on the meeting platform and can be view by all registered attendees at any time.

Two sessions held in the afternoon of opening day were centered around the 50th anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Both sessions featured distinguished experts on the NPT to discuss its successes, challenges, future, and the role of the United States in international nonproliferation.

The ongoing effort to convert the world’s research reactors

July 10, 2020, 2:17PMNuclear NewsChristina Nunez

The Ghana Research Reactor-1, located in Accra, Ghana, was converted from HEU fuel to LEU in 2017. Photo: Argonne National Laboratory

In late 2018, Nigeria’s sole operating nuclear research reactor, NIRR-1, switched to a safer uranium fuel. Coming just 18 months on the heels of a celebrated conversion in Ghana, the NIRR-1 reboot passed without much fanfare. However, the switch marked an important global milestone: NIRR-1 was the last of Africa’s 11 operating research reactors to run on high-enriched uranium fuel.

The 40-year effort to make research reactors safer and more secure by replacing HEU fuel with low-enriched uranium is marked by a succession of quiet but immeasurably significant milestones like these. Before Africa, a team of engineers from many organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, concluded its conversion work in South America and Australia. Worldwide, 71 reactors in nearly 40 countries have undergone conversions to LEU, defined as less than 20 percent uranium-235. Another 31 research reactors have been permanently shut down.

Experimental Breeder Reactor I: A retrospective

December 19, 2019, 5:29PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Searight

In the not-so-distant 20th century past, our planet was in an uncertain new-world order. The second of two major wars had dramatically reshaped the landscape of the world's nations. It was not by any means assured that the extraordinary nuclear process of fission, which itself had been discovered mere years before the second war's end, would be successfully utilized for anything but the tremendous and frightening powers realized in thermonuclear warheads. In the years following, a humble project materializing out of the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho was to challenge that assertion and demonstrate that nuclear fission could indeed be a commercial, peaceful source of electrical power for civilizations around the globe.

Eisenhower's Atomic Power for Peace - The Civilian Application Program II

January 9, 2014, 3:58PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

Westinghouse Electric Corporation promotional illustration showing "PWR" (Shippingport Atomic Power Station) plant and site.  "Selected Articles on Nuclear Power," Westinghouse Electric (see sources.)

Westinghouse Electric Corporation promotional illustration showing "PWR" (Shippingport Atomic Power Station) plant and site. "Selected Articles on Nuclear Power," Westinghouse Electric (see sources).

The commercial nuclear power program in the United States was sparked by the Shippingport Atomic Power Station project-but one project does not a program make. Action by the U.S. Congress soon after the announcement of the project ensured that a wide program that would evaluate other approaches was launched:

Eisenhower's Atomic Power for Peace – The Civilian Application Program

December 19, 2013, 6:57PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

Futuristic illustration from 1955 Progress Report, Atomic Power Development Associates, published March 1956.  This would become the Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant.

Futuristic illustration from 1955 Progress Report, Atomic Power Development Associates, published March 1956. This would become the Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant.

President Eisenhower's momentous Atomic Power for Peace speech to the United Nations in December 1953 included the bold statement: "It is not enough to take this weapon [a metaphor for atomic energy, specifically as weaponized only] out of the hands of soldiers. It must be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace." With that, he effectively launched the civilian nuclear power business as we know it today-of course, it having since undergone many changes and evolutions. What's little spoken of today is what happened before and after this speech.