Christian Nuclear Fellowship
Email Vic Uotinen Vic@Rivermont.org

 

 

Meeting at American Nuclear Society events since 1976
The Christian Nuclear Fellowship (CNF) is an informal, interdenominational group of evangelical Christians who work in the field of nuclear science
and technology and who want to encourage each other to faithfully follow Jesus Christ in both their private and public lives (including in their professional activities).
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 CNF Interviews

Over the years, the CNF has conducted and published interviews of some of its Advisory Committee members, in which these nuclear technology professionals tell about their careers and their Christian faith, and about how they have integrated those two elements. This section of our website contains the text of several of those interviews.

 

Reflections on an Eventful Life and a Career
in Nuclear Criticality Safety

An interview with Dr. Hans Toffer, June 1, 2010

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In this interview, Hans Toffer, an ANS member since the 1960s, answers questions about his nuclear technology career, reflects on what his membership in the ANS has meant to him, and comments on some reasons he sees for having optimism and hope for the future. Born in Estonia, Hans’ family fled to Austria during WWII and eventually settled in the US. Hans works at Hanford and has a doctorate in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Washington. During his years of ANS membership, Hans has been active in several leadership positions. He also served on the ANS Special Committee on Ethics and is on the Advisory Committee of the Christian Nuclear Fellowship.

Q:  Hans, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. You’ve had a long and rewarding career in the field of nuclear technology - and specifically in the field of nuclear criticality safety. Thinking back, how was it that you first got interested in a career in the nuclear field? 

A: This is a long story.  My interest in energy goes back to my childhood in Estonia and Austria. I was nine years old and my father was refurbishing an old burned out textile mill in Austria. I was volunteered to help out in the machine shop.  My first lesson in safety was the use of the correct tools and employing protective features. I was straightening bent nails and as I was hammering the hammer missed its mark and ‘flattened’ my thumb!  At the same plant I learned how water turbines work.  I was helping clean the turbine blades of a small hydropower station.  I learned how water was used to generate electricity. 

When we came to the United States my interest in energy production grew.  In 10th grade I built a working tidal energy plant model for the Bay of Fundy.  The next year I became interested in solar energy and I constructed a working model of a solar energy power plant.  The following year I perfected some solar energy stoves. They were working prototypes, I received local and state wide recognition.  In my 11th and 12th grade Science Fair project activities dealing with solar energy, I made contact with the foremost authority in solar energy at the time.  I was astounded how helpful these people were 

Q: Where did you go and how did you progress from that impressive beginning?

A:  In college I majored in Physics to learn about the atom and solar cells.  No matter how one looks at solar energy, the energy density of radiation coming from the sun was insufficient for large scale application.  My interest in solar energy faded.   I worked for two summers at Argonne National Laboratory on particle accelerators.  This awakened my interest in particle physics and nuclear safety.  During that period I had some exceptional mentors.  My graduate degree work took me to Iowa State University where I realized that applied particle physics such as neutron physics was where I should be heading.  After I completed my Master’s degree in Physics I switched to Nuclear Engineering and the practical application of Neutron Physics.  To make new elements and at the same time generate large quantities of electricity sounded  interesting. 

In 1963 an opportunity arose for a Reactor Physics job at the Hanford N Reactor, and I became involved with the start-up testing.  At the time N Reactor was the only dual purpose production reactor generating 860 Mw electricity-more than any of the commercial plants at that time. I also participated in special isotope production tests 

Q: How and when did you decide to focus on nuclear criticality safety as your specialty? 

A:  In the early years at Hanford I was introduced to the Critical Mass Laboratory personnel, a group of highly skilled professionals who were pushing the frontiers of criticality safety.  After an intensive training course I convinced management I should be the criticality safety technical lead for the production section and fuel fabrication activities.  Management agreed and I was appointed to that position where I worked closely with the critical mass people to generate much needed critical mass data.  When GE left Hanford, I decided to fulfill the residency requirements for a PhD in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.  During the summers I returned to work at the N Reactor.

As a criticality engineer and subsequently as a manager I had frequent opportunities to attend technical meetings and special courses.  Meeting the other criticality safety engineers from different laboratories and production sites was a stimulating learning experience.  When N Reactor was shut down as a result of the Chernobyl accident I became more involved with criticality safety.

Q:  What are some of the most rewarding and most memorable experiences from your career? 

A:  I value my best paper and service awards, and being selected as lecturer for a DOE safety course. Being a member of DOE’s Criticality Safety Support Group (CSSG) has been very rewarding and it was an honor to be elected a Fellow of the ANS. Also, issuing the ANSI/ANS 8.21 Standard on fixed absorbers was another highlight of my career.

Q:  In what ways have you been involved in ANS activities over the years?

A:  I first joined the student section of ANS at the Univ. of Washington graduate school in 1965 and have been involved with ANS for 45 years – first as a student member, and then as a member, a fellow and emeritus. I’ve participated in multiple divisions, in governance in NCSD and the local section of Eastern Washington. I’ve been involved in a variety of topical meetings, organized and managed in various governance positions, and organized many technical sessions and panel discussions.

Q:  What would you say have been the benefits you have received from ANS membership?

A: Membership in ANS has been helpful as an outlet for exchange of technical information, as a forum for presenting papers; as a place to meet fellow engineers and scientists and form lifelong friendships.

Q:  Would you encourage young scientists and engineers just beginning their careers to join a professional society such as the ANS? If so, Why?

A:  Definitely.  It is the quickest way to become acquainted with fellow engineers, scientists, and foremost authorities in the discipline.  Lifelong friendships can be developed.  Technical society meetings and social functions provide a means for meeting other people.  These contacts established may be important and helpful in developing your own career.

Q:  You’ve seen the nuclear business experience many ups and downs during your career. Are you currently optimistic about its future in the US?

A:  I have always been optimistic on nuclear energy.  It is the only viable alternative to the hydro-carbon dependency.  Wind power and solar energy are important contributors to supplement the base load in this country.  Nuclear is free of any gaseous pollutants.  The public will have to recognize the importance of nuclear energy if we want to stay competitive in the economic world.

Q:  Why do you think there's more opposition to additional nuclear power plants in the US than there seems to be in many other parts of the world? 

A:   Other countries do not have access to cheap hydro-carbons such as coal and oil.  They have to rely on importing supplies.  Rather than relying on imports, France, Belgium, Japan, Korea, and Finland have decided to utilize nuclear power to the fullest to remain competitive in the world markets.  China is rather forward looking and is considering 400 nuclear power plants.  For the U.S. to populate the power grid with nuclear plants would require another 200+ reactors.

Q:  Do you think the scientific community has done an adequate job of informing the general public concerning the facts about nuclear power?

A:  In part we are successful. Opinion polls indicate the general public is in favor of nuclear power however a vocal minority can impede further development.  To become more effective in communicating nuclear power advantages to the public will require utilization of the latest technologies.  People do not realize that a nuclear plant provides thousands of jobs during the construction phase and the subsequent operation of the plant.

 

Q:  Any suggestions as to what more can be done to educate the general public to alleviate lingering fears (what many of us consider unfounded fears) about radioactivity and nuclear energy?

A:  Scientific education needs to be emphasized starting in grade school so the public will be able to have a better understanding about radioactivity and nuclear energy.  Nuclear is the ideal clean energy source that we have.  Currently 20% of the energy produced in the U.S. is from 104 nuclear plants.  In comparison France is 85% nuclear.  In addition, the politicians need to be forward thinking about the future energy needs of the U.S.

Q:  You are on the Advisory Committee of the Christian Nuclear Fellowship. Tell us something about the group and your involvement in it.

A:  The CNF is an island of tranquility in the sea of technical jargon.  Christian engineers, scientists and spouses get together praying for each other, singing praises to the Lord, get reacquainted

and share our God encounters.  I try to participate at both the Monday night meeting and the Wednesday prayer breakfast.  There we share our faith and pray for our friends in need.

Q:  Those who know you know that your Christian faith is quite important to you and that you are very active in your church. Tell us something about how you came to have such a strong faith - a brief account of your faith journey.

A:  I put my faith in the Lord at an early age. In 1944, in Estonia, when the Eastern front was collapsing, our family decided to flee rather than be captured by the Russians.  Three troop transporters were getting ready to leave the Tallinn harbor.  The Moero, the largest ship painted with Red Cross symbols attracted our attention.  We wanted to get on it.  However, a German soldier with a rifle drawn at the ready motioned us to go on the Lapland.  No matter what we tried, we were herded on the smaller ship.  On crossing the Baltic Sea, a day out of Tallinn, we saw two Russian dive bombers approaching.  The anti-aircraft cannons went wild, rocking the ship and light bulbs were cracked. We were told to go down to our bunks three flights below deck.  Suddenly there was a big explosion and then total chaos, screaming, the ship rocking, and people crying and stumbling down the stairs.  I was so scared.  I prayed, “Lord, do not let me die with my new boots on.” 

The Moero was hit and 2700 passengers drowned.  The Lord was gracious and the ship was spared.  We completed the crossing and then survived a harrowing train ride to Austria.  We had a destination to go to thanks to the Lord who provided a German soldier who had been staying in our home before the collapse of the Eastern Front.  He told us that if we ever had to leave to go to the address he gave us.  It was located in a small town in Austria.  We settled in this town where my father was in charge of renovating the burned out textile mill.   In the town there was a small Lutheran church where we were frequent worshipers.  My childhood faith in Christ grew stronger as I realized how He had saved my family from destruction. I was especially grateful and gave thanks to the Lord for his goodness and mercy.  He has been with me throughout my life in joyful moments and through difficult times.  In 1952 we were able to emigrate to the U.S. under the sponsorship of St. Peter’s Lutheran in Allentown, PA.  We were very active in the church.  I attended Muhlenburg College, a Lutheran school.  After moving to Richland, WA, I became active in Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful wife and life companion.

Q:  Some people think that science and faith are incompatible. How would you answer those who might question how you, as a person educated in the physical sciences, can also be a believer?

A:  On the physical sciences God’s grandeur is manifested throughout the universe.  Every new discovery illuminates a new aspect of what the Lord has done.  I can accept the Lord as the creator of atoms and spiraling galaxies.

Q:  You've also been involved in some mission activity through your church. Can you tell us something about that?

A:  God led us to a small church in Saaremaa, Estonia.  Since 1992, we personally and through our church have supported the Holy Jakob church and its congregation.  A significant transformation has taken place as the Lord leads them in their path for reaching out to others.  Thanks to our help and other sources the church is becoming a viable entity.  They especially are developing a youth program that is reaching out to youth from other European countries.

Q:  Are there any authors/books that have been particularly helpful to you in your growth as a Christian and that you would recommend to others? 

A:   I would recommend The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and A Way Through the Wilderness by Jamie Buckingham. These are three Christian books I have found enlightening and helpful.

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Prepared by the Christian Nuclear Fellowship

73 Oakland Circle. Lynchburg, VA 24502

e-mail: vic@rivermont.org

 

Permission is granted to copy and distribute

this publication in unlimited quantity, free of charge.

Please write CNF for copies of other professional

interviews in this series.

 

Spreading the Truth – The Need to Counter Repeated Misinformation
in the Public Arena

An Interview with Howard Shaffer

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      In this interview, Howard Shaffer, an ANS member since the late 1970s, answers questions about his nuclear technology career and urges the nuclear industry to put more effort into educating the general public concerning radiation and nuclear power, to help overcome the unfounded fear fomented by dedicated opponents of everything “nuclear.”  Howard also comments on some life principles that have guided him over the years.  Howard did his electrical engineering undergraduate work at Duke University and his graduate work at MIT.  He is a Licensed Professional Engineer in Nuclear Engineering in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Illinois.  He has served as a nuclear engineer both in the U.S. Navy and at commercial nuclear power plants.  Howard is currently an independent consultant in Nuclear Public Outreach.  This interview was conducted in May 2009.

Q: Thank you, Howard, for agreeing to answer a few questions for this CNF interview.  First of all, how did you get started professionally in the nuclear energy field?

A: The Navy Officers’ nuclear power training program was my start.  I served eight years; my last sea tour was as Engineer of the Atlantic Fleet Submarine Force Flagship

Q:  Can you give us a brief summary of your professional career?

A: After the Navy, I joined EBASCO Services as a Startup Engineer, first at Vermont Yankee, then Ludington Pumped Storage.  Then to MIT for a MSNE, followed by Chin Shan Units 1 and 2 (in Taiwan) for startup, followed by Yankee Atomic Electric Company as a Systems Engineer supporting nuclear plants in New England.  After that, I spent a year and a half at GE in San Jose on the SBWR project, followed by some consulting.  Finally, I was at Dresden nuclear station (Illinois) for five years as a Senior Systems Engineer.

Q:  How about after your “retirement?

A:  My first post-retirement public service was serving as the ANS Congressional Fellow in 2001.  In addition, beginning in 1979 I have had a parallel career in public speaking, public outreach and political contact, which is still in progress.

Q:  As you look back, what have been some of the highlights from your career?

A:  The Navy, MIT, the Congressional Fellowship and participation in ANS.

Q:  Tell us more about your work as an ANS Congressional Fellow.  What were some of the issues you dealt with in that capacity?

A: My work on the staff of the Energy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science was assisting in preparing for hearings, staff briefings and some constituent contact.  During that term, spring 2001, Congress had reorganized to complete a new Energy bill under the new administration (Bush II, term I).  The House finished its bill as scheduled, and sent it to the Senate by recess at the end of July.  On September 11, Congress’ schedule changed.  Most of the information developed by the House seems to have been incorporated in the 2005 Energy Policy Act.  I was also tasked to prepare a hearing on extended Daylight Saving Time.  Congress concluded that it was not necessary then.  However, in the 2005 act, Daylight Saving Time was extended.

Q:  From your own experience, how would you assess the level of knowledge members of Congress have concerning nuclear energy?

A:  It depends on the member’s technical background, and political posture.  Those who want to know, do.

Q:  You’ve given a great deal of energy also to pursuing a meaningful dialogue with people who oppose, or at least are skeptical about nuclear power.  Can you share something about your involvement in that arena as an active participant in the “nuclear debate?”

A: The virulent opponents have made an emotional commitment based on buying into scare stories about the dangers of radiation.  These stories have come from various books over the years, and are continually reinforced by new articles, books, and speakers.  Dr. Helen Caldicott was recently in Vermont on a book tour and appeared for a “visit” before legislative committees

Q:  What do you think are some of the lingering issues in the minds of those who continue to oppose the increased use of nuclear energy?

A: The underlying issue is fear of radiation.  They say “waste” and “safety,” then spin off into everything they can grasp to say the sky is falling, in order to shoot down nuclear power.

Q:  Do you think the nuclear industry is doing an adequate job in addressing these lingering issues, or are there additional things you’d like to see the industry do?

A:  From my point of view, the industry is doing an incomplete, and hence poor, job.  In political issues you must stand up to your critics in every venue.  If you do not, they repeat their charges and those charges, over time, become the “public truth.”  Goebbels used repetition effectively in Nazi Germany and it still works.  Ask Senator Kerry about being “Swift boated” in the 2004 Presidential campaign!  The industry has the money to oppose the “antis” in every venue but for some reason will not do it.

Q:  Can you share a bit more from your own experience?

A:  Reaching out to opponents is working in Vermont, where I am active, just a short way from where we live in New Hampshire.  I know we will never change the beliefs of the virulent antis, because their commitment is emotional – dare I say like religious commitment?  They must be opposed in every venue because of the effect it has on the bystanders, hearing the “rough and tumble” of the debate in the village square.  If the bystanders hear only one message, that may become their conclusion.       

Q:  There have been some positive signs recently regarding the growth of nuclear power applications around the world.  Do you see reasons for being optimistic about the future of the industry?

A: Yes, around the world.  However, it will be tougher in the US because of the incompletely opposed poison of antis from certain regions, which affects Congress.

Q:  How long have you been a member of the American Nuclear Society and in what capacities have you served that professional society?

A:  I’ve been a member for more than thirty years, serving on Standards, Public Information, Congressional Fellowship and Ethics Committees, and as Local Section Chair, Secretary, and Director.  Several papers have been presented on Public Outreach.

Q:  How has membership in the ANS been of benefit to you over the years?

A:  By providing up-to-date information and professional contacts.  It continues to be very enjoyable and rewarding.

Q:  What would you say to young engineers and scientists just entering the field to persuade them to continue their ANS membership?

A:  You can’t do without it.  Do doctors not join the medical association?

Q:  Those who know you know that your Christian faith is very important to you and, in a very real sense, defines who you are.  Can you tell us about your faith and how it developed over time?

A:  I was raised a minister’s son and so learned about the gospel and Christian teaching early on, but only became committed to the faith after standing up in church in Taiwan to testify about being delivered from harm in a car accident.  Since then, it has been constant attendance, study, work, daily Bible reading, and prayer.

Q:  Could you elaborate a bit on your “conversion experience?”

A:  In Taiwan for the startup of Chin Shan 1&2 plants, I was being driven home after midnight in a power company car along with one of their engineers.  The two-lane road was straight and, at that point, elevated about six feet above rice paddies on an earthen dike.  The road was wet and the driver going too fast.  I could feel the back end “fishtail” slightly, but said nothing because I was the foreign guest.  Suddenly, the car skidded and went off the road, overturning into the rice paddy below.

The doors opened and we got out!  We had hard hats on from being in the plant, so when our heads hit the roof, we weren’t hurt.  Our briefcases popped open and the contents spilled out into the water.  I was not hurt at all, and the engineer and driver only slightly, both able to walk.  We had our flashlights with us too, so found our papers, and gathered them up.  Nothing was lost.  We climbed up the embankment to the road and got a ride with a passing taxi.  Later I realized that the road was lined with telephone poles and we had gone off the road between them.

That Sunday in church I stood at the time for sharing to give thanks for being saved, having thought of what might have happened if we had collided with one of the poles.  That began my faith commitment.

Q:  How important is your faith to you today?  And how does it affect your daily life?

A:  My faith in Christ as my Lord and Savior is the centerpiece of my life.  I judge everything by Christ’s standards, to love others and do, as you would have them do for you, to forgive others and not judge them, since you will be judged by the same standards you use to judge others.  Daily Bible reading and prayer is a necessity.  And I ask for and get guidance from the Holy Spirit often during the day.  Years ago, I made up a prayer to use at work: “Dear God, please help me to keep my big fat mouth shut one more time.”  It has served me well.

Q:  As someone trained in engineering and the physical sciences, could you comment briefly on how you reconcile your religious beliefs and experiences (which clearly have a supernatural dimension), with a scientific explanation of the universe?  Some see the two as incompatible.

A:  I view science as all that humans collectively can understand.  The rest is God’s plan, which we will never understand while in these bodies.

Q:  What do you see as the realm of natural science and what as the realm of religion?

A:  It has been said that the big questions are who, what, where, why, when and how?  The physical universe presents the what and spans both religion and science.  The who and why are the exclusive province of religion (since science, by its definition, excludes considerations of these questions).  The where, when and how are the concerns of science.  Great problems are created when either religion or science crosses the line and makes statements outside its realm. 

Q: You’re on the Steering Committee of a group called the Christian Nuclear Fellowship.  Tell us something about the group and about your involvement in it.

A: CNF is an informal group of ANS members who meet at national meetings for prayer and sharing.  We have email communications on needs between meetings.  The CNF is one of the anchors in my life.

Q: You served a few years ago on the ANS Special Committee on Ethics, which developed a revised Code of Ethics for the ANS.  What are your thoughts about the importance of a code of ethics in pursuing your profession?

A: Life without ethics is a trip without a map – bound to have problems.

Q:  In addition to your many professional commitments, you’ve been quite involved in your church.  Tell us some of the ways you serve and minister in your church.

A:  I’ve been involved in teaching confirmation and other classes, done committee work, served as Congregation President, Collector, Altar Guild member, Deacon, Sunday School Superintendent and assistant.  In all, wherever my gifts are called.           

Q: What advice would you have for a young nuclear professional who might be just starting his or her career? 

A:  Join the ANS!  Keep up-to-date in whatever part of the profession is your passion.  Pursue licensing if that is a passion.   

Q:  And what about your more seasoned colleagues in the nuclear field?  Do you have any words of admonition or suggestions as to how they could get more involved in countering the misinformation being spread persistently by those who foment irrational fear based on their emotional and ideological objections to nuclear power?

A:  You are politically legitimate where you live.  You have the right, and the duty, to speak out.  Public oral debate is not everyone’s calling, but you can do something with your knowledge.  Always be sure to identify your opinions as your own, and not those of your organization.  The ANS website is a good source of basic information, and will provide information outside your area of expertise in nuclear power.  Letters to the editor, on line comments and blogs are good ways to participate in writing.  Remember, “90% of life is showing up.”  So show up at public meetings.  You don’t have to speak or make a sign, but be there.

Q:  Any final comments you’d like to leave with anyone who might read this interview?

A:  Remind yourself every day that we live in world of turmoil now.  As Christ said, “Wars and rumors of wars, the sounds of battles nearby etc.”  Jesus is the answer, and has promised to return at the end of this age.  I keep in mind the “Sam Levenson version of the ‘golden rule’; ‘How would you like it if they did it to you?’”  Daily Bible reading using a guide booklet with scripture passages and a short message for the day is a good way to begin your day and expand your knowledge.  Most denominations have these booklets.  Follow with prayer, then head out to do as God would have you do that day.

Affirming Nuclear Power as the Safe, Clean, Reliable,
Sustainable and Economic Alternative

An Interview with Carl Mazzola

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In this interview, Carl Mazzola, an ANS member since 1981, answers questions about his nuclear technology career and advocates nuclear power as the safe, clean, sustainable, reliable and economic alternative for meeting the world’s growing need for electricity. Carl also comments on some basic life principles that have guided him over the years.  Carl received a B. S. in meteorology from City College of New York and an M.S. in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University.  This interview was done in May 2009.

Q:   Looking back, how did you get started in the nuclear energy field, and what is your area of specialization?

A:  I first worked in the nuclear field in 1973 with the licensing of Generation II nuclear power generation facilities. My area of specialization at that time was atmospheric transport and diffusion and meteorological monitoring systems.

Q:   Can you give us a brief summary of your professional career?

A:  I have spent the last 36 years of an almost 40-year career with an architect engineering company supporting environmental engineering and science projects. In the 1970s, most of my work was associated with the licensing of nuclear power generating facilities. After the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, I began to apply my skills to emergency preparedness and response which ultimately led me to relocate to the Southeast US to manage an emergency management project at Savannah River Site (SRS). Once at SRS I picked up program management skills as well as broadened myself in the areas of environmental compliance, chemical safety, nuclear safety, ES &H, and other areas. Over the past 15 years I have done an extensive amount of training in radiological dispersion and chemical dispersion and act as a SME in atmospheric transport and diffusion for the commercial nuclear industry, DOE and NASA.

Q:   What would you say are some highlights from your career in the nuclear field?

A:  On several occasions I have been an expert witness at Federal and State hearings and testified at a National Advisory Committee to support a complex and difficult position. Presently, I am service on the Meteorology Subgroup of the Interagency Nuclear Safety Review Panel, providing expert-level advice associated with potential launch and reentry accidents of the upcoming launch of the Mars Science Laboratory.

Q:   What aspects of your work currently give you the greatest satisfaction?

A:  Although I enjoy all of my work, I derive the most satisfaction from the training courseware I develop and the training courses themselves. I believe God has gifted me to teach and I enjoy reaching many people with important knowledge that they can use to improve their job performance.

Q:   How long have you been a member of the American Nuclear Society and in what capacities have you served that professional society?

A:  I have been a member of the ANS since 1981. I have served the Society at all levels; both at the local section level where I have been a Chairman and presently serve as a Program Chairman, and at the National Level. I am presently the Chairman of the Nuclear Facilities Standards Committee, member of the Standards Board, member of 6 working groups developing voluntary consensus standards including co-chairing ANSI/ANS-3.11, Vice-Chairman of the Professional Divisions Committee, Past Chairman of the DD & RD and ESD professional divisions, member of the Special Committee for Nuclear Non-proliferation, Steering Committee of the Christian Nuclear Fellowship, and Technical Program Chairman of the upcoming 2011 topical meeting on Robotics & Remote Systems and Emergency Response.

Q:   How has membership in the ANS been of benefit to you over the years?

A:  To accomplish the governance work I do for ANS, I have met and positively interacted with thousands of professionals which have enriched my career and personal life. Both of these things are enormously important to me.

Q:   What would you say to young engineers and scientists just entering the field to persuade them to continue their ANS membership?  

A:  ANS provides an open and fair opportunity to network and grow in the fields of nuclear science and engineering. It provides a forum to learn and keep current on important matters associated with public and private sectors of the US nuclear industry, as well as OCONUS nuclear activities that affect the US industry and federal government.

Q:   There have been some positive signs recently regarding the growth of nuclear power applications around the world. Do you see reasons for being optimistic about the future of the industry?

A:  I have been waiting more than 30 years for a resurgence of the nuclear industry and am very optimistic about its future. Its’ zero carbon footprint, and source of reliable safe energy is the only major solution to the growing energy needs of the 21st Century. Any nation that does not include nuclear in its mix of energy options is putting itself in a difficult position relative to meeting its future growth goals. Even third-world countries see the clarity of the need for nuclear power in the mix.

Q: Following up on your mention of developing countries wanting to have nuclear power --- To what extent do you think we should be concerned about nuclear proliferation?

A:  We should continue to be concerned with nuclear proliferation since there are many rogue nations and terrorist organizations that can acquire special nuclear materials if active non-proliferation policies are not strictly enforced. Politically unstable nations and terrorist groups represent a clear and present danger to the survival of our planet, as there is enough nuclear weaponry on Earth to destroy everything living if used for destructive purposes. Accordingly, developing countries are entitled to the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear power if they sign onto non-proliferation agreements and adhere to its terms and subject themselves to periodic assessments by the IAEA.

Q:  I’d like to also follow up on something else you mentioned in an earlier reply, namely, the “zero carbon footprint” of the nuclear power option. For the non-scientific readers of this interview, what does that mean?

A:  There is a great debate about the anthropogenic effect on the global temperature of the Earth due to carbon dioxide emission to the atmosphere by man-made activities. As an advanced degreed meteorologist, I personally believe that man’s activities are having a relatively small effect on global climate change, as other astronomical variables such as differences in the solar “constant”, small variations in earth’s orbit around the sun, and other complex astronomical factors contribute more significantly to climate change than what the industrial revolution has in the past two centuries. These other factors are what are causing global warming on Mars and Pluto today. However, having said that, any reasonably economic means to reduce the amount of carbon-based materials that are greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which also includes methane, would improve the overall climate change situation. In contrast to coal-fired power generating facilities, which have a large carbon footprint, nuclear power plants contribute no carbon dioxide emissions and less radionuclide emissions that coal plants.

Q:  How can we publicize that very desirable feature of nuclear power more effectively among the general public? Any ideas?

A:  The focus has to be economically-based which encompasses principles of sustainability. Nuclear power provides a clean and relatively cheap sustainable energy source 24 hours a day and 365 days a year (except during rare outages and occasional refueling). In order to meet the electric generation needs of the future, it has to be the primary element in a comprehensive energy mix. In the near-term, our severe recession would be somewhat mitigated by the number of construction jobs, followed by permanent jobs that building and operating Generation III-A nuclear plants would provide without having a measurable effect on our environment. No other energy source is sustainable, relatively cheap and environmentally benign than nuclear power that can meet the exponentially growing energy needs of future generations.

Q:  Those who know you, know that your faith is very important to you and, in a very real way, defines who you are. Can you tell us about your faith and how it developed over time?

A:  I am a Messianic Jew who had a totally meaningless life until I met Jesus Christ on August 30, 1971 and received Him (at His beckoning) as Savior and Lord that evening. Over the past 38 years, He has transformed me from a self-centered miserable person with a purposeless life into a surrendered person with a purpose for living.

Q:  In what ways has this made a difference in your life?

A:  Each day is a new opportunity for serving His Kingdom and those people that He places before me. Over those years, He has reconfigured my character, my goals, and the way I approach everyday living and I have learned from Him that my purpose for living is to serve Him and serve others while in complete confidence that His grace is providing for all my needs. The sustainability of my life under all challenges and circumstances is a testimony to how real He is and how His principles for living provide for an abundant life. I only get into trouble when I attempt to take over the direction and management of my life. Hopefully, I’ll be wise enough to continue on the course He has planned for me.

Q:   You serve on the Steering Committee of a group called “The Christian Nuclear Fellowship.” Tell us about the group and your involvement in it.

A:  I have been involved with CNF for about 15 years; what I call the spiritual oasis of ANS meetings. CNF provides a non-denominational forum for those who know Jesus Christ as Lord to share their faith and experiences and to learn Scriptural principals for living. Many who have come to these meetings are severely burdened with issues and bondages and receive relief and comfort from other Christians who are present. I have had the opportunity to share mission experiences in Brazil, speak on “Christ: The only hope of the World”, and lead in various prayers during CNF events, as well as contribute to its newsletter.

Q: Some people question how Christian faith and a career in science can be compatible. How would you answer such questions?  How have you resolved these questions for yourself?

A:  I firmly believe that God revealed Himself to us in two ways. He directly revealed Himself through His Son and through His Word, the 66 books of Scripture. He also revealed himself (General Revelation) through his creation. Science is our attempt to understand His general revelation and the more that we learn about all earth and life sciences, the more it confirms our trust in His Word. Thus a career in science is fully compatible with living a Christian life as the science reveals more about Him. An example is the work of lysomes in the cell. These billionth of a meter motors work effectively and continually to remove waste products at a cellular level. If they would fail, we would perish. There are also 154 specific physical parameters associated with the earth-sun system that if any were off by 1-2% life on earth would be impossible. Science has actually strengthened my faith.

Q: Can you recommend a good book or other resources that could be helpful to someone wrestling with the question of the compatibility between Christian faith and science?  

A:  Yes. Fingerprint of God by Hugh Ross.  The author is both an astrophysicist and a pastor in the Pasadena, California area. He demonstrates in this book that God has left His fingerprint on His creation and we are continuing to see this evidence of His general revelation as our scientific knowledge expands. In fact, the more recent scientific discoveries have confirmed what God has revealed to us directly in the Scriptures. Hugh Ross also is the President of Reasons to Believe (www.reasons.org), an organization that is focused on showing how all sciences, from biochemistry to astrophysics, confirm the accuracy of the Bible.

Q: Some years ago, you served on the Ethics Committee of the ANS. What are your thoughts about the importance of a Code of Ethics in pursuing your profession?

A:  Ethics, justice and morality are inseparable. A code of ethics is necessary to establish a foundation for behavior amongst individuals in an organization that always preserves fairness and justice and keeps us accountable to all authorities. Without a code of ethics to guide us, we enter the slippery slope of anarchy.

Q: In addition to your many professional commitments, you are very involved in your church. Tell us some of the ways you serve and minister in your church.

A:  I utilize my spiritual gift of teaching within the church I am a member of. I have taught Sunday School for 30 of the past 33 years. Those three other years I was a Sunday School Superintendent. I also lead Sunday School teacher sessions, teacher special topics, apologetics and eschatology, and I am a member of the Education Council. For several years, I was also involved in voluntary missions and served on the Missions Committee for 3 years. Lastly, I was the Church moderator for 13 years.

Q: You have also been involved in ministry in your community.  Can you share something about that?

A:  I have been involved in several community activities over the past 30 years usually in the capacity of a Board of Director Chairman or member. Previously, I served as Chapter Chairman of the American Red Cross in Plymouth, MA, Board member of the Greater Augusta Care Pregnancy Center, Board member of Hannah’s House in Thomson, GA, a halfway house for teenage girls that are pregnant out of wedlock, and Vice-President of Missions of Integrity, an outreach to the people of Brazil. Presently, I am Board Chairman of Ambassadors Community Organization, a faith-based inner city ministry focusing on education and spiritual growth to the underprivileged in the Augusta, GA area.

Q:   Any final comments you’d like to leave with anyone who might read this interview?

A:  The only way to living a meaningful life is to find and then live a Christ-centered life. This means giving up what you once thought was the life you should live. Everyone has a specific meaningful purpose and Jesus can show you the way. Then it is up to you to choose your own life management system or His (Joshua 24:15).

Reflecting on a Rewarding Academic Career and on
Some Things that Give Life Real Purpose

An Interview with Steve Binney

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      In this interview, Steve Binney, an ANS member since the late 1960s, answers questions about his career in nuclear engineering education and research at Oregon State University and suggests ways in which nuclear professionals can help dispel lingering fears of nuclear energy among the general public. Steve also comments on some life principles that have guided him over the years.  Steve earned a B.S. in Engineering Physics from Oregon State University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.  He has served the ANS in a variety of capacities over the years. Steve has also served on the Advisory Committee of the Christian Nuclear Fellowship (CNF) for more than thirty years.   This interview was conducted in June 2009.

Q: Steve, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You’ve had a long and satisfying career in the field of nuclear science and engineering. Thinking back, how was it that you got interested in this field in the first place?

A: Well, to be honest, I didn’t even really know what Nuclear Engineering was back then. But it was the new and glorious thing, so I went for it – off to graduate school. Now I’ve been 39 years working in the nuclear field.

Q:  How and when did you decide on education as a career?

A: I had always wondered about pursuing the academic profession. My last quarter in graduate school I was able to teach a course. I really loved it. Finally, there was an opening in the Nuclear Engineering department at Oregon State at a time when I was available. I was a professor there 30 years before retiring. I still stay active with the department, teaching one graduate level course each year, and I have involvement in a few other matters.

Q:  What are some of the most rewarding things from your career as a professor?

A:  I love interacting with the younger crowd. They always have new ways of seeing things and they’re at that moldable stage of life where your input can have a life-changing effect on them. Besides, they come up with some really good questions that challenge your thinking.

Q:  Can you tell us about a few specific research projects you’ve been involved in that were especially satisfying and rewarding?  

A:  My first research project involved the extraction of uranium from seawater. This was a part of the Department of Energy’s NURE project to assess low-grade sources of uranium. Later projects included post-accident radiation monitoring in response to the Three Mile Island accident, boron neutron capture therapy studies, and serving as the Administrator for the Western Nuclear Science Alliance, a major grant I received immediately after my retirement.  

Q:  How has the enrollment in nuclear programs been at Oregon State University over the years, and how is it currently?  

A: As many others, our department has steadily increased in enrollment over the past several decades, especially recently. Part of this is due to the fact that we have a full complement of degree programs (BS, MS PhD) and offer degrees in three separate, but related majors: Nuclear Engineering, Radiation Health Physics, and Medical Physics.  

Q:  When did you become a member of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) and how have you been involved in the ANS over the years?  

A:  I became a member of ANS while a graduate student at Cal Berkeley in the late 1960s. As major responsibilities, I have served as Chair of the Radiation Protection and Shielding Division and Chair of the Nuclear Professional Engineering Examination Committee.  

Q:  In what ways would you say that your membership in the ANS has been helpful during your career?

A: ANS has given me many opportunities to work with others in the nuclear profession that I would not otherwise have had.  

Q:  What would you say to young scientists and engineers just beginning their careers as to why they should join a professional society such as the ANS?  

A: Membership in ANS is an excellent opportunity to advance in the field and learn from colleagues even after formal schooling is finished.

Q:  You’ve seen the nuclear business experience many ups and downs during your career. Are you currently optimistic about its future in the US?  

A:  I have a sense that our country is finally overcoming its unfounded fears about things nuclear and seeing the fantastic opportunities offered by nuclear power and the many other applications of nuclear techniques, especially in medicine.

Q:  Do you think the scientific community has done an adequate job in educating the public to alleviate the fear (what many of us see as an unfounded fear) of radiation and of everything connected to nuclear materials and nuclear energy?  

 

A:  We will always have the fearful among us, but we have taken some major steps in addressing unrealistic fears. More can always be done.

Q:  Any ideas as to what more can be done to educate the general public?  

A: Each of us can offer factual nuclear information in a non-condescending, reassuring way to our family, friends and neighbors. One on one communication can be as effective as making speeches to groups. Be real; tell of your personal experiences. I share some of my nuclear medical experiences with my students.  

Q: You’re on the Advisory Committee of a group called the Christian Nuclear Fellowship.  Tell us something about the group and about your involvement in it.

A: The CNF, as we call it, is a group of Christian believers or inquirers who are interested in integrating their faith in Jesus Christ into their everyday lives, including their nuclear employment.   

Q:  Those who know you know that your Christian faith is very important to you and that it really defines who you are and how you look at all of life. Tell us something about that.

A:  My faith in Christ became even more real to me a couple of years ago when I was diagnosed with melanoma cancer and underwent a major operation. My trust in the Lord carried me and my wife through that adventure in a very positive way.

Q:  How and when did you come to have such a strong and positive faith in the Lord?

A:  It wasn’t an immediate thing. I became a Christian in 1970 (the same year I finished graduate school), when I chose to commit my life to Jesus. There was an immediate change in life emphasis and values at that point. I began a rapid growth in understanding the Bible and what God wanted in my life with a leveling off in growth over time. My faith then took another major leap as explained in my previous response (in connection with my illness).

Q:  Some people think that science and faith are intrinsically incompatible. How would you answer those who might question how you, as a person educated in the physical sciences, can also be a believer?

A:   I see science and faith as intrinsically integrated, since I see faith as a part of every aspect of my life. I see science and faith as very compatible. This releases me to marvel at God’s hand in science and see His glory in the complex universe in which we live.

Q:  We live in what is called a postmodern age where many deny the existence of any absolute truth or absolute morality and, no doubt, many students who enter university have embraced such a worldview. To what extent have you found this to be true?

A:  Unfortunately, this mindset is becoming more and more prevalent. However, if I think that such and such is true and you think that it is false, we can’t both be right. There are some absolute truths in the world.

Q:  How would you go about explaining and justifying your own worldview to a student (or anyone) who holds such postmodern views?

A:  I believe there is a God and I am not that God. If God is really God, then He is supreme above all else; otherwise He wouldn’t really be God. Then, since His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts, I need to choose to be submissive to His will for my life, which, because of His great love for me (and all mankind) will bring about the best for me. 

EDITOR:  We appreciate Steve’s sharing about his rewarding career and sharing his thoughts on a variety of important topics in this interview. We hope these thoughts will be both interesting and inspirational to our readers.

The Importance of Promoting the Benefits of Nuclear Technology –
A CNF Interview of Dr. Alan Waltar,
Past-President of the American Nuclear Society

In this 2003 interview, Past President of the American Nuclear Society, Alan Waltar, answers questions about his professional career and shares his thoughts about the benefits of nuclear technology to mankind. Alan holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Washington, an M.S. in nuclear engineering from MIT, and a Ph.D. in engineering science from the University of California at Berkeley. "An up-to-date biographical sketch of Alan can be found on the Advisory Committee page.”

Q: Can you tell us what motivated you to pursue a career in nuclear engineering?

A: I was studying electrical engineering at the University of Washington and decided, in my senior year, to take Professor Les Babb’s introductory course in nuclear engineering. I was hooked immediately! I then went to graduate school on an AEC Fellowship, to focus on nuclear engineering.

Q: What were the challenges that the nuclear technology community faced when you started your career in the late 1960s?

A: The nuclear business was booming in the late 60's. I decided to get into fast reactors, and there the big concern at the time was safety. Fast reactors had many desirable characteristics, but the inherent reactivity coefficients were not that well understood and there was concern about the consequences of very low probability accidents. That’s what I cut my teeth on.

Q: What do you see as our major challenges today?

A: Public acceptance of nuclear technology is still the most fundamental challenge. We live in a democracy and have a free press. This, of course, is marvelous, but it unfortunately allows a very small minority of activists to effectively  "use" the system to push their own agendas via scare tactics.

Q: What would you say were the most rewarding aspects of serving as Vice President and then as President of the ANS? (WHAT YEARS?) 1993-94 VP; 1994-95 President

A: Being in a position to bring hope to the nuclear profession was undoubtedly what gave me my biggest sense of satisfaction. At that time there had been mass layoffs in the nuclear industry. But it was also during that period of time that we learned (via published studies) of the incredible positive economic impact of nuclear science and technology on mainstream America. We (i.e., the ANS) had a strong and credible voice, and we needed to be heard. Being an active participant in founding the Eagle Alliance, as part of a new endeavor to help spread that message, was very rewarding.

Q: Tell us more about the Eagle Alliance, of which you were the founding president.

A: The Eagle Alliance was formed as an umbrella organization to be a strong advocate of the rich benefits of radiation. Since the outside world perceived ANS to be focused primarily on nuclear power, we felt the Alliance could help bring a new & credible focus on the other astounding benefits of radiation to our citizens—such as applications in nuclear medicine, agriculture, and general industry.

Q: How successful has the Eagle Alliance been in achieving its goals?

A: We started this Alliance with great enthusiasm, but we have not been able to achieve our original goals – mainly because of a lack of a sufficient funding base for professional help on a  day-to-day basis. But the need is still there, and we have many committed nuclear professionals dedicated to getting a positive message out regarding the incredible benefits of radiation to humanity.

Q: As you look back, what were some of the most rewarding aspects of serving as chair of nuclear engineering at Texas A&M?

A: Being able to help spur a really dramatic growth in the undergraduate enrollment was perhaps the most rewarding part of my four-year tenure. The enrollment tripled! This is especially rewarding because this represents the future of our profession. Another thing was the "Women in Discovery: Celebrating the Legacy of Marie Curie" program that we sponsored. It received campus-wide support -- and eventually support across the nation -- proving that even radiation could be turned into a "warm fuzzy"! One more thing - I was gratified that we were able to convince campus officials and industry to build a major food irradiation center, which will help in the efforts to commercialize this great method of assuring a healthy stream of fresh food.

Q: Is the nuclear field one you would encourage today’s students to enter without reservation?

A: Absolutely! This is a great time for the best and brightest to get into this field. Even though we have not yet really entered a "nuclear renaissance", I see it coming. To me, the primary driving force is the ethical need to supply our planet with a plentiful, sustainable form of energy that is compatible with environmental stewardship.  To achieve this, nuclear simply MUST be a key part of our energy mix.

Q: You serve on the Steering Committee of the Christian Nuclear Fellowship. Tell us about the group and your involvement in it.

A: I was fortunate to learn about the CNF from Vic Uotinen soon after its formation. For years I’ve been impressed by how CNF is an "oasis" of comfort in the midst of a busy ANS meeting. I agreed to serve on the Steering Committee and have enjoyed the fellowship very much – mainly because of the quality of the people. In addition to the regular CNF activities, I enjoyed participating in one ethics session the CNF organized for a national ANS meeting.

Q: Tell us about your personal commitment to the Christian faith and what it means to you.

A: I came to a personal faith in Christ as a teenager and have been truly blessed through life. Having grown up in rather meager circumstances (although I never knew that we were poor!) I was blessed with a very supportive family and have never been without hope. Whereas I have always carried an inferiority complex, I know where my strength comes from, and it is that confidence in the reality of Christ that keeps me eternally hopeful and looking forward.

Q: Has your faith influenced in any way what you have done in your professional life?

A: Definitely! When President Carter was elected, he caused me to undergo a deep degree of soul-searching. As we all know, President Carter is a deeply committed Christian, and when he strongly inferred that nuclear technology should not be pursued, he stopped me in my tracks! But as a result of that soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that I was doing precisely what God wanted me to be doing. I have felt at peace with this decision ever since.

Q: You currently serve on the ANS Special Committee on Ethics. Tell us how you feel about stressing the importance of ethics within our technological community.

A: I believe it is very important. I think this is so particularly in our profession, because the atom contains an enormous amount of energy. Whereas this can and should be harnessed for the benefit of all humanity, if we become careless or calloused in any way, we could inflict major harm to our fellow citizens. Hence, professional ethics in everything we do is mandatory.

Q: What motivated you to write the book, AMERICA THE POWERLESS: Facing Our Nuclear Energy Dilemma, and what kind of feedback have you received from it?

A: As a result of my wrestling with President Carter’s challenge, I developed a strong interest in trying to take the fear out of nuclear technology. I dug into whatever I could find to help me understand the broader issues, and then started giving talks to a wide variety of audiences. Finally, a close friend in Austria (Roland Kualas) challenged me to put these thoughts into print. I’m glad I did. Writing a book is a huge effort, and I was concerned that I might be ridiculed by my colleagues for this particular book because it is written in a very simplistic style. But to my pleasant surprise, the feed-back has been good – even among my very learned colleagues (those who give me that inferiority complex!). It hasn’t sold as well as I had hoped, but... it’s my "pebble thrown into the ocean".

Q: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of nuclear technology applications?

A: I am very optimistic. Whereas I’ll have to admit to being a bit impatient regarding how long it is taking the USA to face up to the need for developing a strong and sustained funding base to really move this technology ahead, I remain convinced the time will come. In fact, I am sufficiently optimistic that I have agreed to write another book – this time focusing on the wide uses of radiation. I think the more we can do to share our insight on the beneficial uses of radiation, the sooner our fellow citizens can acknowledge and enjoy those benefits. Given the need to reduce the huge gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" of this planet, I believe we have an ethical imperative to do whatever we can to help improve the quality of everyone’s life.

Q: Any final comments you’d like to leave with anyone who might read this interview?

A: I suppose the biggest thing I have learned is to be willing to take risks. I have failed many times (as my close colleagues painfully know!), but I have also enjoyed a few peaks among the valleys.  In every case I have seen the hand of God blazing the trail – and lifting me up on those numerous occasions when I have been at wits end. Being a Christian does not mean there won’t be bumps in the road. Indeed, there are often major detours. But I can’t imagine facing life in today’s world without the assurance that God loves me – undeserving, but loved anyway. This brings immeasurable joy that is hard to describe, but very real.

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Prepared by the Christian Nuclear Fellowship
73 Oakland Circle. Lynchburg, VA 24502
e-mail: vic@rivermont.org

Permission is granted to copy and distribute
this publication in unlimited quantity, free of charge.
Please write CNF for copies of other professional
interviews in this series.


Some Reasons for Optimism
and Hope for the Future

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In this 2008 interview, Robert (Bob) Wilson, an ANS member since the 1960s, answers questions about his nuclear technology career, reflects on what his membership in the ANS has meant to him, and comments on some reasons he sees for having optimism and hope for the future. Bob earned B. S. and M.S. degrees in engineering physics from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Washington. During his years of ANS membership, Bob has been an active member and has held several leadership positions. Bob was appointed a Fellow of the ANS in 1994 and he served on the ANS Special Committee on Ethics for three years. He is also one of the founding members of the CNF. Bob is currently Program Manager for Criticality Safety at the DOE’s Rocky Flats facility and Office of Environmental Management. He and Jan live in Colorado.

Q::You’ve been a member of the ANS for a long time. When did you first join the society and what motivated you to become a member?

A: As the chairman of the UCLA ANS student branch in the 60’s, it was required that I join as a student member.  I also saw the ANS as a source of information (the magazine) and as a professional home in the future.  I joined as a full member as soon as I graduated.

Q:  In what ways have you been involved in ANS activities over the years?

A: I was involved with student branches at UCLA and the University of Washington, as an officer in local sections in Idaho and Colorado, twice chairman of the Nuclear Criticality Safety Division, general chair of one topical meeting and program chair of another.  I also served on the short lived ANS Ethics Committee.

Q:  What would you say have been the benefits you have received from ANS membership?

A: Professionally it has kept me aware of developments, technical and otherwise, in my field.  Personally I have benefited by knowing the best practitioners of my craft and discussing technical and administrative issues with trusted colleagues.

Q:: Thinking back, what influenced your decision to choose nuclear engineering as a career?

A: As an undergraduate in Engineering Physics, I was looking for a branch of technology which would have the most influence in solving basic global problems.  The problem which most bothered me was the north/south hemisphere split.  Most of the wealth was in part of the northern hemisphere and grinding poverty was in the south.  Availability of energy would have to be a part of the solution of this fundamental conflict.  Nuclear energy seemed the only realistic solution.  I made it an issue of personal prayer as a sophomore and I believe that a nuclear engineering career was the answer I got.

Q:: As you look back, what have been some of the most rewarding and satisfying aspects of your career?

A: I’m grateful for the experience of building two criticality safety programs and organizations at two nuclear sites.  The friendships of a worldwide network of nuclear professionals have been very satisfying.

Q:: What have been some of the greatest challenges?

A: The political and sociological opposition to nuclear powered electricity has been very frustrating.  I’ve also been challenged by those nuclear professionals who do not understand the role and importance of safety in the nuclear enterprise.  It has been a premise of mine that we pay for safety whether we get it or not but some feel that the cost of lower standards can be postponed indefinitely.  Such conflicts are discouraging. 

Q::  Have you had any regrets about choosing nuclear technology as a career?

A: None at all.

Q::  What value do you think ANS membership has for someone just beginning his or her career today?

A:  To do a good job in a technical field, one has to keep up with developments.  A professional should participate in professional societies as likely the most efficient way of keeping up.  The contacts and friendships made through society activities are also invaluable.

Q::  What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the U.S. nuclear energy program at the start of the 21st century?

A:  Nuclear energy requires a technically savvy and stable society and infrastructure to be viable.  This limits the places to which we can support transferring nuclear technology.

The introduction of the new generations of reactor types will also be a challenge with the loss of successful experience over the last quarter century. 

Q:: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future expansion of nuclear power generation in the US, and why?

A: I’m optimistic about the future of nuclear energy in the U.S.  The irrational fear of nuclear power has receded somewhat and the U.S. has the technical educational resources and a stable enough society to successfully manage a strong nuclear future.

Q: You’re on the Steering Committee of a group called the Christian Nuclear Fellowship. Tell us something about the group and about your involvement in it.

A: At the society’s 1976 annual conference, I picked up a brochure announcing a meeting of Christian professionals who would discuss, among other things, God and nuclear energy.  I had recently presented a paper on the theology of nuclear energy and I was delighted at the prospect of discussing the issue.  It turned out that the group, later organized as the Christian Nuclear Fellowship preferred not to discuss big picture issues like this but saw the group as an opportunity to encourage one another in more personal ways. The groups’ major activity is sharing and prayer for each other.  I’ve met with this fellowship at least annually for thirty years and consider the friendships developed as very important.

Q: Those who know you well know that your faith in Jesus Christ is very important to you. Tell us something about that.

A:  I see my relationship with God through Jesus Christ as the central reality in my life.  It affects my self understanding, my relationship with everybody else, and my every day choices.

Q: Some religious groups have taken an anti-nuclear stance. What are your thoughts about that and how do you view your involvement in the nuclear field in light of your Christian faith?

A:  Historically, science and technology developed in a society that generally believed that a benevolent God was firmly in control of his creation and it was safe to explore even new technologies that could have far reaching effects.  A pluralistic society, such as ours, has a diluted underlying understanding of its universe and is predictably more fearful and cautious about technology.  I see a world view based on biblical revelation, once widespread in the western world, as sympathetic to responsibly managed nuclear energy.        

Q: Some feel that religion is a private matter. It seems that you and others in the CNF don’t entirely agree with that view. Could you tell us how you feel about that?

A:  Christians see scripture as a reliable source of information and given by God.  Scripture does deal with such private matters as salvation and eternal life and also many corporate issues that involve the larger society.  If Christians understand that the scriptural view of such matters as, for example, the value of life, treatment of strangers and aliens, and the value of honesty and charity, are true and valid and do not proclaim these outside there own group, they are at least selfish and perhaps irresponsible. The recent movie “Amazing Grace” about the successful effort of Christians in England to stop the slave trade in the British Empire made this point quite clearly. 

Q: Could you tell us about how you view the relationship between your work and your Christian faith?

A:  Everything about my work relates to my Christian faith.  I would not be in the nuclear field if I saw it as questionable from a biblical perspective.  It shapes how I treat fellow employees to the diligence of my work products.  My faith gives me hope for the future and affects my outlook that my effort has meaning.

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Prepared by the Christian Nuclear Fellowship
73 Oakland Circle. Lynchburg, VA 24502
e-mail: vic@rivermont.org

Permission is granted to copy and distribute
this publication in unlimited quantity, free of charge.
Please write CNF for copies of other professional
interviews in this series.

CNF Founder Reflects on a Career in
Nuclear Science and Engineering

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In this 2006 interview flier, Vic Uotinen, who first joined the American Nuclear Society (ANS) in 1966, answers questions about his nuclear technology career and reflects on what his membership in ANS has meant to him. Vic received his education (in physics) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Michigan and the University of Washington. During his forty consecutive years of ANS membership, Vic has served on the Executive Committees of both the Reactor Physics Division and the Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division, and on some ANS Standards committees. He also served three years on the ANS Special Committee on Ethics (which he chaired 2003-2004), and he currently serves on the ANS Membership Committee. He also serves as Coordinator of a group called the Christian Nuclear Fellowship.

Q:  What was it that drew you to major in physics in college in the first place?

A:   I had a physics professor at Worcester Tech (WPI) – Professor Mayer - who made physics come alive in his lectures. His unashamed, robust enthusiasm for the subject was contagious.  Then, the more physics courses I took, the more I fell in love with the field. I think what really appealed to me was the way physics can actually describe, in mathematical language, the physical phenomena we observe.… not only the classical physics part, but also the “modern” aspects of physics discovered in the 20th century. I was fascinated by the elegance of the theories and equations developed by greats from Newton, Faraday and Maxwell to Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr and Schrodinger and others.  And also by the pioneering work done by Enrico Fermi.

Q:  And at what point did you decide to direct your studies toward a nuclear technology career?

A:  It was during graduate school in the early 1960s, which was less than ten years after Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech at the United Nations. I remember listening to that speech when I was in high school; and then as I took courses in nuclear physics in grad school, the thought of harnessing this tremendous source of energy and using it for peaceful purposes --- to make this world a better place --- that really captured my imagination.

Q:  What was your first job after grad school?

A:  My first job was at the Hanford site in Richland, Washington, which at that time was operated by General Electric. I was assigned to a group that was doing experimental reactor physics studies related to using plutonium as a power reactor fuel.  It was called the “Plutonium Utilization Program.” I remember reflecting on the fact that Hanford had been built during World War II to produce plutonium for bombs  --- and that here I was, helping to develop ways to use plutonium for peaceful, rather than military purposes. I remember being thrilled and motivated by the thought of being involved in figuratively “beating swords into plowshares.”  

Q: What motivated you to join the American Nuclear Society as a young physicist back in 1966?

A:  The group I was working with was doing some really interesting experimental reactor physics work with plutonium --- with lattices of fuel rods of plutonium alloys as well as mixed oxides of uranium and plutonium. We were designing experiments and gathering experimental reactor physics data to build a body of useful new information that was of interest to the broader nuclear technology community. Our group was also involved in developing methods and models to predict the reactor physics aspects of reactor cores that used mixed (Pu and U) oxide fuels. We were producing publishable material. That’s mainly what motivated me to join the ANS,  because the ANS was the professional society through which that work could best be shared and published.

Q:  Were there other ways that your membership in the ANS proved useful to you during those early years?

A:   Yes! First there were the ANS publications --- journals and transactions of meetings. I devoured them every month. There was so much interesting work going on in so many places --- and most of the significant work was reported in those publications. They helped me keep abreast of what others were doing elsewhere. Then there were the ANS national meetings. We were publishing a lot of papers, and so I got to attend many meetings. I found it exhilarating to meet colleagues from around the world and to discuss their work as well as the work I was involved in. Many of the friendships formed during those early years are still very much alive today.

Q: It sounds like those early years were truly exciting, as you and others did some of the work that laid the foundation for expanding commercial applications of nuclear power. How about later in your career? Has your ANS membership continued to be useful, or have things changed over the years? 

A: Things have certainly changed over the years. As the commercial nuclear industry matured, new discoveries and improved applications were not shared as freely. Rather, they were considered proprietary. That’s a natural result of the competitive nature of a maturing field of technology. But the ANS has continued to provide a forum for reporting new developments and for networking with professional colleagues, and it has also provided a forum for participating in the process of creating standard policies and procedures for this industry.  And one more thing --- the ANS has been useful in getting industry to work together to develop more effective ways to convey the potential and promise of nuclear technology to the public and to governmental decision makers.

Q: What value do you think ANS membership has for someone just beginning his or her career today?

A: As I mentioned above, things have changed since the early years, but the ANS continues to offer value to members. First, becoming a member of a professional society will give young nuclear professionals a sense of really being “professionals.” If I’m planning to work as a professional in any field, one of the first things I should do is join the professional society that covers that field of knowledge. It just makes good sense. Second, involvement in ANS will help you develop a world-wide network of professional colleagues --- something that will not only be useful in years to come (not just a utilitarian benefit), but it will also enrich your life. Thirdly, it will broaden your perspective and make you a better engineer, scientist, professor or manager, or whatever you happen to be; and fourthly, it will enhance the prospects of the future advancement of your career. I would highly recommend ANS membership to anyone who’s beginning his or her nuclear technology career today.

Q:  You retired from your nuclear career a few years ago, but you have continued to be an active ANS member and attend ANS meetings. How have you still been involved and why?

A:  Since retirement, I served for three years on the ANS Special Committee on Ethics, and chaired it for one year. That’s something I found quite rewarding. We developed an updated and improved Code of Ethics for ANS, which was adopted by the Board of Directors in 2004. I’m currently serving on the Membership Committee, where hopefully, I can make some helpful contributions. However, the activities that are most rewarding to me at ANS meetings these days are the activities put on by a group called the CNF (Christian Nuclear Fellowship). The CNF group has met at every single ANS national meeting since 1976, when it was founded, and the group continues to meet each June and November.

Q:  Tell us a little more about the CNF. What is it, and what is its agenda?

A:  We’re an informal fellowship of men and women from many different Christian denominations who work in a variety of capacities in the nuclear technology field. What we have in common is a serious and purposeful commitment to the Christian faith and a sincere desire to follow Christ. We meet in conjunction with national ANS meetings to discuss various topics related to the Christian faith and to encourage each other to apply Christian principles and ethics in every area of our lives --- in our private lives as well as in our professional and public lives. We want our faith in Christ to be more than something academic –we want it to be a vital faith that affects every aspect of our lives and influences how we treat other people, how we react to adversity, how we set our priorities, how we seek the good of others, how we strive for integrity and excellence in all we do, etc. 

Q:  Who is involved in the leadership of CNF, and is the group open to anyone who wants to attend?

A:  I serve as the coordinator of activities for the group, and leadership at the meetings is provided by members of an Advisory Committee. We’ve been honored to have three Past-Presidents of ANS serve on the Advisory Committee -- Bob Long, Alan Waltar and Ted Quinn.  Others currently on the Advisory Committee are Steve Binney, Nolan Hertel, Carl Mazzola, Charley Rombough, Bonnie Rumble, Howard Shaffer, Bob Wilson and me. While the leadership is firmly committed to the historic, foundational beliefs of the Christian faith, the CNF is truly an interdenominational fellowship. We’re united by what C. S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity”. We don’t focus on the peripheral  theological issues that divide Christians, but on the central issues that unite us. The group is open to anyone who wishes to attend.

Q:  Some might think it surprising that a physicist would have such a strong faith commitment. How and when did you develop that dimension of your life?

A:  Growing up, I was strongly impacted by the genuineness of my parents’ faith and how it shaped everything they did. Later on, I came to a more mature personal acceptance of Christ and the basic truths of the Christian faith during my college years.

Q:  That’s somewhat surprising. Isn’t it unusual for someone studying science to develop strong religious convictions at the same time?

A:  In my case, there were a couple of things that strongly influenced me during my college years – first, I was influenced by several professors who were also deeply committed Christians; and second, I was deeply influenced by the writings of C. S. Lewis.

Q:  Can you tell us about any professor in particular?

A:  I remember Dr. Van Wylen, Dean of Engineering at Michigan, who was also an adviser to a campus Christian group. I was impressed that a man of his credentials was such a firm and committed Christian. He was a powerful role model for me.

Q:  Was there anything in particular you learned from Van Wylen and/or other professors who were believers during your time at Michigan?

A:  One thing I learned was that there is far more reason for a scientist to believe in the existence of God than to deny it. I came to the understanding that to believe in the Unintelligent producing Intelligence, the Unconscious generating the Conscious, Mindlessness creating Mind, Nothing giving birth to Something – is really to believe in nonsense.  I still firmly believe that.

Q:  How about C. S. Lewis? In what ways did he influence you?

A:  Lewis’ writings, especially his books, Mere Christianity and Miracles, made a deep impression on me, and helped me develop a rationale for the reasonableness of the basic truths of orthodox Christianity. In a very convincing way, Lewis exposed the shallowness and inadequacy of popular arguments against Christianity.

Q:  Were there any particular key thoughts or ideas in Lewis’ writings that especially stand out?

A:  One was Lewis’ stress on the objective truthfulness of Christianity. He said, “Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” A related quotation from Lewis states, “If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.” Lewis himself, a former atheist, had become absolutely convinced that it is true…and he articulated that conviction very persuasively.

Another key point was that Lewis insisted his readers face the basic question of who Jesus Christ actually was. Considering the claims Jesus made about himself, Lewis came to the conclusion that Christ had to be more than just a great moral teacher. He wrote, “The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question…the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic.”

Q:  Since you retired from your nuclear career, you have taken on a position on the staff of a church. What does that position involve?

A:  Yes, I now serve as Director of Missions and Administration at Rivermont Presbyterian Church in my home town of Lynchburg, Virginia. I find the missions component of this position to be especially rewarding and I continue to receive great satisfaction from being involved in making the gospel of Jesus Christ known more broadly and in making a positive difference in the lives of people who are less fortunate than we are --- both in my own community and in a number of places around the world. Millions of people around the world are suffering deprivation and oppression, and they’re searching for answers. I believe those of us who have been blessed with abundance have not only an obligation, but also the privilege of reaching out to help others.  We have been blessed in order to be a blessing to others. Sharing the gospel – in word and in deed – is something worth giving your life to. Together with followers of Jesus Christ everywhere, I long to be an agent of transformation in the world. This is what motivates me in my work from day by day.

Q:  As you look back on your nuclear career, what do you consider most satisfying and rewarding?

A:  I enjoyed many aspects of my nuclear technology career, and the ANS has certainly been a big part of that. I think the aspect that stands out in my mind as perhaps most satisfying is the published research work that I was privileged to be involved in during the first decade of my career. Our team published several journal articles and presented many papers at nuclear conventions. Some of that work helped build the foundation for future peaceful applications of nuclear technology --- especially related to plutonium recycle and the use of mixed-oxide fuels in power reactors.  A recent rewarding moment was when I saw one of our early journal articles referenced in a paper that appeared in a recent issue of the Transactions of  the ANS. I was pleased to discover that the work we published some 30 years ago is still being referenced today, and that others are building on that foundation.

I also found satisfaction in my later work in the commercial nuclear energy sector.  I felt that helping to promote the efficient use of this God-given energy source was one way of helping to raise the living standards of many people while reducing emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants. I believe that’s a helpful contribution to the task of maintaining a healthy planet.

Q:  Any final comments or parting remarks you’d like to leave with those who might read this interview?

A:  I just want to acknowledge that God has blessed me in countless ways over my lifetime.  I’m deeply grateful to Him for my wonderful family, for a very satisfying career in the nuclear industry, for friendships formed over the years, and now for my new career. Most of all, I thank God for His amazing grace and unconditional love, which led Him to send us a Savior, who said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I can never thank God enough for that awesome gift and the peace He gives to all who respond to Him in faith and follow Him. I wish hurting people all over the world may come to know Him, to worship Him, and to experience that peace.

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Prepared by the Christian Nuclear Fellowship
73 Oakland Circle. Lynchburg, VA 24502
e-mail: vic@rivermont.org

Permission is granted to copy and distribute
this publication in unlimited quantity, free of charge.
Please write CNF for copies of other professional
interviews in this series.

Rombough Reflects on the Benefits of ANS Membership and Distance Running

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In this 2006 interview, Charley Rombough, a long-time member of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), answers questions about his professional career and shares his thoughts about the benefits of being a member of the ANS. Charley earned a PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Texas in 1974. He is the founder and President of CTR Technical Services, Inc. which operates out of Manitou Springs, Colorado. Charley is also a competitive long distance runner and provides some reflections about that aspect of his life as well.

Q: You’re a long-time member of the American Nuclear Society. How long have you been a member, and what are some of the major ways you have served the Society over the years?

A: I joined in 1974 shortly after receiving my PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Texas, so that would make it 31 years. I have published numerous papers for ANS meetings, served on the Public Information and Ethics Committees, served as chairman of the Reactor Physics Division, and chairman of the Virginia local section.

Q: What ANS activities are you currently involved in?

A: I serve as chairman of the ANS 19.6.1 Working Group, which establishes standard criteria for conducting startup physics tests for PWRs. I also serve on several other Standards working groups, including a new one on burnup credit. I am also a member of the ANS Speakers Bureau.

Q: What value do you think ANS membership has had for you over the years? 

A: I think my ANS membership has been valuable in that it has helped keep me informed of the latest developments in nuclear technology and helped

me to network with people in other organizations that may benefit from my consulting services.

Q: What value do you think ANS membership has for someone just beginning his or her career today?

A: It’s extremely helpful for anyone beginning their nuclear career. Many of the contacts you make through ANS will be beneficial later on. I worked for Babcock & Wilcox (now Areva) for many years before starting my own consulting business 18 years ago. If it had not been for the ANS - and especially the contacts made through my participation in ANS - it would have been very difficult for such a venture to have been successful.

Q: How else might you try to persuade recent graduates of the benefits of becoming actively involved in ANS and its activities?

A:  Several years ago, ANS started a mentoring program during its national meetings. You can sign up to be a mentor and ANS will pair you with a young person during the meeting so that he or she can experience first hand how the organization is meeting the needs of its members.

Q: What prompted or motivated you to choose the filed of nuclear engineering as a career?

A: I majored in physics in college and took my first nuclear engineering course as a senior. I was hooked. This course opened my eyes to the value of practical physics and helped me realize that maybe I could have a small part to play in developing nuclear technology for the benefit of our society.

Q: If you were just starting out your career, do you think you’d still choose a career in nuclear engineering?

A: That might be a tough question in these uncertain times, but I would choose it again. There are numerous avenues for nuclear engineers that are not restricted to power generation. Nuclear medicine and nuclear techniques in detecting explosives, etc. come to mind.

Q: As you look back, what were some of the most

      rewarding aspects of your career?

A: The most rewarding aspects include being able to meet such giants as Edward Teller and to be able to travel to different parts of the world to attend meetings and provide nuclear consulting services for many foreign organizations.

Q: You’re a serious and avid competitive long distance runner. How many miles do you run per week?

A: When I’m training for a major event, I put in as many as 100 miles per week. During the “off season,” I try to put in at least 30-40 miles a week to stay in shape.

Q: How did you get started running, and how do you sustain an interest in such a grueling sport?

A: I like to think of it as an activity that helps me commune with God and gives me something healthy to do (one of my favorite movies was Chariots of Fire). Even though I’m not nearly as fast as I was in my youth, I enjoy pushing my body to the limits because God gave it to me and I honor Him by taking care of it.

Q: What have been some highlights of your competitive running career?

A: I qualified for and have run the Boston Marathon five times. I’ve completed five 100-milers, eleven 50-milers and 35 marathons. I have “won” the ANS Tuesday morning fun run a few times but because of creative handicapping by the organizers, I usually end up in the middle of the pack! I recently completed the Berryman 50 mile trail run in Missouri in just under 12 hours to place 27th out of 83 starters.

Q: Are there any life lessons you have learned through running?

A: Yes. “Don’t give up” and “Strive to be your best” come to mind. There have been several difficult situations that have come into my life, but I would say to myself, “If I can run a 100-miler. I can handle this.”

Q: In addition to your involvement in ANS, you serve on the Advisory Committee of a group called the Christian Nuclear Fellowship. Tell us about the group and your involvement in it.

A: I’ve been a member of the Fellowship since it was formed in 1976. The Fellowship has provided a forum for me to share my faith with others who work in the nuclear industry. We have regular meetings twice each year, in conjunction with every ANS national meeting.  These meetings of the Fellowship have become a highlight of my trips to ANS national meetings.

Q: Some religious groups have taken an anti-nuclear stance. What are your thoughts about that and how do you view your involvement in the nuclear energy field in light of your Christian faith?

A: God created all things and He created nuclear energy as well. The sun is powered by nuclear fusion and uranium can be used in nuclear reactors to release large amounts of energy by nuclear fission. All technology can be used for good or evil (gasoline can be used to make a Molotov cocktail or to power our automobiles). The choice lies with us. God has given us His Word to help us make the right choices and we have a moral duty to do the right thing with the resources God has provided us.

Q: Some feel that religion is a private matter. You (and others affiliated with the CNF) evidently don’t entirely agree with that sentiment. In what ways does your Christian faith influence your work and your career?

A: Religion is private to the extent that each individual has a freewill choice to follow God or not. Jesus, however, was not very private in His ministry and openly proclaimed the “good news” that God was accessible through Him. We, as Christians, are obliged to do the same thing and share our faith with others. The CNF is one avenue that we can do this. As far as my work and career go, I work as unto the Lord and not unto men (at least I try!) --- as we are instructed to do by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians (Col. 3:23).

Q: Any final comments or words of wisdom you’d like to leave with anyone who might read this interview?

A: Trust God, strive to be your best, and always do the right thing.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Prepared by the Christian Nuclear Fellowship
73 Oakland Circle. Lynchburg, VA 24502
e-mail: vic@rivermont.org

Permission is granted to copy and distribute
this publication in unlimited quantity, free of charge.
Please write CNF for copies of other professional
interviews in this series.

 

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