Last week I was out in Albuquerque, New Mexico working with the amazing folks at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. The Museum is a Smithsonian affiliate and just received National Accreditation, so as you might imagine, it’s a top notch organization. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend stopping by! And if you never make it out to the Southwest, you are still in luck, because this cutting edge museum is building educational outreach efforts well outside it’s own walls. In fact you may have participated in their efforts without even realizing it!
Five years ago, the Nuclear Museum founded Nuclear Science Week, a nationally recognized celebration of nuclear science and history. Each October nuclear professionals, teachers, students and citizens have chance to connect and participate in a huge variety of local and national activities. A different city is chosen each year to host a “Big Event”, while communities all over the country also hold their own celebrations. The reason for this approach is too build up educational outreach efforts all over the country, especially in communities with nuclear facilities.
For instance, last year’s event in Aiken, South Carolina reached more than 350,000 people in the region, with tours, talks, school visits and art projects (yeah, that was my contribution!). And the amazing folks in South Carolina now have the grassroots organization in place to have great Nuclear Science Week events year after year, and even throughout the year.
This October we are headed to Seattle, Washington- a city in a region with many cool, innovative nuclear projects including start-ups NuScale and TerraPower. These projects run totally counter to popular mythology about nuclear energy, which is one of the reasons it’s important to tell these stories.
NuScale was started at Oregon State by an academic team, who fought tooth and nail for years to keep the project going, ultimately gaining the backing of Fluor, a much larger construction group, as well as the Department of Energy’s award for promising Small Modular Reactor designs. It’s a classic underdog story, the likes of which are very uncommon in the nuclear business.
I personally want to see more of this type of scrappy attitude and effort from the nuclear sector. And I may get my wish. NuScale seems to be setting a new trend in the way we develop new nuclear technologies- just look at the development of a high temperature salt cooled reactor by another academic team at UC Berkeley.
TerraPower also has a unconventional story. Tech guru and humanitarian Bill Gates helped start this company to build Traveling Wave Reactors, after realizing that energy poverty is one of the big obstacles to human health and prosperity in the developing world. If you haven’t already, give Mr. Gate’s excellent TED talk a watch, and learn why TerraPower has another story worth sharing.
Okay! And now that you’ve got your brain full of cool, new nuclear info, I’m excited to reveal last week’s #Atoms4Earth Winners! Yes, Winners with a “S”! Basically, while I was at the museum last week we got so many awesome entries (click through and SHARE!), I asked the Communications team, Jennifer Hayden and Casey Bock, for their help choosing a winner. I love these ladies beyond words, and they loved the artwork so much, we had to settle on two winners!
Drum roll please…..
Congrats to Adam Cooper and Tim-Rasmus Kiehl! You have both won an atom hat!! I’ll check in early next week to get mailing info! Thanks to everyone who has participated so far! Keep the memes coming! Only a few more weeks until Earth Day!!