U.S. NRC Blog

Transparent, Participate, and Collaborate

Q&A with Engineer Emma Wong In Recognition of Women’s Equality Day

emmawongEmma Wong is a chemical engineer working in the agency’s Spent Fuel Alternative Strategies Division. Previously, she worked in the Division of Engineering as a technical reviewer for license amendments and license renewals. Emma has worked at the NRC for eight years. She holds have a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, San Diego.

Q1. What are your job responsibilities?

A1. My current responsibilities include:

·        Resolving technical issues related to extended storage of reactor spent nuclear fuel

·        Presenting at technical conferences and standards committees regarding extended storage of spent nuclear fuel

·        Developing analytic capabilities to assess hazards of advanced reprocessing

·        Interacting with the public stakeholders and industry representatives on licensing activities

·        Monitoring research projects for technical accuracy

Q2. What do you like most about your job?

A2. I am always learning something new and interesting. It can range from going on an inspection, audit, interacting with the public, learning a new skill, or mentoring others. Working for a regulatory agency allows me the opportunity to use my engineering degree as a foundation for learning and understanding complex processes in order to make reasonable and informed decisions to protect the public health and safety.

Q3. What prompted you to get into engineering as a career?

A3. When I was growing up in Michigan, I was surrounded by an engineering environment and engineers. In addition, my parents and teachers promoted learning and were very supportive of my future career paths. Since I was very good at math and science and liked to understand how things worked, I chose to explore engineering. To make this decision, I took a series of seminars to learn about each type of engineering and settled on Chemical Engineering. However, it was a close call between Chemical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering.

Q4. There tends to be fewer girls/women in STEM majors and jobs. Did you face special challenges on your road to becoming an engineer?

A4. Every engineering field faces unique challenges. There are many people who may not take women engineers seriously, and to overcome this perception, there is another perception that women must overachieve to prove themselves. I have learned that persistence, acknowledgement of weaknesses, and focusing on a problem calmly is the best way to stay on course and earn respect.

Also, there were not a lot of role models for women in engineering when I was growing up. There are many more now. It is important to find role models and mentors and talk to them about how they succeeded. I found that participating in professional societies such as Society of Women Engineers and Women in Science and Engineering allowed greater access to resources and colleagues.

Q5. What are your long-term career goals?

A5. My long-term goals are to be influential in the decision-making processes and influencing the future goals of the NRC. There will always be challenges and barriers with any goal, but since the agency is an avid supporter of the diversity and inclusion goals, I believe that many of these challenges and barriers are being addressed.

Q6. What advice would you give to girls/young women considering a career as an engineer?

A6. I have mentored many young women about the career path to becoming an engineer. While it can prove to be challenging, it is an area where women can thrive. Here is some of the advice I have provided to others:

·        Don’t be afraid to try new things, such as different types of engineering majors, internships. Keep trying until you find what fits best. Besides knowing what you want to do, it is also good to know what you don’t want to do.

·        Have multiple mentors and advisors. As you grow, don’t be afraid to find new mentors who fit your current needs. Besides, it’s always nice to have someone to talk to.

·        Engineering and science are not scary. All the numbers, symbols, and complex equations may make it seem that way, but all engineers and scientists had to start somewhere — one equation and theory at a time.

·        Being an engineer is a good career path. But if you find out later that something else fits better, an engineering education is a good foundation for many other careers, including medicine, law, business and regulation.

In 1971, at the request of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), the U.S. Congress designated Aug. 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.”

 

Throwback Thursday: The Signing of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946

President Truman signs the Atomic Energy Act of 1946.President Harry Truman signed the Atomic Energy Act 68 years ago this month – Aug. 1, to be exact. The act set up the Atomic Energy Commission, a civilian agency charged with managing the nuclear technology developed during WWII. Later, the AEC was divided into two agencies – the NRC and the Department of Energy. The NRC was tasked with regulating civilian nuclear technologies. Pictured behind President Truman (left to right) are seven men: Tom Connally, Eugene Millikin, Edwin Johnson, Thomas Hart, Brien McMahon, Warren Austin and Richard Russell. What did the men all have in common? Photo courtesy of the Department of Energy.

Watching Response Centers Put Trucks on the Road

Lauren Gibson
Project Manager
Japan Lessons-Learned Division

 

The nuclear industry has officially opened two National Response Centers — in Memphis, Tenn., and Phoenix, Ariz. These response centers help U.S. nuclear power plants meet the requirements of the NRC’s Mitigation Strategies Order, which we issued after the Fukushima accident.

The centers, previously called Regional Response Centers, contain extra equipment to duplicate plants’ emergency diesel generators, pumps, hoses and so on. This equipment would maintain plant safety functions for an indefinite period if an event disabled a plant’s installed safety systems. An industry group, called the Strategic Alliance for FLEX Emergency Response (SAFER), is managing the response centers. This organization also has two control centers that are separate from response centers and would coordinate equipment deliveries.

mitigation_strategies_infographic_r4SAFER has completed two exercises to demonstrate to the NRC they can get backup equipment to any site within 24 hours. NRC staff observed these “proof-of-concept” exercises. The first demonstrated transporting emergency equipment by road from the Memphis response center to the Three Mile Island Nuclear Station in Pennsylvania within the required time. The second exercise involved sending equipment by air from the Phoenix response center to the Surry Power Station in Virginia within the required time.

The NRC staff watched to make sure the equipment can be successfully shipped and delivered. We also observed and evaluated the plants’ — and SAFER’s– communication and coordination throughout the exercises. The conclusions we’re drawing from these exercises will be one input in deciding whether the plants can meet the requirements of Phase 3 of the Mitigation Strategies Order. We’ll send the industry a letter reviewing the performance of the national response centers and SAFER this fall.

While the NRC regulates the individual nuclear power plants that would request and receive the equipment, SAFER is not an NRC licensee. Nevertheless the NRC’s regulatory role does extend to the National Response Centers. Since the centers are key to how plants meet the Mitigation Strategies Order, we’re certainly interested in their performance. To expedite the availability of these Centers to respond, the NRC is working in parallel to design our regulatory oversight approach. Whatever the exact mechanism, you can be sure that the key consideration will be protecting the public’s health and safety.

You can see our website’s Japan Lessons Learned section for more information about the mitigation strategy requirements and related guidance.

 

 

Get NRC Correspondence on Operating Nuclear Power Plants by Email

Christine Steger
NRR Communications Analyst
 

refresh leafNo need to wait for the mailman anymore. You can quickly and easily receive documents about any operating nuclear power plant you wish electronically.

This distribution process makes it much easier for anyone—licensees, local and state government, members of the public — to quickly get the information they desire.

To sign up, go to the Operating Reactor Correspondence page on the NRC website. The webpage is arranged by region and includes maps that indicate where each plant is located, allowing you to easily find the reactors that are of interest to you. The site also allows you to subscribe and unsubscribe from plant distribution lists at any time.

By signing up, you will receive all outgoing operating reactor correspondence originating from Headquarters, Region I, III, and IV. (Region II is currently unavailable) Correspondence includes, but is not limited to, license amendments, relief requests, exemptions, requests for additional information and public meeting summaries.

Not only is the process faster and easier, but it saves resources, too. In 2010, about 15,000 subscribers received electronic information – avoiding the production of over 5.7 million printed pages.

Refresh is an occasional series where we re-run previous posts. This post originally ran on  April 26, 2011.

 

Natural Hazards Are Part of the Planning

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer

 

Up to now the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season has been pretty calm, but the NRC always keeps an eye out for the strong weather-related events and other natural events the world can generate. We make sure both U.S. nuclear power plants and the agency are prepared for high winds, storm surge and a whole lot more.

Most recently, the seven reactors affected by 2012’s Superstorm Sandy remained safe. Other plants have safely withstood powerful storms, including Waterford 3 in Louisiana handling the effects of 2005’s Katrina and Turkey Point in Florida safely taking a direct hit from 1992’s Andrew.

Sandy may have left a mess in New York, but the nuclear reactors in its wake remained safe. Photo courtesy of FEMA

Sandy left a mess in New York, but the nuclear reactors in its wake remained safe. Photo courtesy of FEMA

Flooding can happen with or without storms, and U.S. plants are designed to and safely ride out significant events, such as when Fort Calhoun in Nebraska dealt with an overflowing Missouri River in 2011. Also in that year, Vermont Yankee remained safe as the Connecticut River valley suffered severe short-term floods from Hurricane Irene’s remnants.

Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident in March 2012 showed the world what flooding (in this case from a tsunami) can do to a reactor. The NRC’s learned several flooding-related lessons. from the accident. As a result of NRC direction, U.S. plants are using the latest software and technical know-how to re-analyze all flooding sources. This will help the NRC determine if the plants need to consider higher flooding water levels when establishing plans to stay safe. This effort has also examined existing flood protection and all plants have taken steps to confirm they can implement reliable flood safety plans. In the meantime, several plants have also chosen to enhance their flood protection.

An earthquake caused the tsunami that devastated Fukushima, and again U.S. plants are designed to stay safe in the face of quakes that affect their area. Virginia’s North Anna plant was hit by an August 2011 quake centered a short distance away. The earthquake was strong enough to be felt across the East Coast; it shook North Anna with a little more force than what the plant was originally designed to withstand. North Anna remained safe – multiple inspections showed the plant’s systems were undamaged. This was unsurprising, since plant systems are designed to withstand a combination of events that can exceed the forces generated by an earthquake alone.

As with flooding, the NRC has learned from Fukushima’s quake and other recent earthquakes, and we’re having every U.S. plant reanalyze earthquake hazards to see where enhancements might be needed. All the plants east of the Rockies have taken the first step in that process, and the other plants will do the same next March.

U.S. reactors are also designed for (and have safely survived) hazards such as tornadoes, droughts and other severe weather events. Even with all this preparation, Fukushima reminds us to prepare for the unexpected. The NRC’s approach here involves every U.S. reactor having additional portable systems to restore and maintain safety functions.

All of this work helps ensure the public stays safe when natural disasters strike that may impact U.S. nuclear power plants.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,454 other followers

%d bloggers like this: