NuClean Goals & Background

Workshops

NuClean Kick-Off Workshop

Nov. 7, 2013 at American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.  Hosted by AIChE’s Center for Energy Initiatives to bring key stakeholders together to clarify and focus NuClean efforts on key information gaps and needs, and to formulate a plan of action for NuClean implementation.  Presentations, a summary of the discussions, and a general summary from the workshop are now available here

Goals

To establish NuClean as a nuclear waste management center of excellence to leverage chemical engineering expertise on nuclear waste management and engage with broader professional efforts on underlying multi-disciplinary public and technical community information, research, outreach and education needs.

Unbiased Forum

NuClean will be an unbiased forum for multiple stakeholders to develop a common understanding of concerns and expectations associated with nuclear waste management, from both commercial and defense activities, legacy and present, and to encourage education and professional development of stakeholders with respect to these topics.

Source for Best Practices

NuClean will be a source for best practices in risk assessment, education and development and application of technologies for protecting human health and the environment related to nuclear waste management and disposal, as well as potential ‘sustainable’ nuclear fuel cycle technologies. NuClean potentially can host applicable communities of practice.

Approach

To accomplish this NuClean must be collaborative, cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral, with experts from technology, public health, social sciences, business, academic, government, community and NGOs working together. Current efforts to address community concerns are fragmented, so there is a need for an inclusive and integrated effort or systems approach to bring together the best solutions to be transferred widely.

Rationale

Globally, concerns over safety of nuclear waste are driving peoples’ perception of the risks posed by nuclear power. There is a need for a neutral professional, public voice that can provide trusted, factual information to diverse stakeholders and communities regarding safety issues and uncertainties associated with management of nuclear waste from both defense legacy and civilian energy to improve understanding of the issues, drive development of solutions, and increase confidence in nuclear waste processing, storage and handling.  Furthermore, there have been clearly identified shortfalls in current and projected future availability of professionals educated in critical areas supporting national needs in nuclear materials processing and waste management that align well with core chemical engineering expertise, including process safety, process development, analysis and simulation, chemical separations, waste treatment and environmental remediation.  These two needs, sources of reliable factual information accessible to the public, and, workforce/education provide the basis for greater emphasis and initiatives by AIChE on these topics.  

Background

By way of an example, many communities downstream of Los Alamos National Laboratory have concerns about the migration of toxic and radioactive materials as a result of long-term nuclear waste storage. With increasing wildfires around LANL and subsequent erosion from flooding, there are growing concerns regarding the migration of legacy waste into drinking water, onto agricultural lands, and into the tissue of humans and other members of affected ecosystems. Not only is quality of life affected by these concerns, but also economic development may be impacted.

New Mexico stakeholders, however, are not unique in their concerns about the risks posed by nuclear waste management.   Similar perceptions exist at Hanford, WA; Savannah River, NC; and in Idaho, as well as with respect to decommissioning of civilian power reactors.  As the nation responds to a growing energy demand in a climate neutral way, a population exists that must be informed of the safety and environmental risks of nuclear waste and how they can be mitigated. However, current issues about the safety and environmental security of nuclear waste need to be addressed responsibly today for future generations.