Campus news

Media Advisory: Workshop to examine coming "nuclear renaissance"

By Media Relations

Contact: Robert Sanders
(510) 643-6998

ATTENTION: Energy, policy and science reporters, editors


Nuclear Futures Workshop, a two-day conference at the University of California, Berkeley, about the projected nuclear renaissance in the United States.

Speakers will explore the future of nuclear power in light of earlier generations starry-eyed anticipation of its limitless energy, the nuclear industrys actual successes and failures, and the tools and expectations now shaping how the country will use nuclear energy. The workshop is free and open to the public, though pre-registration is required.


8:45 a.m.- 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10-11


David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way (corner of Fulton Street), Berkeley, Calif. Click for directions.


Sixteen speakers, including historians, anthropologists, environmental scientists and nuclear engineers, will present their perspectives on the nations nuclear future. Three speakers are either members of, or consulting professors for, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Americas Nuclear Future, appointed earlier this year by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Many of the speakers have testified before that commission.

Among the presenters will be:

  • Thomas Cochran, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Victor Gilinsky, former commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Allison Macfarlane, professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University
  • Geoffrey Rothwell, senior lecturer in the Department of Economics and associate director of the Public Policy Program at Stanford University
  • Joseph Masco, professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago
  • Per Peterson, UC Berkeley professor of nuclear engineering
  • Tom Isaacs, director of the Office of Planning and Special Studies at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who is on sabbatical at the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation
  • Kristin Shrader-Frechette, ONeill Family Endowed Professor in the departments of philosophy and biological sciences and director of the Center for Environmental Justice and Childrens Health at the University of Notre Dame


The workshop, the inaugural event of UC Berkeleys new Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society, is the first to bring social scientists and humanists together with scientists, engineers and members of policy and advocacy groups to reflect on projections of the coming nuclear renaissance.

President Obama has called investing in nuclear energy a necessary step, agreeing with Chu, his secretary of energy, that nuclear power is an essential energy source if we want to cut carbon emissions and stave off the worst consequences of climate change. Chu appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission in January to look at new options for storage, processing and disposal of civilian and defense spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, now that Nevadas Yucca Mountain site is off the table. The commission is even exploring nuclear waste recycling, long taboo because of fears that reprocessed fuel would fall into the hands of terrorists.

Yet, as electric utilities begin planning for new nuclear reactors, some environmental groups and a sizeable segment of the public remain wary of nuclear power.

There is so much ferment around this issue today, and thus an opening to shape that future, said Cathryn Carson, an associate professor of history and organizer of the conference whose current interest is the history of nuclear waste management in the United States. Exactly because we dont know what the future will be, we want to make space for workshop participants to explore the possible nuclear futures.

By creating a conversation on how Americas nuclear future is projected, Carson said, workshop organizers hope to provide policy makers and the public with the knowledge needed to better understand the vast network of debate surrounding nuclear issues in the United States.