This paper presents a brief history of the ASME nuclear engineering division (NED) over the past 60 years. The technical interest of the Division naturally mirrored the main stages in nuclear-technology development and growth of the industry. This is reflected in how the NED evolved the technical content of its major international conferences, the role of ASME standards, and the value of international cooperation. The International Conference on Nuclear Engineering (ICONE) series of conferences is covered as it occupies a special place in the ASME and NED history. The paper covers the birth and growth of the Division, its leadership, publications, and its flagship student program. It concludes with activities the NED is working on for the distant future.
In 2015, the NED of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) celebrated its 60th Anniversary. Much has changed over the past 60 years, and the anniversary marks just one of many milestones in the group’s long history of promoting and ensuring safe and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Looking forward, the Division will continue to foster collaboration among other technical disciplines and societies as it pushes forward to set the development, design, testing, operation, and maintenance standards of future nuclear applications. Throughout its long history, the NED has been and continues to be spearheaded by volunteers, who give their knowledge, expertise, enthusiasm, and abilities to promote outreach, technical debate, and effective communication. This paper is really a small tribute to nuclear technology pioneers and volunteers, and a record of their endeavors, involvement, and contributions.
To understand the future, though, it makes sense to explore past development in nuclear power, NED’s involvement in the industry, and the Division’s efforts to spur the cooperation and coordination needed to achieve common goals, share meaningful information, and prepare the next generation of leaders in the field of nuclear engineering. There are essentially four identifiable phases:
Initial development and deployment of nuclear power plants (NPPs)
World-wide installation in a buoyant global energy market
Maturation and impacts of major accidents
Future sustainable development and deployment in developing nations
These phases reflect the background of major global influences on nuclear deployment, including energy-market shifts, the end of the “cold war,” the recognition of the potential impacts of climate change, and evolving patterns in world trade and economic development.
Currently, NPPs generate about 11% of electricity around the world, and the demand for this essential and reliable energy source, free from “green-house” gases, is growing. The use of nuclear energy for electricity generation is leading to new reactors being built in many countries  despite declines in some traditional markets. Safe and efficient operation of the current fleet of NPPs is essential, as is their life extension, for global sustainability and human well-being. These current-generation reactors, largely water-cooled, have served and are serving the world well, and the remaining challenges include advances in thermal efficiency, managing rare-event safety, fuel-cycle enhancements, improved economic competitiveness, and high-level waste management with full public and political participation.
The future, therefore, also lies in the development of the next-generation concepts and designs, including Generation-IV and other reactor applications, which offer potential solutions to many of these problems, including advances in the use of risk-informed decision-making and safety regulations. Radiation science and protection are integral to NPP design and operation, and critical to ensuring public and worker safety, by understanding and predicting health effects, enhancing industrial uses and medical therapy, and providing more realistic estimation and regulation of radiation risk using scientific advances. New nuclear standards for designs and regulations will incorporate the latest developments and understanding in this important multi-engineering/scientific discipline.
It Began With Steam
NED’s roots began in 1880 with the founding of ASME by a group of prominent machine builders and technical visionaries (by Alexander L. Holley, Henry R. Werthington, and John E. Sweet, among many others), who felt the need to address the concerns and issues surrounding industrialization and mechanization, including boiler explosions. Robert Henry Thurston became the first President of the newly established professional society called ASME. Thurston was an educator who started his career as an apprentice in the machine shop of his father’s steam-engine manufacturing company. Actually, it was a first of its kind of steam-engine production facilities in the United States . Boiler explosions at that time were a major concern, and one of the worst of the twentieth century served to define the society’s purpose and impact on public life. Up until then, there were no legal codes for boilers in the United States, even though steam powered much of the country’s technology during late 19th and early 20th centuries.
After the splitting of the atom by Ernest Rutherford in 1917 in Montreal, and the discovery of the neutron in the early 1930s, the scientific community began to speculate that it might be possible to create elements heavier than uranium in the lab. A race to confirm this began between Ernest Rutherford, at that time in Britain, Irene Joliot-Curie in France, Enrico Fermi in Italy, and the Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn team in Berlin. Actually, it was Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch who coined the term “nuclear fission” when they published “Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: A New Type of Nuclear Reaction” in the journal Nature on February 11, 1939. In the very same year, 1939, Enrico Fermi and Niels Bohr began discussing the possibilities of producing a nuclear chain-reaction , and the following year Fermi began work on potential reactor designs using a graphite moderator with uranium oxide or uranium metal as a fuel source. After 2 years of work, in 1942, Fermi chose a final design for a test pile of pure graphite blocks to determine if a chain reaction could be sustained. Chicago Pile-1 was built in space underneath the stands at Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. Under the pressure of World War II, the US government and its Allies initiated the Manhattan Project to develop nuclear bombs with Los Alamos, New Mexico, chosen as the main site of operations, due to its remote location. Following the Manhattan project and the use of atomic bombs in 1945, the world began to change and progress into a new atomic age. Nuclear power became a viable technology, and the ASME boiler and pressure vessel code (BPVC) eventually found itself entangled in nuclear regulation, starting in 1947 with the creation of several ASME committees working with nuclear technology.
Rise of Nuclear Science and its Application
The technical interests of the NED naturally mirrored the main themes in nuclear development in the twentieth century, as the availability and knowledge of the technology spread worldwide. This is reflected in how the NED evolved the technical content of the International Conferences, the role of ASME Standards, and the value of exchanging information on construction, safety, operation, and regulatory best practices.
Early Nuclear Dream: 1950s and 1960s
By 1954, following Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative, ASME had appointed a task group of the Subcommittee on Power Boilers, which later became a special committee working with the US Naval Reactors to develop codes and standards. In fact, some of the first uses of nuclear power began appearing in submarine propulsion (an idea originally patented by Richard Feynman) during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. According to a date found on archival division letterhead, the ASME NED took root sometime in 1954. However, the formal inauguration of the Division came on March 29, 1955. Over the objections of many, the design and creation of the world’s first nuclear submarine was led by Captain (later Admiral) Hyman G. Rickover, with the USS Nautilus, launched in 1955 in Groton, CT . The USS Nautilus contained a pressurized water reactor (PWR), which allowed it to break a multitude of submarine records: the longest submerged distance traveled, the highest underwater speed, the first vessel to reach and successfully complete a submerged voyage around the North Pole.
Admiral Rickover and his dedicated staff continued to drive forward in both naval nuclear power and commercial nuclear power . He worked with several generations of nuclear-powered vessels, exerting significant control over their operation and leading to the US nuclear navy having a total of zero nuclear accidents, a record still continuing to this day. Admiral Rickover was further involved in nuclear power by leading the development and construction of the first “atomic power station” in the USA . This was in Shippingport, Pennsylvania; starting operation in 1957, the reactor was a PWR, much like those found in the vessels of the US Navy, which was no doubt because of Rickover’s influence (Shippingport’s reactor was meant to be used for the Navy). Reference should be made to Arco, Idaho (later the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS)), where significant early research into commercial nuclear power was performed and both the first PWR (a precursor to the reactor in the USS Nautilus) and the first boiling water reactor (BWR) (known as BORAX-I) were built. NRTS was also the site of the first reactor to supply commercial electricity in the USA from the BORAX-III reactor, supplying 100% of Arco City’s power for a full hour, a record at that time as no other city had ever been fully powered by nuclear energy .
In the heady days after the “Atoms for Peace” initiative, the potential applications of the immense power of the atom seemed almost limitless. The Cold War was in progress, and developing long-range nuclear aircraft seemed quite logical. Massive government programs studied options, including a nuclear rocket. The National Laboratory and Defense sites were used for prototype tests. At the Idaho NRTS, they examined planes and a large hangar was built to explore and experiment with propulsion options. Similarly, the Nevada test site had a full-scale set of hydrogen tanks for studying rocket configurations and burns, a feature used later for hydrogen-combustion experiments in the 1990s. With the concerns over atmospheric testing, and reentry accidents, these programs eventually were ceased.
The United States was also home to the first privately funded, full-scale nuclear-reactor built. The Dresden NPP 1, finished in 1960, was a BWR funded by general electric (GE) and Commonwealth Edison Company, and had zero government funding or direct involvement other than licensing via the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). This made it unique as essentially every other NPP in the United States and the world had been influenced by the government, either being built entirely with government resources or being partially subsidized with government funds. Dresden-1 demonstrated that privatized nuclear power was possible and that nuclear power could operate as a true private, commercial enterprise , a stepping stone to the massive private nuclear industry seen in the USA today.
NPP Concept Consolidation in USA: 1960s and 1970s
In 1963, the ASME BPVC was expanded to include rules for the construction of NPP components, including reactor-pressure vessels and containment. This was the first national standard completely dedicated to nuclear applications, and since then, the BPVC (including its nuclear standards) has been successfully incorporated into laws in most North American territories, and is used internationally. Actually, the BPVC was the first national standard completely dedicated to nuclear applications.
Throughout the following years, the United States nuclear-power industry was led by the Westinghouse Electric, General Electric Corporation, Babcock & Wilcox and Combustion Engineering. Commercial deals for nuclear collaboration, fuel supply, and licensed plant builds were signed with France, Japan, and Korea, essential to founding their own national programs provided they had agreed to the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Other achievements include the first organically moderated and cooled power reactor in Piqua, Ohio, and in fact, no other reactors have used organic coolants for power production beyond this design . The USA was also the first country to use a nuclear reactor to power a spacecraft, in the SNAP-10A satellite.
Returning to more typical reactor uses, the USA also built the first reactor to desalinate water, the PM-3A reactor at the US military base located in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica; as well, the USA designed and built the full-scale Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Power Reactor (LMFBR) in 1966 in Monroe, Michigan. The Peach Bottom High-Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor (HTGR) was connected to the grid in 1967, being the first HTGR to enter commercial operation, but unfortunately was not commercially or operationally successful. The global spread for peaceful uses caused many international developments in reactor technology with France, Japan, UK, Canada, Germany, Korea, Sweden, Russia, India, Argentina, and, more recently, China to develop their own design variations of water- and liquid-metal-cooled reactors for commercial power production .
After numerous prototypes, the USA consolidated its future development on the LMFBR, with the promise of “breeding” more fuel than it consumed, and ultimately self-sufficiency, but with the Suez Canal crisis causing concern over oil supply the UK, France, India, and Canada, now largely cut out of nuclear cooperation with the USA, turned into gas-cooled reactors (the Magnox and Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactor systems), and heavy-water moderation (the CANDU (CANada Deuterium-Uranium) and Indian Heavy Water Reactors (HWRs)), respectively. The international nature of civil nuclear engineering, national political interests, and the competitive marketplace led to the point that PWR, BWR, and HWR, basically all water-cooled reactors, finally emerged as the leading commercial option from about 1970, albeit in many different design variations .
The focus in the US turned to trying to complete construction of multiple domestic reactors, with the needs for effective project management and civil-construction techniques. The major customers domestically were over 30 nuclear-utility companies nationwide and, hence, staffed with many NED professional members, such as Commonwealth Edison, Duke Power, Yankee Atomic, Florida Power and Light, Arizona Public Services, Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, Consolidated Edison, General Public Utilities, Mississippi Power and Light, New York Power Authority, Tennessee Valley Authority, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Northern States Power, Pennsylvania Power and Light, Baltimore Gas and Electric, South Carolina Electric and Gas, Consolidated Edison, General Public Utilities, Texas Utilities, and Washington Public Power Service. These entities were also members of the newly founded Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), so there was an immediate synergism with the ASME NED and its sub-committees as part of US nuclear history.
The US expanded its global cooperation, signing major commercial nuclear cooperation agreements and commercial supply contracts with France (Westinghouse with government-owned Framatome), Japan (Mitsubishi for PWRs, and Toshiba and Hitachi for BWRs), and South Korea (Combustion Engineering for PWRs). All these countries would later develop their own design alternatives, but the key point was the inclusion of Europe and Asia interests into the NED sphere and ASME reach. They wished to learn best US practices, use ASME Standards, and absorb the technology, and this led to increased involvement of major utility players too, signing collaboration agreements, notably between the US (Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA), UK (Central Electricity Generating Board, CEGB), and France (Électricité de France, EDF). The reorganization and drastic pruning of the US AEC reactor programs left many development projects unfunded, and there was an internal controversy over the future directions for nuclear research. In addition, the fossil-fuel industry had realized that there was a nuclear competitor for its business and market. Many NPPs in the US had over-run their initial cost and schedule estimates.
These years also saw the development of the famous emergency core cooling (ECC) debate after small (so-called, semiscale) tests at the INL showed the potential for some of the emergency-injected water to possibly bypass the core during the early stages of a loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA). Now, ECC injection systems had effectively been back-fitted to light water reactors (LWRs), so the early 1970s were consumed with lengthy technical controversy that was resolved by regulatory hearings and rulings by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a new independent licensing body carved out from the AEC. The Appendix K Ruling set limits on the assumptions to be used in transient safety analysis, which found worldwide application and led to much development worldwide of tests and safety analysis methods verification. In addition, fuel-peak rating was now limited, so smaller fuel pins were developed for assemblies such as PWR and , and BWR and arrays, and the business of reload analysis flourished. These topics were all reflected and examined in the technical discussions at NED and ASME Power Conference meetings.
Changes in Direction and Focus: 1970s–1980s
The first LMFBR and the first reactor (in the world) to generate public electricity was the Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I). EBR-I started operation in 1951 in Arco, Idaho, and was shut down in 1963. During these 12 years of operation, EBR-I demonstrated the use of liquid metal as a coolant and the principles of breeding, while also experimenting with alternative cores and fuels such as plutonium. The successor to EBR-I was EBR-II, which began operating in 1963 at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, and for many years the reactor operated with availability factors over 70%, before being eventually shut down in 1994. In the same year as EBR-II started (1963), the Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant (FERMI) achieved criticality. The FERMI reactor was the first full-scale LMFBR , and eventually supplied power to the grid in 1966. Unfortunately, the FERMI reactor experienced partial fuel melting when the inlet to a fuel assembly was blocked by a foreign material. While the activity release was negligible, the financial repercussions closed the plant in 1972, and the focus on safety was renewed with major delays in further fast-reactor deployment.
The heady days of early development also led to significant technical debates over future R&D directions. The liquid-metal-cooled fast-reactor community worldwide was divided into those who favored pool-type systems, with available cooling and little external piping, and loop-type concepts that allowed easier placement and maintenance of heat exchangers and pumps. In 1980, the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) began operation in Richmond, WA. FFTF was a LMFBR built with the intention to test breeder-reactor fuels and materials, much like a continuation of the work done at the EBR-II. The FFTF contained eight different core positions for long-term testing with the potential to have four independently cooled loops , and routinely installed and removed core components and test assemblies. FFTF was never permanently shut down; however, it is currently not in use and is in cold standby. In recent history, there was the Clinch River Breeder Reactor (CRBR); work started at the TVA in 1970 and it was meant to show that a LMFBR was a viable energy option . However, during construction, the CRBR project experienced growing cost over-runs and licensing delays, and eventually, the project was completely canceled in 1992.
At that time, commercial fast-reactor development stalled in the US, despite the reasonably successful prototype experience in the UK (DFR and PFR), France (Rhapsodie and Phoenix), and Russia. The development continued elsewhere. Meanwhile, many LWRs were operating successfully, and both France and Japan embarked on major build programs. The emergence of the staff at their national laboratories, and at EPRI and its Japanese counterpart CRIEPI, furthered the contributions to nuclear technology.
Safety Development and Operational Emphasis: 1980s–Present
An overall review of the safety-analysis methods undertaken by the NRC then showed that probabilistic safety analysis (PSA) was preferable for overall risk assessment, as visualized in the WASH 1400 study report overseen by Professor Rasmussen. The methods used for safety margin and design margins were becoming more sophisticated, and the rules were more complex and numerous. The major PSA result that small breaks were more likely than large ones was then confirmed by events in 1979, when the Three Mile Island (TMI) reactor suffered a small LOCA due a stuck open valve, but the core was melted and damaged after the ECC was erroneously turned off. The resulting public panic and the lack of effective emergency preparedness caused a hiatus in the US build program, major back fits required of safety related equipment, added emergency-response centers, new advanced simulators for operator training, and the formation of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), initially staffed largely by ex-Nuclear-Navy people with a focus on excellence in operations. Risk assessments were required for all plants, and the R&D now focused on the so-called “severe accidents,” which previously had been regarded as only remotely possible or highly unlikely, and the role of human error. Nuclear development now explored how to mitigate the effects of core melt, and how to predict the potential for activity release, with more effective physical- and accident-management systems, and improved procedures. The upgrades to plant safety systems, emergency operating procedures, and operator training were all part of the “post TMI era.”
The importance of these interlinked engineering and management aspects for reactor operation and control was highlighted once again by the nuclear explosion and burning of the Chernobyl RBMK reactor in Ukraine, then in the Soviet Union. This event led to widespread contamination detected worldwide, local emergency evacuation and much public fear, and the cancellation of the reactor program in Italy and delays elsewhere. The key phrase was “your accident is my accident,” simply because of the international links and repercussions. The root causes were clearly interwoven and interlinked multiple design, safety, and operational issues (see Fig. 1).
Meanwhile, a small sodium leak at the prototype LMFBR reactor MONJU in Japan led to public concern and a highly extended outage, showing how operational issues can be difficult to handle. With the lessons learned from the TMI and Chernobyl, the US utility, and hence, the NED, focus moved toward improving the operation and safety of the existing LWR plants, with improved reliability and capacity factors being the main result. Attention turned to life extension, including steam-generator replacements, refurbishment of older plants, and extended fuel burnup.
On March 11, 2011, the massive core melts, and the destruction due to the extended loss of cooling and power occurred at the three Fukushima Daiichi BWR units. This led to the rapid formation of an independent ASME President’s Task Force, in which NED expert members participated, charged with determining the implications of the Fukushima events for future nuclear-power-engineering and safety standards and approaches. The effort was communicated with the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers (JSME) with whom ASME and NED had extensive interactions and technical contacts. In the resulting report, the key point stated was: “the major consequences of severe accidents at nuclear power plants have been socio- political and economic disruptions inflicting enormous cost to society.” As a direct result, the Task Force recommended preventing such disruption using an “all risk” approach addressing all credible hazards where :
“‘Allrisks’ should be considered to include rare yet credible events and potential accident scenarios that could threaten the safety of a NPP. Accident scenarios can be initiated by either internal or external hazards from natural or man-made causes, during all modes of plant operation.”
The most recent LWR designs, called Generation III+, which have been licensed like, say, EPR (European Pressurized Reactor or Evolutionary Power Reactor), ESBWR (Economic Simplified Boiling water Reactor), and AP1000 (Advanced Passive 1000), all contain enhanced-safety features for passive cooling and/or core melt retention. In addition, emergency measures have been strengthened to enable rapid use of back-up power and cooling.
Another factor inhibiting nuclear deployment was the need to safely store and/or dispose of used fuel. In the US, this was designated as waste and, hence, came under the jurisdiction of the US Environmental Protection Agency as well as the US NRC. The continued impasse and slow progress over establishing a long-term high-level waste repository and its licensing continued to cast a decade’s long shadow.
Several countries embarked on seeking methods, sites, and processes for deep geological disposal and/or retrievable storage (e.g., Canada, US, France, and Sweden), while others also sought means to reduce the timescales and toxicity, and enhance sustainability, by recycling of once-used fuel (e.g., France, India, Japan, UK, and Russia). The progress in all these areas has been quite slow.
Largely, the political decision of the US was driven by nonproliferation concerns over the spread of potential nuclear weapons, vocal public hostility to generating radioactive “waste,” and by the desire to set an international example — hence, the INFCE (International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Exercise), which led to the US abandoning reuse and recycling, and committing to geologic disposal. Unfortunately, 20 years and $410B later, the issue is not resolved and remains in litigation over licensing review, while interim storage is also being considered, as is happening in Switzerland today. Meanwhile, there have been significant advances in on-site storage techniques, especially by the utilities who also successfully sued the US government for compensation over the lack of a promised long-term facility. Cost estimates of such geologic facilities have increased considerably.
Emerging New Players: 1990s and 2000s
Given the slow rate of new builds in the USA, the technical focus has been on enhancing plant output and capacity factors, avoiding extended outages using integrated outage planning, and also on extending plant life. These have been preoccupations for the utility industry, particularly as many operate in competitive power markets. Hence, increasing operating efficiencies and lowering operating costs are a premium, without compromising safety.
The lack of credit for noncarbon emissions and of guaranteed subsidies or power prices has left many plants commercially disadvantaged, and some have even been threatened by closure. In the era of cheap natural gas, it is often easier and cheaper to extend the life of an existing (already amortised or paid off) unit than to build a new one. This is also the case in many other countries, such as Canada, Sweden, and Japan. Thus, the replacement of internals and steam generators continues (also, in the past, the subject of corrosion problems).
Meanwhile, in Asia and the Middle East, many new plants are being built, some to replace coal or oil burning units. China has an ambitious new build program, importing the latest designs, and at the same time emulating Korea by developing its own design alternatives. China is also exploring a new LMFBR, high-temperature reactor, and other technologies. These developments also led to China becoming a full and key ICONE partner with ASME and JSME. India also has developed some HWR designs. The emergence of Generation IV concepts in the twenty-first century offers perhaps the most promising technological advance and, importantly, involves significant international collaboration  (Fig. 2).
Birth and Maturation of NED
As mentioned earlier, the NED took root sometime in 1954, with the formal inauguration of the division coming on March 29, 1955. Unfortunately, many records and memories of those days are lost. Nevertheless, we will try to reconstruct an outline for the development and progress, paying due homage to the pioneers and the volunteers who laid the foundations of NED. The history of the ASME NED precisely mirrors the development of nuclear-power programs, first in the USA and then globally. The scope of the activities of the ASME NED includes focusing on the design, analysis, development, testing, operation and maintenance of reactor systems and their components, nuclear fusion, heat transport, nuclear-fuels technology, and radioactive waste. Significant milestones of the division include
foundation of the ASME NED;
foundation and conduct of the ICONE series of international conferences, initially partnering with Japan and France;
additional partnering with China on ICONE technical meetings;
development of what ultimately became the ASME standard software for technical conference planning and conduct, and the first use of CDs to replace paper proceedings;
establishment of the ASME NED website;
contributions to the ASME Presidential Task Force on Fukushima; and
establishment of the new NED Journal of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Science in 2014.
With over 6200 members, the NED is one of the largest divisions among ASME’s over 120,000 membership base. The key international collaborations should be noted, especially, with the JSME and its members, and with the Chinese Nuclear Society (CNS). These collaborations have been successful both during times of new builds and development, and also during times of stress in the aftermaths of major accidents. The exchanges foster both professional and personal contacts, and technical dialogs. Best practices, practical experience, and technical advances have been shared. It is essential to have one-on-one contacts, to know the key people and the players in order to enhance international understanding in the fields of nuclear safety, reliability, and operation. This collaboration has been built on mutual respect, sharing of technical knowledge, and key contributions in the arena of nuclear engineering.
Positions on the Division’s Executive Committee (EC) are filled by volunteers, and include all those necessary for the formal and successful functioning of the NED (Fig. 3). The Division Chairs all attained that position by volunteering and working on the EC, serving first in numerous successive positions, normally for terms of 1 year (e.g., Technical Committee Chair, Conference Technical Program Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, Vice Chair, and finally, Chair). For the record, the list of known Chairs is as follows (unfortunately, we were able to recover records from ca. 1975, and we are missing the first 20 years of rich, but poorly archived history) (Table 1):
|Starting year||Ending Year||Name|
|Starting year||Ending Year||Name|
In addition, through the years, a series of Technical Committees and assignments were formed to facilitate Members attending special meetings and organizing technical exchanges and conference sessions.
Internationalization of the NED
The ICONE occupies a special place in ASME history. It was quite an interesting chain of events that led to the initiation and what followed as great success with this series of conferences. Mr. Masahisa Higuchi, the head of the nuclear-safety division of the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) and a member of ASME NED, attended the Nuclear Power Conference in South Carolina in 1998. At that time, the Nuclear Power Conference was run jointly between the ASME and the American Nuclear Society. At that conference, Mr. Higuchi was informally asked to explore possibilities of having a joint nuclear-engineering conference in Japan, jointly organized by ASME and JSME. Upon his return to Japan, Mr. Huguchi sent a short memo to Dr. Ishikawa, who was the Chair of the JSME Power Committee, the predecessor of the current Power and Energy Systems Division (PESD) of JSME. Dr. Ishikawa tasked Dr. Yasuo Koizumi, a young engineer on the JAERI staff, to analyze possible options. Dr. Koizumi left JEARI in 1989 to join the Tohoku University. There he met Professor Saburo Toda, who became the Chair of the JSME’s Power Committee and appointed Dr. Koizumi as the Secretary. Professor Toda and Dr. Koizumi started working diligently on preparing a solid proposal to be acceptable to both national societies, ASME and JSME. The JSME Power Committee was transformed into the PESD Division in 1990. Professor Toda sent a letter to Mr. R. E. Miller, the ASME NED Chair, sometime in June 1989. In response, Mr. Miller sent a letter to Professor Toda on September 14, 1989 (de facto the first official correspondence between the ASME and JSME to collaborate on the ICONE) and invited him to attend the NED EC meeting to be held at the 1989 Joint Power Generation Conference in Dallas, TX, on October 24 or 25, 1989. Mr. Miller stated that the purpose of that was to formally invite Professor S. Toda to “…meet with the NED Executive Committee such that we can make various decisions including our planning and schedule for a joint conference” (Fig. 4).
On October 13, 1989, Ed Harvego, NED EC Vice Chair, sent a letter to Professor Yasuo Koizumi, on the eve of that historical committee meeting to be held just 2 weeks later that set the foundation for future series of conferences. In the follow-up letter of October 25, 1989, Mr. Miller informed Professor Toda that NED is supportive of the JSME proposal of a joint conference and is assigning Mr. Atam Rao, at that time with the GE, as “the technical program contact and liaison in USA” (Fig. 5). So the stage was set for the first ICONE-1 held on Nov. 4–7, 1991, at Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo, Japan (see Fig. 6 for the cover page of the ICONE-1 flyer and call-for-papers).
From small beginnings, with the initial two meetings first in Japan (Tokyo) and then in the US (San Francisco), and after some initial involvement of the French Nuclear Society, the ICONE has expanded to encompass contributions and attendance from over 20 nations. In 2000, after extensive discussions at the international, societal, and the personal levels, the CNS formally joined the ICONE collaboration, and hosted ICONE. This action corresponded with and recognized the major expansion and development of the nuclear program in China. China then hosted ICONE in Beijing; at that time, it was importing several reactor designs and developing its own variations, and the rotation of ICONEs among the US, Japan, Asia, and Europe locations evolved (Fig. 7). As a result, the ICONE is now the premier global conference on nuclear-reactor technology. ICONE is for nuclear professionals who want to stay technically current and on top of industry trends and developments. The success of ICONE is due to the contribution of numerous professionals from industry, government, and academia from around the globe. Through the ICONE student program, the conference also fosters the development of future nuclear professionals. A major factor is ensuring high technical quality, with all papers being reviewed before acceptance, and the attraction of major plenary speakers on key topics. Figure 8 shows a growth in the number of technical papers and presentations at ICONE-series of conferences.
The International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management (ICEM) results from efforts by the environmental engineering division (EED) and the NED, working in true partnership with learned societies of foreign host countries, which share a critical role in overall planning and success. ICEM is executed by a joint Conference Committee representing EED and NED. The ICEM Conference provides the NED and EED with an opportunity to share an international perspective on environmental remediation and radioactive-waste management focused on government and commercial activities related to nuclear energy. ICEM was started in 1987 to provide an expanded international perspective on topics that are discussed annually at the Annual Waste Management Conference held at the time in Tucson, AZ. The US Department of Energy (DOE), NRC, and international atomic energy agency (IAEA) continue to be strong supporters of ICEM and recognize the high technical quality of the presentations presented at the conference. Early conferences were held in Asia, because of the interest there, but the majority of the recent conferences have been held in Europe, because of the related work in both the UK and on the continent.
Attendees include scientists, engineers, technology developers, equipment suppliers, government officials, utility representatives, and owners of environmental problems. ICEM is a conference that attracts more business organizations than universities. Sponsors include large companies such as AREVA, URS, CH2MHill, and Energy Solutions, and multiple smaller companies. In addition, sponsors include both Non-Government Organizations (NGO) as well as governmental organizations such as the NRC and IAEA. The first ICEM conference was held in Hong Kong in 1987, followed by Kyoto, Japan, in 1989; Seoul, Korea, in 1991; Prague, Czech Republic, in 1993; Berlin, Germany, in 1995; Singapore in 1997; Nagoya, Japan, in 1999; Bruges, Belgium, in 2001 and 2007; Oxford, England, in 2003; Glasgow, Scotland, in 2005; Liverpool, UK, in 2009; Tsukuba, Japan, in 2010, Reims, France, in 2011, and Brussels, Belgium, in 2013. Over 30 countries generally participate (in 2013, there were 53 countries in attendance).
For many years, the EC of the ASME NED felt the need for a new nuclear-engineering journal, which would cover a wide range of nuclear-engineering and radiation-science topics important to all specialists within the nuclear industry and beyond. However, early attempts to establish the NED Journal failed to progress. As an interim step, it was decided in 2009 to set up a nuclear-engineering section in the ASME Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines & Power (JEGTP). Due to this, EC NED has assigned two associate editors (Jay Kunze and Igor Pioro) and one guest associate editor (Richard Schultz) to the JEGTP. While it was acknowledged that this journal met the ASME standard of excellence in technical journals, there was a significant drawback, which limited the number of papers to the nuclear-engineering section — absence of “nuclear” in the journal title!
Therefore, this collaboration was abandoned in 2014, and the EC NED has decided to proceed with the establishment of a new ASME journal within the area of nuclear engineering. Through 2014, the required proposal with the supporting material was prepared, and a new Journal of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Science were formally established by the ASME (Fig. 9).
The Journal is managed by an outstanding team of internationally recognized experts from around the world led by the first NERS Editor, Professor Igor L. Pioro, of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Canada. The journal editorial team represents 15 countries (Canada (4 AEs); China (3); Czech Republic (1); France (1); Germany (3); Hungary (1); India (1); Japan (4); Mexico (1); Russia (2); Slovenia (1); South Korea (1), Ukraine (1); United Kingdom (1); and USA (10)) with nuclear-power reactors and Austria (1) and Italy (2 AE). Members of the Journal Board are from academia, industry including nuclear vendors and NPPs, international organizations, government research and scientific establishments. The journal currently publishes four issues per year with about 100 papers, and sets a high review and acceptance standard.
New Series of Concise Monographs on Nuclear Technology
NED teamed up with the ASME Publications to launch a new series of concise monographs on Nuclear Engineering and Technology for the twenty-first century. This new series of monographs is to provide current and future engineers, researchers, technicians, and other professionals and practitioners with practical, concise but key information concerning the nuclear technologies from areas of medical applications, mining, processing and manufacturing, environmental monitoring to safe and energy-efficient plant operation, and electricity generation. Each monograph should be a well-rounded and definitive state-of-the-art review of its subject, with a focus on applied research and development, and best industry practices, processes, and related technological applications. The series is envisaged as a collection of 80- to 100-page monograph publications that can stand as the most authoritative source of information on current state of a topic, application, or discipline (Fig. 10). Core topics include, but are not limited to:
best practices in power-plant operation;
nuclear science and technology in medicine;
irradiation technologies and applications;
fuel-cycle processes, engineering, and technologies;
nuclear reactor thermal hydraulics and/or neutronics;
materials for current and advance power generation;
nuclear safety and environmental impact;
next generation of NPPs;
radiation in our environment; and
radioecology, radiobiology, radiation chemistry.
In 2015, the ASME published the first book in a new series of concise monographs titled Toward Consistent Design Evaluation of Nuclear Power Piping by Nonlinear Finite Element Analysis authored by Lingfu Zeng, Lennart Jansson, and Nils-Erik Wiberg. This monograph addresses several issues that are essential for achieving a consistent design-by-analysis in accordance with the ASME BPVC using nonlinear finite element analysis. Unlike other publications on piping, this monograph is focused on commercial software and current practices for power uprate and life extension of aging nuclear power facilities. Currently, the new monograph on Thermal Hydraulics: Past, Present and Future by Dr. Pradip Saha of GE is in print. This series has been edited by Dr. Jovica Riznic of Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Dr. Richard Schultz currently with Idaho State University.
Scholarships and Student Support
Nuclear science and engineering was a glamour field in the 1950s and 1960s, attracting students who were, on average, well above the norm for science and engineering students. This trend was promoted by the strong growth in the nuclear-power industry, a relatively large number of fellowships provided by the U.S. AEC, and the ample support of university research programs and nuclear reactors for research and education. The initial growth of these programs was rapid: 80 nuclear-engineering departments and programs had been established by 1975, along with 63 programs in health physics. The AEC awarded 129 graduate fellowships in nuclear engineering in 1963, and 76 university research reactors were in operation by 1970. This rapid growth created faculties composed of those who themselves had been educated in the absence of nuclear-engineering departments, in disciplines such as nuclear physics, radiochemistry, and electrical engineering .
Unfortunately, the national commitment to nuclear applications has weakened considerably with time. By 2014, only 25 university research reactors in the US and 3 in Canada were operating, and the number of nuclear-engineering degree programs declined to 35. Undergraduate senior enrollments in nuclear-engineering programs decreased from 1150 in 1978 to about 600 by 2014. Enrollments in master’s programs also peaked in the late 1970s, at about 1050 students .
The NED has responded to this trend by sponsoring the Student Program at the ICONE conferences. The NED is one of the ASME divisions with strong beliefs in the importance of education and training of nuclear-engineering students, graduate, and undergraduate. As such for more than 10 years, the EC NED together with JSME and CNS has established a Student Track at the ICONE conference. These organizations support qualified students financially to partially compensate their international travel, hotel, and conference fee expenses. The agreement covers that the NED ASME will be responsible for 15 North American students and 15 students from Europe; the JSME—for 15 students from Japan and Asia; and CNS—for 15 students from China.
Special rules have been established to promote technical contributions and involvement: Students have to prepare a full length paper, deliver an oral presentation, and prepare and attend a poster presentation. Through the conference, students will participate in three competitions, overseen by a judging committee. At the end of the conference, the judges will deliver their decision: (a) One best paper from the whole student track will be recognized with the Akiyama Medal (Award established in 2009 and managed by JSME); (b) five best papers from each part of the world will be recognized with certificates; and (c) five best posters from each part of the world will also be recognized with certificates. In addition, at each of the ICONE conferences, there are a number of technical tours for students to visit local utilities, engineering design, manufacturing, maintenance, and/or research facilities.
The undergraduate scholarships are designed to assist a student in his or her junior or senior year. The student must be matriculated in a bachelor’s degree program, with a declared major as Nuclear Engineering or Mechanical Engineering with a nuclear emphasis. NED established a $50,000 endowment to allow for an annual award of $10,000 (four scholarships of $2,500 each). The endowment is managed by the ASME Foundation, which already has a large scholarship endowment fund under its management. There are several advantages to this, which are as follows:
The funds are managed by financial professionals, ensuring the ability to give out scholarships in perpetuity.
The ASME Foundation has a robust marketing program for its scholarships; ensuring word will be spread about the scholarship; and
The ASME Foundation can, based on scholarship criteria provided by NED, do a prescreening of scholarship candidates and either select the recipient themselves or provide NED with a list of finalists for selection by the division.
Honors and Awards
The NED sponsors several important, both society wide and division level, awards. Brief information about each award is given below.
James N. Landis Medal
Bernard F. Langer Nuclear Codes & Standards Award
Prime Movers Committee Award
George Westinghouse Medals
Distinguished Service Award
M. Sacid (Sarge) Ozker Award
Service Recognition Award
60th Anniversary Medal
The James N. Landis Medal is presented for outstanding personal performance related to designing, constructing, or managing the operation of major steam-powered electric stations using nuclear or fossil fuels. The award was established in 1977 in honor of James N. Landis, President of ASME, in 1958.
The Bernard F. Langer Nuclear Codes and Standards Award was established in 1977 in honor of B.F. Langer who was instrumental in the development of the rules for nuclear vessels. The award is given in recognition of an individual(s) who has contributed to the NPP industry through the development and promotion of ASME Nuclear Codes and Standards or the ASME Nuclear Certification Program is made through the presentation of this award (Fig. 11).
To perpetuate the value of the rich contribution to the power development made by George Westinghouse, Honorary Member and Twenty-ninth President of the Society, the Westinghouse Educational Foundation established the Gold Medal in 1952 and the Silver Medal in 1971. In 1955, when the NED was inaugurated, the Westinghouse Award was given to Hyman G. Rickover. The George Westinghouse Medals are to recognize eminent achievement or distinguished service in the power field of mechanical engineering.
The Sarge Ozker Award has been managed by the joint NED and EED RadWaste Committee, and it is aimed to recognize the distinguished service and eminent achievement in the commercialization of nuclear power/energy with particular emphasis in the field of radioactive waste management.
What the NED is Working on
A succinct discussion of the ongoing strategic development plan the NED is working on for a distant future is provided in the following paragraphs.
Teachers Workshops on Energy Alternatives for K-12
It is imperative that we help our teachers so that they can provide appropriate science and technology knowledge to the young people. Once the Division ensures a mature presentation package is developed, the NED will go on a global scale and develop the packages in different languages such as German, Japanese, and Swedish. This would enhance the globalization efforts through ASME. The deliverables for Teacher Workshops K-12 are Classroom Lessons, Teacher Training and Online Resources, State Curricula, and Tour facilitation. The selection of education concentration areas should be prioritized to population densities.
General Public Awareness
The NED approach calls upon informed individuals from all the energy disciplines to provide accurate information to the public. This approach relies on many scientists and engineers to provide support for general discussion and review of energy activities. Key engineering professionals, professors, and scientists would be additionally recruited worldwide to take media training. Interviews and town meetings could be arranged to discuss new technologies, troubled areas of technology, and the latest information on special situations such as the oil spill in the gulf, blackouts, fracking, oil shale exploration, and Fukushima. Marketing for the public to understand that there is a free resource that provides professional advice and information to help understand our energy mix will be paramount for this program phase.
Improving Education and Acceptance of Nuclear Power for the Public, Policy Makers, and the News Media
The fear of radiation originated during the period immediately after World War II, when nuclear weapons were developed. Once widespread commercial nuclear power became a reality in the 1970s, some of the fears stoked up by the science fiction writing and movies in the 1950s and 1960s almost inevitably got attached to it. The examples of the reactor accidents at the Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima Daichi in 2011 were used to try to demonstrate that nuclear power is inherently unsafe and will likely lead to adverse health consequences for many people. The major impact has been on public perceptions.
Attempts by the nuclear industry and its relevant professional associations to counter this anti-nuclear sentiment have been only partially successful. Some countries, notably Germany, have decided to phase out nuclear power. Others are very hesitant to embrace it, despite its credentials in offering clean, reliable and economic power for the twenty-first century. Despite the evidence that much more nuclear power is needed, it still gets relegated to the sidelines at international meetings such as at the December 2015 COP-21 Climate Change discussions in Paris. Many national governments seem afraid to embrace nuclear power, because they feel that their electors are strongly against it. Only now is there the greater realization happening that nuclear power is a “clean technology” and can take its rightful place among other major energy sources as being safe, secure, and environmentally benign.
However, the general public is generally in favor of nuclear power in many countries, including the US. Recent polls indicated that the general public is in favor of nuclear power by a margin of 57% versus 40% against. In 2010, the US had an all-time high of 62%, but since the Fukushima accident in 2011, it has fallen to 57% (Fig. 12). The NED plan is to develop a four-phase approach to educate and improve the acceptance of Nuclear Power along with the understanding of other energy sources. It is believed that the public, politicians, and the news media would be more in favor of nuclear power if they understood it better and how it relates to other energy sources.
Historically, the NED members have presented nuclear-power attributes in a positive vain stressing the safety of the technology. Although nuclear power is relatively safe, always talking about its safety may give an impression that we should be worried about the safety of the technology. On a comparative risk basis, there is no need to be worried about the safety of nuclear power. The nuclear-power technology has proven very safe and reliable, and the Fukushima accident has validated that premise since no deaths occurred as a direct result of the accident, and the unfortunate impact from radiation effects is due to dislocation in the local area, although the social and political consequences of the accident must be considered. As an alternative, it is necessary to stress nuclear technology’s proven track record of reliability, affordability, and durability. The NED plan would present the pros and cons of the nuclear technology along with other electrical producing technologies such as wind, solar, coal, hydro, gas, and biomass. Transmission and distribution would also be discussed. NED plans on working with the ASME Energy Committee and other ASME groups to present a spectrum of alternatives and let the audience decide on their own which is the best suited technology for their needs .
Professional Development/Young Professional Programs
With the resurgence of the global nuclear industry, there will be a major influx of people into the nuclear industry. Additionally, people who have worked in the nuclear industry in the services sector may need additional skills for new build programs. NED can assist in career development by continuing programs such as the Nuclear Early Career Technical Seminar (ECTS) that was conducted in conjunction with ICONE-16. This provided programming geared specifically to engineers’ 0–7 years out of college. This is a demographic group that is not addressed well in other division programming.
The authors are grateful for the help provided by numerous volunteers of the NED and inputs from David Elias, Soung Cho, Edwin Harvego, Igor Pioro, Stephen Kidd, Michael Rivet, and others.