Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference:

Not Even a Hurricane Could Stop Us

The 17th Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference (PBNC) took place last week in Cancun, Mexico. I had wondered how successful the conference might be, considering the still fragile state of the world economy, the slowing of some nuclear projects in the United States, and the proximity of the meeting to the upcoming American Nuclear Society meeting. To add to that, as I departed for Mexico, I was keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Richard, which was ominously skirting the area south of Cancun. I was also a little worried that the distractions of the sea and surf might detract from the business of the meeting.

Thus, I was pleased to see a very good turnout for the conference when I arrived in Cancun. While I am sure that some people played hooky at one point or another during the conference to take in a round of golf or a dip in one of the conference hotel's many pools, the meeting provided an excellent forum for an updated discussion of nuclear developments and activities in countries around the Pacific Basin, and occasionally elsewhere. About 300 people from 24 or 25 countries attended the conference.

The Korean industry was out in force, with strong sponsorship of the conference and a coordinated display by five companies in the exhibit hall under the banner "Power of Korean Nuclear Industry." The Korean model did not go unnoticed by some of their competitors, and one of the Japanese plenary speeches referred to the new International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Company (JINED) as creating a "Team Japan" like the "Team Korea" we were seeing at the conference.

Several of the plenary sessions focused on the themes of "the role of nuclear energy in addressing environmental concerns," "drivers of nuclear energy," and "challenges of nuclear energy" and featured the views of the countries of the Pacific Basin and international organizations on these important issues. Other plenaries addressed other important themes, such as "regulation security and safety," "new reactor construction," "radioactive waste," and "communications." Technical sessions provided more detail in these and other areas.

It would be too much to identify all the plenary speakers, but (perhaps because I have been involved with all these organizations) I would like to note that plenary speakers from the United States included Joe Colvin from the American Nuclear Society, Shane Johnson from the Department of Energy, and Margaret Doane from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Speakers from Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, and Taiwan made plenary presentations. In addition to the Pacific Basin countries, one plenary session included a regulatory perspective from South Africa, and Latin America was also represented. One disappointment was the lack of reports from some of the countries considering or starting nuclear programs, such as Vietnam and Thailand.

In response to questions, the conference organizers announced that they would be posting presentation materials from some of the PBNC sessions on the conference website. As of the date of this posting, selected talks from both plenary and technical sessions on Monday through Wednesday were posted on a special link for presentations.


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