Friday, June 24, 2016

Women at ACRS:

Another Step Forward

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has just announced the appointment of 4 new members of its Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS).  They are:  Margaret Sze-Tai Chu, Walter Kirchner, Jose March-Leuba, and Matthew Sunseri.   Their bios can be found in the above NRC news release and will not be repeated here.

What is particularly noteworthy about the new appointments is that it will be the first time there will be more than one woman serving on the Committee at one time.  Margaret Chu joins Joy Rempe, who is the only other woman to have served on the ACRS since its inception in 1947 under the Atomic Energy Commission.

I have had the privilege of knowing both of these women.  Joy Rempe has been serving with distinction on the Committee since 2003.  Margaret Chu joins the Committee after a distinguished career, and I know will bring a lot to the Committee as well.

Not mentioned in this announcement is the fact that the former Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste and Materials (ACNW&M) had a female member long before the ACRS did.  The first--and only--woman to serve on the ACNW&M (which began in 1988 as the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste, or ACNW) was Ruth Weiner, who at that time was at Sandia Laboratories.  Ruth Weiner, who I also have had the privilege of knowing, served with distinction on the ACNW&M from 2003 to 2008, when it was disbanded and its responsibilities absorbed into the ACRS.

While I like to celebrate the successes of women in the field and am delighted to see a step forward, I have slightly mixed emotions in this case.  I have to scratch my head and wonder why it took so long to appoint a woman to either body, and why there are still only 2 women out of the more than a dozen members of the ACRS.  When you think about it, there have at times been two women serving as NRC Commissioners at one time, and that is a body of only five people.

With a growing number of women now in the technical workforce, I look forward to a time--hopefully, in the not-very-distant future--when it is no longer so unusual when a woman is appointed to the ACRS.


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