Thursday, August 18, 2016

Another WISE Summer:

An Internship for Engineering Students

I am pleased to report the conclusion of another successful session of the Washington Internships for Students of Engineering Program (WISE).  This program, sponsored by a number of national engineering societies, brings a dozen or so engineering students, usually (but not always) rising seniors from colleges and universities all over the country, to Washington every summer to work at the interface between engineering and policy.

I am particularly pleased because, this summer, the faculty member in residence for the program was my husband, Michael Marcus.  I was the faculty member in residence 3 years ago, and I guess he thought it looked like so much fun, he wanted to do it, too.

The program is unusual among internship programs in that the normal arrangement does not involve the student working in a single office.  Rather, most students pick an engineering policy topic and research it by meeting with government officials and others to learn about the issues, then writing a paper to discuss the issues and identify possible approaches.  The students also meet as a group with various government a
nd non-government offices in Washington to get a broad perspective on issues, viewpoints, and all the voices involved in the policy process.

This summer saw a diverse range of interests in the topics pursued by the WISE students, ranging from drones, to our water supply infrastructure, to gene editing, to manufacturing, to high performance buildings, to protecting earth from meteor hits, and more.  The American Nuclear Society has been a sponsor of the program almost from its outset, and this year, the ANS sponsored student was Logan Sit, a nuclear engineering student from North Carolina State University, who studied Small Modular Reactors.  Most of the papers and presentations are available here.

The WISE program has been in existence since 1980, and I am pleased to say that I have been involved with it in one way or another almost from the beginning.  In the early years, I was on the Steering Committee representing ANS.  That position is now ably filled by Alan Levin.

Over the years, many students who have participated in the program have found it had a profound influence on the direction of their further education and their careers.  Some have completely changed career direction.  Almost all have felt that the understanding they have gained of the decision-making process, and the evidence they saw of how important it is for engineers to be engaged in that process, have been important to them.

I would personally encourage engineering students, particularly those in the nuclear field, who are looking for a valuable way to enhance their education and broaden their perspective to look into applying for one of the internships next year.  While it is too early for the professional societies to be soliciting applications formally, in addition to the American Nuclear Society, other societies currently supporting WISE internships are:  AIChE, ASME, ASHRAE, ASTM, IEEE, and SAE.  New to the WISE program this year is the American Ceramic Society.

It has been especially fun for me this year participating with my husband in some of the WISE meetings and activities.  In a way, it renewed my interest in the program, so I really hope to reach students and encourage participation in the coming years.



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Another Nuclear Milestone:

Record Long Run

It's always good news to hear about nuclear power plants that perform well, so the news this week from the World Nuclear Association's World Nuclear News that the Heysham II nuclear power plant in the United Kingdom broke the world record for continuous operation of a commercial nuclear power station was very welcome. 

It achieved that record on August 1, when it reached 895 days of continuous operation, breaking a record of 894 days set by Pickering's unit 7 in 1994.

It also may be of interest that a number of the longest-running plants are not light water reactors (LWR).  Heysham is an advanced gas reactor (AGR), and Pickering is a Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR).  The previous record holders were also an AGR and a PHWR. 

The longest-running LWRs so far have been the LaSalle 2 boiling water reactor (BWR), with a 739-day run ending in 2007, and the Calvert Cliffs 2 pressurized water reactor (PWR), with a 693-day run ending in 2009.

I note that when I wrote my book on nuclear milestones, I deliberately chose to limit the milestones I covered to "firsts."  Thus, I did not cover a number of achievements such as biggest reactor, or performance-related achievements such as highest total generation or longest continuous run.  It was a tough decision, because these are really milestones, too, and they are very impressive and important milestones.  However, firsts stand forever, but, as this achievement by Heysham II demonstrates, milestones related to measures such as size or performance are inevitably broken. 

In this case, the previous record was set over 20 years ago.  In other cases, however, such records stand for much shorter times.  Hence, a book that covered every possible milestone is a book that is likely to become outdated very quickly.  And while one has to hope that the industry keeps exceeding its past performance, it wouldn't be good for book sales!

But since I didn't cover such milestones in my book, I am especially happy to be able to celebrate such a significant achievement in this blog.  Congratulations to EDF Energy, the Heysham II operator and to all who contributed to achieving this milestone!