Sunday, March 8, 2020

Coronavirus and Nuclear--Take 2:

A Second Cancellation

It may seem somewhat parochial to write about the coronavirus from the perspective of meetings for the nuclear community, but when you think that, just a few weeks ago, the news seemed very far from most of us, thinking in terms of personal impact drives home just how quickly and aggressively this brand new phenomenon is changing all of our lives.

In the beginning, most of what we heard was about things that were happening in Wuhan, China, where a new disease, quickly dubbed COVID-19, was causing illnesses and deaths.  At first, the numbers seemed relatively small, but the concern quickly grew, and quarantines and cancellations began to be announced.  But again, they were initially remote from most of us.  However, slowly, the disease seemed to be spreading--to more people and more countries--and the announcements hit closer to home.

The first announcement that affected my personal plans was the postponement of the Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference (PBNC) originally scheduled for April in Cancun, Mexico, that I wrote about in my last blog only a week ago.

I could not have guessed when I wrote that blog that I would see another cancellation of a nuclear event only a week later.  On Thursday, March 5, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a notice that they were cancelling the annual Regulatory Information Conference (RIC), originally scheduled for next week. 

NRC's official notice states that, "In recent days, a number of organizations and presenters have changed their attendance plans, with indications that others would reach similar decisions in coming days."

Once again, this is an understandable, but disappointing turn of events.  The NRC's RIC has become one of the most important nuclear conferences.  It always draws a wide attendance from all over the U.S. and from a number of other countries, and it provides an excellent overview of a variety of nuclear regulatory and related issues.

While the PBNC announced a postponement of their meeting (until October), the NRC has cancelled the meeting outright.  The next RIC will be held in March 2021.

Of course, these 2 meetings are very small events compared to some of the large and well-known meetings and events that announced cancellations in the last couple of weeks, so I am not trying to imply that there is something special or different going on with regard to nuclear meetings.  And of course, many people around the world are enduring far more serious consequences of this disease than the cancellation of a meeting--deaths, illness, quarantines, worry, economic impacts, school closures, and so much more.  It is just that, as I said, the news always seems more real when it starts affecting our individual lives and our plans. 

So, for all the more serious reasons, I hope that a way is found to beat back this modern-day plague.  But I still can't help but miss this spring's RIC and PBNC.