University of Pittsburgh
January 9, 2008

British Government's Green Light on Nuclear Plants Bodes Well For Emerging Global and National Nuclear Renaissance Says Noted Pitt Nuclear Power Expert

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The British government's Jan. 10 decision to allow the building of more nuclear power plants bodes well for the ongoing reemergence of nuclear power both in the United States and the world, says noted nuclear engineer Larry R. Foulke, director of the University of Pittsburgh's nuclear engineering program.

Among the first generation of nuclear engineers, Foulke joined Pitt's faculty in 2006 following a 40-year career. He is a past president of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) and meets regularly with members of Congress as current chair of the ANS Public Policy Committee about matters pertaining to nuclear science and energy. In his carreer, Foulke managed reactor safety, training, and simulation programs for Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Company-one of the world's largest vendors of nuclear reactor technology-and the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program research laboratory in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, a joint Navy and U.S. Department of Energy lab owned by Bechtel Bettis Inc.

Reports cite the British move as one intended to broaden that nation's source of safe and affordable energy. The decision of a stable and influential Western nation such as the United Kingdom to embrace nuclear power after years of wariness bodes well for nuclear power as an additional energy source, Foulke said.

"That a major Western power decided to move forward with building nuclear power plants after many years of soul-searching certainly carries some weight in the international community," Foulke said. "Given that a major issue today is global warming, nuclear is starting to look like a very smart card for nations to play in diversifying their energy supply while minimizing the production of greenhouse gases."

In recent years, other European nations and the United States have taken steps to include nuclear power in their energy portfolio after decades of apprehension, Foulke said. The rising cost of oil, and the political and environmental drawbacks of fossil fuels have renewed consideration of nuclear power as a clean, safe, and independent energy source. Also behind this interest are newly certified reactor designs, federal tax credits, and investment protection for plant construction, and a faster licensing process, Foulke said.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is compiling resources to review up to 30 new license applications for plant operation and construction, and nuclear power-related industries are expanding their operations and workforces in anticipation of a "nuclear renaissance," Foulke said.

Pittsburgh will be a focal point of nuclear power's resurgence as Western Pennsylvania hosts among the world's highest concentrations of nuclear engineering experts from companies such as Bechtel Bettis, Westinghouse Electric Company, and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, which operates the Beaver Valley Power Station nuclear power plant in Shippingport, Pennsylvania.

To answer the growing demand for nuclear engineers, Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering created the nuclear engineering program as part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. The program provides the only nuclear engineering track in Western Pennsylvania.

Foulke can be reached at lrf4@pitt.edu, or through University of Pittsburgh News Representative Morgan Kelly.

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