Does the United States Have a Nuclear Future?

The nuclear power versus fossil fuel issue still burns in the nation's search for energy.

Despite the fact that no new nuclear plants have been started in the United States in more than 15 years, nuclear plants generate 20 percent of the country's electricity and remain viable alternative energy sources in the eyes of many.

One of the nation's leading nuclear scientists, Gregory Choppin, will discuss why nuclear energy has an appropriate place in the national search for alternative energy at the Harry and Joan Stonecipher Lecture on Science and Society at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 18, in the OVC Room of Tennessee Technological University's Roaden University Center.

"It seems appropriate to include nuclear energy in discussions of alternative energy sources, but this requires evaluation of the advantages of nuclear energy based on technology and risk analysis rather than on emotion and misinformation," said Choppin, a Florida State University chemistry professor who co-discovered Element 101, Mendelevium, on the periodic table.

Choppin's lecture, "Is There a Nuclear Future for the United States?," will focus on the safe operation of nuclear plants and the long-term risks of the planned disposal of the radioactive nuclear wastes produced by these plants. Choppin will evaluate some international projects for the long-term safe storage of nuclear wastes and discuss designs for future nuclear plants to increase operating safety.

During the past 20 years, Choppin has been an external reviewer for several nuclear programs in the United States and has visited Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore laboratories.

As a member of National Research Council committees, he has studied the transportation of hazardous wastes, nuclear engineering education, the processing of spent nuclear fuel and the decontamination and decommissioning of uranium enrichment plants.

Choppin's international reputation is widespread, having lectured in Belgium, Japan, Egypt, Thailand, China, Switzerland and the former Soviet Union. He was a Fulbright Lecturer in Uruguay, Germany, England and Portugal.

The author of 10 books, Choppin received his doctorate from the University of Texas in 1953 and joined the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. A year after his co-discovery of Mendelevium in 1955, he went to Florida State University, where he was appointed the R.O. Lawton Professor of Chemistry in 1967.

The Stonecipher Lecture is sponsored by Harry Stonecipher and his wife, Joan, to fund the appearance of leading scholars like Choppin who examine the interrelationship between science and contemporary society. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Stonecipher, a 1960 Tennessee Tech physics graduate, worked for major industrial firms including General Motors, General Electric, Sundstrand and McDonnell Douglas before becoming president and chief operating officer of The Boeing Co.

The Stoneciphers also fund the annual Stonecipher Symposium on Technology, Communication and Culture. This year's symposium, March 22-24, focuses on "The Legacy of the Tennessee Valley Authority" and features former U.S. Senator and White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker Jr. as the opening keynote speaker.