Nuclear Power's Future
The role of nuclear power is a hotly debated topic in today's energy-constrained world. Offering his perspective on the issue, Aris Candris — president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company and a Carnegie Mellon University alum — recently kicked off a new Leadership Speaker Series hosted by CMU's top-ranked College of Engineering.
Pradeep K. Khosla, the Dowd University Professor and dean of CMU's College of Engineering, said the new speaker series will serve as a catalyst for bringing international leaders to campus to discuss critical issues from energy and the environment to public policy and cybersecurity.
And students are eager to take advantage of more presentations like this.
"Having these spectacular opportunities to hear stories about the outside world and what fellow engineers work on is truly inspiring," said Sophie Grodsinsky, a sophomore majoring in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy. "It is very easy to become overwhelmed with the stresses of everyday work. These speakers provide not only something to look forward to but also something to strive for."
Candris, who received a master's degree in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 1978, both in nuclear engineering from Carnegie Mellon, became president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company on July 1, 2008. Prior to this appointment, he served as a senior vice president of Nuclear Fuel, providing fuel fabrication, components and services to nuclear power plants worldwide.
When asked about the push-back from society and what could be done to make the positive aspects of nuclear power known, Candris responded, "Forums like this one are important to get the word out. We did not communicate enough to the general public early on in the 60s and 70s ... and we still are doing ourselves a disservice by not being more aggressive in communication."
Candris pointed out that among the people who live near nuclear power plants, the acceptance rate is at an all-time high of well over 80 percent.
"With the need to meet the growing demand for energy, the world is looking to sources that don't emit greenhouse gases," said Candris. "Nuclear energy is experiencing a resurgence because it provides clean, safe and reliable energy, and it's quite attractive economically when compared to other sources of clean energy."
Following Candris' presentation, Khosla moderated a panel discussion in which Candris was joined by:
- Andrew J. Gellman, head of the Chemical Engineering Department and director of a new consortium created to support the research program of the National Energy Technology Laboratory, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratory system;
- Edward S. Rubin, the Alumni Professor of Environmental Engineering and Science and a professor of engineering and public policy and mechanical engineering; and
- Jay Whitacre, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering and engineering and public policy.
Bryan Spencer — who is pursuing a double major in chemical engineering and engineering and public policy as well as a certificate in Arabic language — enjoyed the opportunity to learn about his professors outside the classroom.
"The developing energy industry brings up a sort of passion in me," said Spencer. "Seeing my professors invested in the industry that I hope to get involved in is helping to fuel that fire."