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Rockville Science Cafe: Nuclear Energy—Choices and Challenges

October 15, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Nuclear energy and its applications in electricity generation, industry, medicine etc. have long elicited both awe and fear. Once touted as the pinnacle of progress, nuclear energy often returns to public discussions after severe accidents, most recently Fukushima. But it has also been portrayed as a possible solution to the climate crisis, since during normal operations nuclear power plants don’t emit CO2. Countries all over the world have made different choices about the future of nuclear energy: some plan to shut down all remaining reactors, others energetically build new ones, and still others (including the United States) are deliberating. This talk will address three challenges we face when making up our mind about nuclear energy: the cost/risk/benefit calculations related to rare, but severe accidents; the unresolved issue of what to do with radioactive waste; and the connection of nuclear energy to nuclear weapons. I will argue that in addition to available technical solutions (what we can accomplish), our choices will inevitably be based on our society’s preferences (how we want to live).
Dr. Sonja Schmid
Sonja Schmid is an associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center. She teaches courses in social studies of technology, science and technology policy, socio-cultural studies of risk, energy policy, and nuclear nonproliferation. In 2015, MIT Press published her first book, “Producing Power: The Pre-Chernobyl History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry,” and she has written journal articles and book chapters on the history of nuclear power, nuclear technology transfer, and, as part of her ongoing NSF-funded research project, on the challenges of globalizing nuclear emergency response.


October 15, 2019
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category:


Trapezaria Mediterranean Kuzina
11 North Washington St.
Rockville, MD 20850
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