From March 29-31, The American Nuclear Society held its student conference at Oregon State University (OSU), in Corvallis, Ore., which is noted for its nuclear engineering program. The three-day event included keynote speakers and informational sessions, a career fair, tours of various reactors and an awards ceremony to promote nuclear energy.

The story surrounding the conference was that the stigma of nuclear energy is changing. Over the past 21 years, since the accident at Chernobyl, the general public has viewed nuclear energy as being dangerous to the environment. That view has seemed to change as the event has moved further into the past.

“[The students] weren’t around at the time of Three Mile Island, which I think is the most significant experience for the [United States’], sort of, collective memory. So they’re really coming from a different frame of reference than the earlier generation came from,” said Carol Berrigan, director of Industry Initiatives for the Nuclear Energy Institute.

In addition, the prospect of disposing nuclear waste has seemed to have adverse effects. However, due to recent concerns of greenhouse gases and global warming, nuclear energy has become a source of focus in the United States’ growing energy concerns about global warming. Nuclear energy does not emit greenhouse gases.

The main venue for this change in opinion has taken place in young students. Modern-day environmentalism is steering them away from greenhouse-gas-emitting power sources, and according to the students of the American Nuclear Society student conference, they believe nuclear waste can now be safely disposed of.

“I was very surprised about all the safety systems that are currently in place. It was very impressive,” said Meghan Hahn, a senior at OSU.

In three years, 27 percent of nuclear industry workers will be eligible for retirement, and the industry will be desperate to replace them. Those in the electrical industry may look to this industry for growth.  EC