Jim ScherrerCoordinator of World Nuclear Energy Day
"Finally, the world sees the benefits of nuclear energy"
James S. Scherrer is coordinator for World Nuclear Energy Day, a global celebration of the benefits of nuclear energy. Mr. Scherrer has had a focus on the nuclear industry since his earliest years in engineering and environmental sciences in 1978. His educational background is in technology and science and has earned an M.B.A. in Finance. Among other activities, he has provided engineering and environmental services to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, he is an information technology deployment expert and coordinates the global World Nuclear Energy Day.
In this interview with the Spanish Nuclear Forum he believes that nuclear is expanding everywhere because this technology can “bring wealth, happiness and light”.
How did you become interested in nuclear science and technology?
After completing graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania in “Energy Management and Power”, I was retained by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to address hydrologic and geotechnical hazards at nuclear plants such as floods, tsunami, rainfall, groundwater, emergency procedures and regulatory guides.
Can you tell us a bit about World Nuclear Energy Day, how it started why and when?
Many of us engineers wondered how there was Earth Day Anniversary, but was no “Nuclear Energy Day”, so we got together to pick a date (December 2)* and started a movement to gain interest and attention. It has taken off.
“With the World Nuclear Energy Day we started a movement to gain interest and attention to nuclear energy”
Which companies and/or organizations are behind this project?
Over 50 companies, NGO’s and associations have jumped in to help spread the word and to celebrate the benefits of nuclear energy and the exceptional people who make it happen.
The theme for World Nuclear Energy Day in 2022 was “A chain reaction”. Would this expression also describe the international response to the initiative?
Yes, the theme title was to have a double meaning (double entendre); and this brought a smile to everyone as they jumped in on social media to post on World Nuclear Energy Day with hashtag #WorldNuclearEnergyDay
Has there been an increased response in as compared to the 2021 event?
Yes, the increase in response has been dramatic, with a 300% growth year to year.
Has this initiative helped to reinforce international efforts to promote and celebrate nuclear power?
As the name is “World Nuclear Energy Day” it is certainly a global event with wonderful networking wins for everyone. The internet has brought us all closer together.
Do you have a theme for this year’s edition of World Nuclear Energy Day?
The theme is in development now. Stay tuned!!! Watch the announcement on the website at www.WorldNuclearEnergyDay.org.
What can groups, companies and institutions do to celebrate this date?
The amount and varied ways in which people participate is astounding to me. The things people invent... I am just in awe. It ranges from serious engineering lectures all the way to crazy memes on the internet and dances. Many give awards to their teams on that day, while others have cocktail hours or parties.
"Positive public perception about nuclear energy is on the rise”
For many years you held different positions in companies related to nuclear energy, including the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. How has public opinion of nuclear energy evolved in the United States these past years?
Positive public perception is on the rise. As background, we can all appreciate how hard the industry has worked over so many decades to achieve its near-stellar record of success in the lowest mortality of all power sources and least degrading environmental impact. Finally, the world sees the benefit; a hard-fought battle by the many generations of nuclear scientists, engineers and professionals who all deserve a pat on the back (and much more).
What do you think needs to be done to better educate the public on the advantages and importance of nuclear energy?
We stand on the shoulders of giants in this industry, and we can all stand a bit taller because of what they have done. We all can celebrate our successes much more frequently and be proud of them; they are transformative in the evolution of safe reliable power for the world. There is a nuclear renaissance, globally. World Nuclear Energy Day is but one example of the ascendancy of the recognition of the clean energy benefits of nuclear power.
“We are seeing the ascendancy of the recognition of the clean energy benefits of nuclear power”
You have founded several companies in the field of technology and economics and you were also awarded the prestigious “Entrepreneur of the Year” business award. What advice would you give to those who want to start their own technological and engineering companies?
My advice is: Watch out!, as there are people everywhere who are nay-sayers, luddites and “always no” people; it’s a shame. You’ll need thick skin, wisdom, fierce determination and relentless focus.
Is nuclear a promising field for the future, and do you see the market opening?
Yes, nuclear is expanding everywhere; let me remind that there is nuclear power, nuclear medicine, nuclear propulsion, and so many peripheral aspects. It’s mind-boggling how far and wide it covers, just from the little characteristic of an unstable nucleus!
“Nuclear is expanding everywhere; let me remind that there is nuclear power, nuclear medicine, nuclear propulsion…"
Would you like to add anything?
I’d like to invite everyone to come join in the fun and informative celebrations on World Nuclear Energy Day 2023, on December 2nd, the day that Enrico Fermi and his team kicked off a new generation of science, technology and engineering. It is truly remarkable what we have now at our fingertips; an energy source that can lift all out of poverty, misery and darkness and bring wealth, happiness and light.
* This date was selected to acknowledge both the first date for a self-sustaining chain reaction and also the date of the start-up of the first commercial-scale electric power reactor. Fermi’s first nuclear reactor named the Chicago Pile-1 became the first to create a self-sustaining chain reaction on December 2, 1942. In addition, the first commercial-sized reactor in Shippingport, Pennsylvania also went critical on December 2nd, 1957; exactly 15 years later on the same day.