008 Sarah Davis, Nuclear Safety Engineer & DEI Officer for NAYGN

Fire2Fission Podcast
Fire2Fission Podcast
008 Sarah Davis, Nuclear Safety Engineer & DEI Officer for NAYGN

Sarah Davis describes her role as a nuclear engineer, North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN), and her role as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for NAYGN.

Watch the full discussion on Youtube. Follow along with the transcript on Descript.

[00:00:00] Sarah Davis: NAYGN, North American young generation in nuclear, so, we are a professional development organization that is all about, making sure that the next generation of those, in the nuclear industry, interested in the nuclear industry, have the tools and resources, that they need to thrive and succeed within the industry.

Also, next generation, with nuclear technology and everything that’s happening in the nuclear industry. And educating people also on nuclear, the benefits of nuclear, educating the community, educating, government officials and just making sure, we’re involved in the community as much as possible.

And, as far as, you know, Going into schools, teaching kids about engineering and nuclear and all of the different aspects of, of the nuclear industry, you know, we talked about earlier, uh, why, why aren’t you know, young girls interested in nuclear?

And it’s like, we wanna change that.

[00:00:56] Intro: Just because the facts are A, if the narrative is B and everyone believes the narrative, then B is what matters. But it’s our job in our industry to speak up proudly Soberly. And to engage people in this dialogue, those two and a half billion people that are on energy poverty, they need us. America cannot meet this threat alone.

If there is a single country, of course, the world cannot meet it without America that is willing to, we’re gonna need you the next generation to finish the job. Nuclear regulations, we need scientists to design new fuels, focus on net public benefits. We need engineers to invent new technologies for over absurd levels of radiation production entrepreneurs to sell those technologies.

And we’ll march towards this. We need workers to. With High Tech Zero Prosperity Football, diplomats, businessmen, and women and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations skip the development transition sources of, in other words, we need you.

[00:02:01] Mark Hinaman: Okay. Welcome to another episode of the Fire2Fission Podcast. On this podcast, we talk about energy dense fuels and how they can better human lives. Our guest today is Sarah Davis. She’s a safety analysis engineer. And she also volunteers for North American young generation in nuclear, or is known in the industry by their acronym, NAYGN.

She serves on the board and she leads up their DEI committee. And that’s the diversity, equity and inclusion. I always, whenever I hear that, I think DIY, which is not, not the same, although kinda,

[00:02:33] Sarah Davis: although kinda we’re starting from the ground up self, right?

[00:02:35] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. Starting from the ground up. So, Sarah, I’m super excited to chat with you today.

How, how are you?

[00:02:40] Sarah Davis: I’m great. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. Excited to talk about nuclear and my role and NAYGN Any excuse that I get to talk about NAYGN and our work that we’re doing is just a great day. It starts my morning off. Great. So really excited to be here, so thanks for having me.

[00:02:56] Mark Hinaman: Awesome. I’m excited to learn about your background and I bet you career, your career in NAYGN. Let’s start with your background. where’d you go to school? How’d you get involved with nuclear? Start, start from the beginning.

[00:03:06] Sarah Davis: Yeah, so, I’m originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and I went to university of Tennessee and Knoxville Go Balls.

That’s my always, I, I like to throw my go balls in there. And I got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nuclear engineering from ut and so ut has this great, amazing four plus one program, so you are able to take. Master’s electives your senior year and then just finish your master’s in, in a year, which is great.

But so

[00:03:35] Mark Hinaman: did you do a course base or write a thesis? I did the same thing at CU with mechanical,

[00:03:40] Sarah Davis: so. Oh, okay. Yeah. Cool. Yeah, it’s a great, great thing that colleges do. Yeah, I did a a non-thesis path, but I, it was writing a thesis. It just wasn’t published, basically Is There you go, is what they did.

Yeah. So, UT was building a new building for nuclear and their first year engineering classes. And so, in the basement of the new building, they were building a research reactor. So non-critical, awesome fast thermal coupled sub-critical research reactor. And so that was part of my master’s thesis was just optimizing that.

Uh, The doctoral student was using AI to try and figure out the best configuration. And so then I would take his ai and basically optimize it and see what the neutron floods that it put out and things like that. And then also some safety requirements that were needed based on the configuration that we were looking at.

So, super cool project. Really enjoyed my time at et couldn’t say better things about their nuclear program. But I, didn’t know that I wanted to go into nuclear, young girls aren’t like, Ooh, I wanna be a nuclear engineer. So,

[00:04:43] Mark Hinaman: which is wrong, right. We should change this.

Exactly. I’ve got two nieces and I, I send them science kits for of every one of their birthdays, whether they want them or want or not,

[00:04:51] Sarah Davis: exactly. No, I, I completely agree. And so, that’s definitely something that we can get into later with NAYGN. But I, I didn’t know I wanted to be a nuclear, I liked math and I liked science a lot growing up.

And so, in high school I took, calculus and physics, and my physics teacher was really the one who, pushed. And she’s like, if you like physics, if you like this, you should look into engineering. And I was like, oh, I never thought about that. Yeah, that sounds great. And so I went into college, with an idea of, okay, I wanna be an engineer.

I, I applied for the College of Engineering and, and got in, but didn’t really have a path. And so then as part of your, our first year curriculum in the first semester they do a departmental fair. So you have to go, it’s for a homework grade, but you have to go talk to at least three departments and write down.

Three fun facts you figured out about each department and whatever. So, I had an idea that I wanted to be a biomedical engineer because my dad had double knee replacements. And so the idea of, creating cobalt knees or, some, some stuff was really cool. So, That’s the first table I went to.

I went to the biomedical table and I went up and they had a TV screen on their table that was showing a surgery and immediately was like, oh wait, I’m the quesiest person. I know I can’t do this. So I was like, well,

[00:06:11] Mark Hinaman: I, I had a similar experience. Yeah. Well, my sister became a dentist. One, one of my sisters.

And she, I remember she got back from her sophomore year and started describing the anatomy class, which I won’t go into detail because we’ll both vomit. And I, I was like, I don’t really need to be a doctor. Physics is good. I like this.

[00:06:27] Sarah Davis: Physics is good. Yeah. I can I can stay away from the human body as, as much as I physically can.

Yeah. Yeah. I was, was not happy about it. Yeah. So then, it was like, Well plan B, let’s actually look at these departments and see what interests me? What’s, what’s good, what’s out there? And so I, I went to a couple and then went to the nuclear table.

And I like to say that, nuclear is either very interesting or he was just a really good salesman. Because immediately I was like, oh, this is it. This is what I wanna do. And, I will, I’ll brag on my university that they had some great research fields, they’re, doing a lot in security and it was just, so interesting to hear about everything that was going on within the department and that you could focus on.

And so I just got hooked and I was like, all right, this is it. So, changed my major the next week and have been in nuclear and just grown, I. I didn’t know a lot at the beginning. And I’m still learning more and more and more, and it’s just, the more I learn, the more excited I am to be in the industry and yeah.

And so I’ve, I’ve really enjoyed my time so far. So, yeah. And then I stayed for an extra year, got my master’s in nuclear engineering, and then went to work. So.

[00:07:40] Mark Hinaman: Nice. Let’s I, I think it’s remarkable how many students. Have a similar experience where they meet perhaps a charismatic department chair that sells them on the degree, and they’re like, well, and I, I even had a similar experience.

I was touring the physics building at the university that I went to freshman year and then meandered over to the mechanical engineering department. And the, I remember the department chair was like, well, mechanical engineers do everything that physicists do, but they tend to make a lot more money.

And I was like, wow. Perfect. Yeah. I wanna dive in. I didn’t expect to talk to you about this, but it, an area of interest of ours is research reactors and reactors on campuses. So, mm-hmm. Do you mind Describing kind of what the fast react was. You said it wasn’t critical subcritical, so maybe talk about yeah, what that means and why it was a fast reactor.

But then I’m also curious on, and it’s okay if you don’t know the stats specific stats, but like reactors and research reactors across the country. Are there a bunch of them? What’s the power level? Are there any producing heat? If there’s any background, we didn’t prep you for this, so it’s okay if you don’t know the answers, but just maybe we haven’t talked about it on the show yet.

So it, it could be helpful for the audience to hear it from somebody that’s actually been involved with.

[00:08:51] Sarah Davis: Yeah, for sure. So, I know that there are a few definitely not a lot compared to our, our full our giga fleet. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Based on the nuclear fleet in the United States there are several, but there are definitely not a ton.

The one at ut, because I left very early on in the process of putting that together, I, I really don’t know where they’re at right now. In terms, I know the building was built and there are now students there, but I don’t know how far along the, the reactor has gone. So at UT it was a actually it was a fast thermal coupled subcritical reactor, so partially fast, partially thermal in the configuration and then subcritical research reactor.

So Subcritical is k effective Equals one. That’s our critical, that means that the neutrons being created and destroyed are equal. So, right. One. And so sub

[00:09:48] Mark Hinaman: perhaps created. Created and lost. Right. Meaning?

[00:09:50] Sarah Davis: Lost. Sorry. Not destroyed. Yeah. And so Subcritical is gonna be less than one, so you are losing more neutrons than you are creating them.

Which, change reactions, not self-sustaining. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So, yeah, I don’t know, for your audience purposes, don’t know how much everybody’s.

[00:10:07] Mark Hinaman: You know, I don’t need, it’s, it’s a total different level and I’m too deep in it now to remember, so I have to, to remember. Yeah, exactly.

[00:10:13] Sarah Davis: So, so super critical is above one. It’s where you’re creating more or more reactions are happening than you’re losing. And so that’s when, we get into to areas that we don’t particularly love sometimes. So, so subcritical, you’re able to control it. You’re still getting the, the neutrons you need, the, the radiation you need for research purposes, but you’re not creating heat, you’re not creating energy for, electricity purposes or anything like that.

So, it’s great from a, a research perspective. I think personally that universities should really look into it if possible, because another great thing that I was able to do my junior year of college is that I was able to study abroad in Prague at the Prague Technical University. Over my summer.

That’s amazing. Wanna go to Prague? Yeah. It’s incredible. 10 out 10 if you have a chance. Go. We were able to go to Prague and then visit Vienna and the I a E a while we were there. And so just an unbelievable experience. But at the, at Prague Technical, Prague Technical Institute, excuse me they had a research reactor.

So we did our lab class, basically our, our senior year lab class, we were able to do with an actual research reactor. So we were able to look at void within the reactor and see, whether it’s inside versus outside and how that affects K effective and it was just so, it was really my first time being.

Oh, wait, I understand what’s going on. Because in nuclear you have so much theory, right? And so, yeah. Able, you, you, you can think of an idea or, or think of the theory and be like, okay, I understand sort of what’s happening, like physically, on a physics concept. But then to actually see it happening and see, oh, RK effective is going up, RK effective is going down.

Oh, I’m finally like putting it all together, putting the pieces together. And so it was just it was a very like, oh, okay. I understand what’s happening now. I, I was a little lost maybe earlier, but, so,

[00:12:15] Mark Hinaman: I think what happens a lot in physics and science and, chemistry where it, it requires a certain level of imagination to mm-hmm.

Internalize and conceptualize a lot of these theories because the technology isn’t obvious. Even like things that are mechanical that you can see, it takes time to understand how the components move together and the nuance behind them. But, and then things like chemistry, where reactions just happen, or God forbid, electrical engineering, it’s a total black box.

Electrical engineering to me, electricity,

[00:12:45] Sarah Davis: foreign language, I have, oh man. Applaud them really.

[00:12:50] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, those very smart people, but that’s super interesting. So the, the thermal versus neutron piece or fast piece, like mm-hmm. What do you mean by fast and what do you mean by

[00:13:00] Sarah Davis: thermal? So, thermal and fast is it, it kind of sounds like how fast the neutrons are mo moving, but that’s not the case when you’re looking at your, your graphs of, of energy,

[00:13:12] Mark Hinaman: they, they all move pretty fast, presumably at the speed of light, right?


[00:13:15] Sarah Davis: Right, right, exactly. So, yeah, it’s, it’s based on your energy of, of the neutrons themselves. So your fast neutrons are going to be your higher energy neutrons and your thermal neutrons are gonna be your lower energy neutrons. So, chance of creating reactions is, higher or lower based on where you are in the configuration of the, of the core.

And so we had it was split up, split up into three different parts. And so there were two thermal sections and one fast section. At least when I was working on it, again, I, I don’t. No, if they changed some details or, or things like that. But when I was working on the, on the reactor, that’s how it was set up.

So, your thermal neutrons are moving slower. I’ll use quotes. Sure. Less energy. And so, sorry. This is where we’ll stop because I messed up. Because I have not been to theory in forever, I’m, I’m switching on what has a higher probability of hitting versus lower probability of hi hitting.

And I wanna say thermal has a higher probability than fast, but for some reason my brain is telling me that I’m gonna sound like an idiot if I say that.

[00:14:32] Mark Hinaman: Nope, no worries. We’ll, we’ll put a link to the theory 1 0 1. We didn’t prep you that you’re gonna have a pop quiz on your master studies and I dunno how long.

No worries, no worries. If if it, if it were me, I, I’ve slept since then, so, I, I would definitely get it wrong and get it mixed up. So,

[00:14:46] Sarah Davis: yeah, I just wanna make sure I’m not saying the wrong thing Totally.

[00:14:51] Mark Hinaman: But I, I think the point to highlight here is, Lots of universities across the country have research reactors, they have nuclear material.

It’s operated safely. It’s really useful. And they have essentially very young people or, young professionals operating it. Right. So I, I don’t know. I, I think it’s a fun, fun thing to highlight when people are worried about potentially the safety case. This is a great example of why it can be so safe, especially at small scales.

[00:15:19] Sarah Davis: Yeah, absolutely. And I highly recommend any university if they’re thinking about it. Do it. If it’s possible.

[00:15:27] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. Okay. So what, let’s let’s chat a little bit about your career. What kind of projects have you worked on? Safety analysis engineer, what, what does a safety analysis.

[00:15:37] Sarah Davis: Yeah. So, I, after I graduated with my masters, I went into the job that I currently have now, which is safety analysis engineer for a engineering consulting firm.

And so basically what I do is I do calculations and different analysis for safety related components and safety related systems throughout the nuclear power plant. So, just as making sure that our nuclear fleet is going to be safe. So, a great thing about being part of a consulting firm is that I am able to work with all of the different plants and utilities across the country, which is such a great experience.

I, especially when I’m just getting outta college and I’m really, getting into the nuclear industry is I’m able to see how different utilities operate, different procedures, policies, How, how everything works. And so you have such a broad knowledge of what’s going on in the industry, which I think is great and very useful.

Especially starting your career. And so, so yeah. So I mainly do dose calculations, so making sure that dose two components or dose two people during different outages or, different tasks that need to be done. Mission dose and stuff like that are all safe and able to survive, within the, the nuclear plant life and things like that.

And then also a main part of my job is that I focus on environmental qualification, which is e. And so, to bring it back a little bit when I was in college at University of Tennessee, I was able to intern at Oak Ridge National Lab, O R N L. So that was another awesome experience is that, UT is so close to one of our national labs.

There’s only a few, and to have that intern experience at o r and L was just incredible. I was actually, I focused on environmental qualification at O R L, from the testing side of things, from the research side of things. So environmental qualification for anybody who doesn’t know is essentially making sure that your component can survive in the plant or figure out how long it can survive in the plant based on temperature, pressure, radiation, humidity, those kinds of, of attributes of the plant.

And so seeing their qualified life, seeing how long they can last in a reactor or in a plant.

[00:18:03] Mark Hinaman: So when you, when you say environment or environment used in this context, is the operating environment actually within the plant, not necessarily the surrounding site environment or elsewhere, but yeah.

For com component, qualification.

[00:18:17] Sarah Davis: Correct. Yeah. So, the environment of the room or the area that it, that it is in. So yeah, temperature, pressure, radiation, humidity, things like that. And so at ORNL was doing thermal aging of different power plant cables. And at the time I was like, oh, this is interesting, but is cables gonna be a huge part of, my nuclear engineering world?

And then I got out of college

[00:18:44] Mark Hinaman: cables, like electrical cables and transmission mm-hmm. And communications,

[00:18:49] Sarah Davis: right. Electrical cables. Yeah. And then I got into my job now and I’m like, oh yeah, I look at cables and valves and limit switches and transmitters and so many different components, and so, I was just thinking dose radiation.

I don’t know. Yeah. And so,

[00:19:09] Mark Hinaman: that’s fascinating. I’ve got lots of questions.

[00:19:11] Sarah Davis: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Go for it.

[00:19:13] Mark Hinaman: Let’s, let’s start with the, the dose component. Dose to me is still confusing. I’ve heard this many times, I’ve researched it, but there’s just, radiation in general can be a mystifying physical phenomena.

Mm-hmm. Can you maybe give just a one-on-one over the difference between total dose and dose rate? And perhaps how that, what, how is that different?

[00:19:37] Sarah Davis: Yeah. So, your total dose and I’ll talk about it in terms of a nuclear plant. And so even the word total dose has a, has a few layers to it as nuanced.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Actually. So, you. In a plant, you have your normal operation that you are typically trying, expecting for the plant to go. And then you also have your, your post accident. So if there were something to happen, like a loca loss of coolant accident or a high energy line break or something like that, then you have your post accident dose.

And so, those two things are gonna be different. Just, depending on the, the. You know what you’re expecting at normal operations. And so your total dose for a nuclear plant is gonna be actually called your total integrated dose. So your total dose over time includes your normal operating dose, what you would see for, however long your plant is licensed for 20, 40, 60 years.

And then any post-accident dose that you may see if something were to happen at your plant. So, the plant account for basically everything, right? Your normal operating and also if there was an accident to happen, what you would see in that accident. And that’s what you look at as your t i d we call it total integrated dose.

And so that’s over again, your, your full license and then dose rate is what you’re gonna see. I usually see it Per hour. So you’ll see, in an area, cuz these are all, like we said earlier, separated the environment is the, environment you’re seeing in the operating space. You’ll see your dose rate of dose per hour.

So RADS or rems or rims. Per hour. And so, that is also something interesting is that different plants use different radiation units depending on, normally I see RAs per hour which is a our, your standard radiation unit measurement. But then if you’re looking, let’s say at a mission dose, so a dose that somebody might receive if they have to go into a certain area of the plant, you’ll see milli sieverts or millirem depending on the different utilities.

So, that’s something that,

that I have, have you looked at the history and why there’s so many different measurements? Because, or we’ll say units.

The people don’t like to agree and I’m just like, can we can, can we all just get along?

[00:22:21] Mark Hinaman: Americans use feet and everyone else sees the meters.

[00:22:23] Sarah Davis: Right? Exactly. Exactly. And you know that that is something that college prepared you for too, is that we always used meters and kilograms and all that stuff. Si units. Yeah. Yeah. Si units. And we still do that in, in calculation space too, cuz it just makes way more sense.

[00:22:41] Mark Hinaman: Good, good for you guys. In oil and gas, we use archaic units that are ridiculous like a barrel.

How much is the barrel?

[00:22:48] Sarah Davis: Oh my God. Have you seen the the trend going on is, is that Americans will use anything but the metric system and just have like a app.

[00:22:58] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, it’s great. It’s hilarious. So, while you’re describing it, I guess an analogy that came to mind was perhaps to, to make super simplify it for people, the difference between distance and velocity.

So meaning the total integrated dose might be the distance that you’ve gone mm-hmm. If we’re using a, a length and speed analogy and then the dose rates, how fast you’re getting to the total distance.

[00:23:19] Sarah Davis: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s a great analogy. Yeah. So, I, I mainly look at, at do total dose and then I check just to make sure that the dose rate looks.

Right. Normal and, and something I would expect. Yeah. Yeah. Uhhuh,

[00:23:34] Mark Hinaman: right, because, well, everyone agrees that radiation above a certain level is highly dangerous, right? Yes. Will kill you and will cause cancer. Just like gravity above a certain height is very dangerous. It’s just, they’ll agree on that, but yeah.

Yeah. Below a certain threshold, it’s okay. So, mm-hmm. Cer and when you’re looking at certain components and perhaps this is too specific of a question, but how many components within the plant get irradiated and did, do they remain radioactive? Over what amount of time is it just highly variable?

[00:24:04] Sarah Davis: I, right now I’m doing one project and I’m looking at, at solenoid valves, and there’s. 200 and something, solenoid valves just in harsh areas. And so I I,

[00:24:21] Mark Hinaman: any areas close to the reactor or close to the radioactive material that Yeah. Is radiating and, yeah.

[00:24:27] Sarah Davis: Uhhuh, so I, I can’t even fa like, I can’t even estimate how many components, I, I, that, that we would be looking at.

But for, for radiation and, and radioactive components the, the plant is split up into harsh and mild environments. And so harsh environments have a certain threshold based on the plant’s technical specific specifications, and And different reg guide, regu regulatory guides in the industry give, thresholds for harsh and mild environments.

So your harsh environments are going to be, where you see higher temperatures, higher pressures, higher radiation values. And so, those components are what, what we say are in the environmental qualification program, EQ program. So those components have to be evaluated and analyzed for all of the, the those aspects and making sure that they can survive in the, in the plant.

And then you have your mild components, which have that lower threshold of, you’re not gonna see higher temperature values and, and radiation values and things like that. So I think you would mainly probably focus on, on the, the harsh environment components. But still, I, I think, Thousands of, of components are, are within that area.

So, it, it’s a lot. It, it takes a village, right?

[00:25:52] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. Now I’m, I’m gonna throw you a curve ball. Okay. Ha. Have you contemplated the difference in radiation levels in a nuclear power plant versus a coal power plant?

[00:26:05] Sarah Davis: Ooh. That’s an interesting one. I haven’t looked at that specifically, but, when we’re looking at radiation levels and how much certain things give off radiation, it always surprises me from a public information point of view.

As we’re

[00:26:24] Mark Hinaman: like, everything’s radioactive. Not everything,

[00:26:26] Sarah Davis: everything’s basically, basically everything is radioactive. Like you get. As much radiation from eating a banana from the potassium that’s in a banana as you would, being close to a, a radio or like a nuclear plant for over a year or something.

I don’t know if that’s the actual comparison, but like, it

[00:26:47] Mark Hinaman: order a magnitude, I think you’re, you’re on the right page.

[00:26:50] Sarah Davis: Yeah. So it is, it’s just crazy to be like, oh, well they’re probably, not hugely. If I had to, guess before I looked into the research of it, I wouldn’t think that they were drastically different.

[00:27:05] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. Well, maybe we’ll challenge you with this, right. Or, have you on again and let you do a little bit of research for it.

[00:27:11] Sarah Davis: Right. I’ll bring, I’ll bring the facts. Yeah. But,

[00:27:13] Mark Hinaman: oh, cause that’s, that’s the thing. Sorry. That’s the thing that I’m always interested in is what’s, what’s the cost benefit tradeoff, right.

Meaning like, are we being hypersensitive about how much we’re protecting for this energy source, meaning nuclear and. Under sensitive or care less about this other energy source other means of producing energy.

[00:27:32] Sarah Davis: Yeah, and you, you look at, there’s trade-offs, right? Okay. You, you might have certain radiation levels living within a mile of the plant, but a nuclear industry is so regulated that those levels have to be point, like zero 1% of, of, non-safe activities that you do on a daily basis, right?

The chance of you, dying from radiation have to be just ridiculously low levels compared to all of these other things that we do. And b, your, your coal plant. How else would it, is it affecting you with other carcinogens or, or pollution and

[00:28:17] Mark Hinaman: which Yeah. I, I think if, if the NRC was able to take a holistic view and, and, analyze and in their mission they say, reasonable assurance of, adequate public health and safety and Right.

That they, if they were able to take a true cost benefit analysis and look at other energy generation sources, then my, my guess, and I, I don’t know, I think this is what we should do, but is that the, their level of restrictions would be much lower.

[00:28:43] Sarah Davis: Yeah. Yeah. It’s just, it’s okay. Yeah.

Coal might not give. Certain radiation values that you would see in a nuclear plant. But, but what el

[00:28:54] Mark Hinaman: I think you might be surprised. I think the, the exhaust plume actually has quite a bit like on some, it depends on the coal

[00:28:59] Sarah Davis: we’ll say, but Yeah. Yeah. No, and I, I bet it is. I, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, if I had to, to put an educated guest down, I would say that they’re not drastically different.

[00:29:11] Mark Hinaman: Nice. Maybe we can dig into that on another episode. That’d be really fun. Yeah. Okay. Well, let’s, that’s, that gives me good perspective on kind of your, your background and your career. So safety analysis engineer, that’s awesome. Mm-hmm. But let’s, let’s dig a little bit into your volunteer work. What, so NAYGN, north American young generation Nuclear, what, what is this organization how did it start?

Give us some background on it. What’s, what’s mi what’s mission, what’s the goals? Yeah. Yeah.

[00:29:34] Sarah Davis: So, NAYGN, like you said n a North American young generation in nuclear, so, we are a professional development organization that is all about, making sure that the next generation of those, in the nuclear industry, interested in the nuclear industry, have the tools and resources, that they need to thrive and succeed within the industry.

And also, there are, I think a couple different ways to, to shift it. Also, next generation, with nuclear technology and everything that’s happening in the nuclear industry. And educating people also on nuclear, the benefits of nuclear, educating the community, educating, government officials and just making sure, we’re involved in the community as much as possible.

So those are kind of the, the key highlights of NAYGN. It was founded or started in 1999, so it’s been around for a little bit now. And it’s, such a great organization for those in, in the nuclear industry to get involved with. There are are pillars that we focus on. Again, broad strokes, what I described, but knowledge transfer is one of them where the, we, we like to say in, in my NAYGN chapter the more seasoned professionals in the industry can, share, share their knowledge, lessons learned, what’s happened, how their path in the nuclear industry, all of that networking, being able to network and connect with everybody else in the nuclear industry, it’s not huge.

So, yeah, making those connections is, is so great. And you, you absolutely run into everybody. Again, whether you’re at conferences or events, community events, things like that. Public information. So again just educating, educating the public, educating government officials advocating for nuclear and And, outreach as far as it, going into schools, we talked about earlier why, why aren’t, young girls interested in nuclear?

And it’s like, we wanna change that. Going into schools, teaching kids about engineering and nuclear and all of the different aspects of, of the nuclear industry. And we have children’s books that, that we’ve written also to, engage children with that. And hopefully within the next little bit we’ll also have A DEI pillar.

So that’s my role diversity, equity and inclusion. And it is a focus of NAYGN right now. But just making sure that our industry. As inclusive and, diverse as possible. Diverse people create diverse thoughts and just make, the industry, I think and the world a better place.

So, that’s the, the general overview of NAYGN. Okay. But, great organization and I am so happy to be a part of it for sure.

[00:32:22] Mark Hinaman: Now, is there kind of a national chapter or, or main chapter and do, do chapters function independently and and which one are you involved with?

[00:32:30] Sarah Davis: Yeah, so, all, all of it okay.

So how it’s, how it’s set up. So it is across Canada, the United States, and Mexico. We have a, a international board of directors. And so, those positions, I believe they’re There are a few positions in the board of directors. They’re the head honchos. Yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s vice President, president past president communications Technology US and Canadian Operating Officers public information officer, and Diversity equity inclusion officer and treasurer and professional development officer got, got it all down.

So those, those positions the, those are the board of directors for the NAYGN as a whole, as a body. And then it’s split up into chapters. So each utility or each company, vendor, supplier consulting firm, university, each. Entity is gonna have its own NAYGN chapter.

So, they focus on, on the pillars in their area, at their company and, report to the, the board of directors, like I said, and for like metrics and, and things like that. And policies, procedures. And then they’re also split up into regions. So we have Canada as one whole region.

And I know that’s, that’s very broad because Canada is a huge place, but we have Canada as a region. And then the US is split up into different regions like southeast west. The Carolinas has their own region because Nuclear’s so prominent there. And so it’s split. That way. And then Mexico has, has one chapter as well.

And so, within the regions, the, the different chapters of the regions connect throughout the year based on, they can get together for different social events or different community events and things like that. And then once a year we have an annual conference where all of the chapters from all across North America get together and come together for a few days of just full NAYGN conference, professional development, soft skills, networking.

And does the information

[00:34:35] Mark Hinaman: conference at the same time every year? Is it, I think it’s June, right?

[00:34:39] Sarah Davis: Yeah, so this year it’s gonna be in June. It’s actually our first standalone conference as NAYGN. So, beforehand we partnered with N nei, the Nuclear Energy Institute. And we worked together on the N E A.

There’s lots of acronyms in the nuclear industry. So sorry. That’s crazy. But so the N NEA was the nuclear, or is the Nuclear Energy Assembly. And so NAYGN just always had a hand in helping with that conference. But this year we, we decided that our membership is strong after Covid.

This is something that we wanted to do and try to see if, we could have a, a successful standalone conference. And so this year, we’re, we’re trying it out. It’s our first one and I am so excited about it. I think it’s gonna. It’s gonna be great. But you know, we’re gonna

[00:35:28] Mark Hinaman: Yeah.

You, I, I looked at the agenda. You guys have a great agenda of speakers and topics that you’re gonna cover and Yeah. Yeah. I think this point should be highlighted, right? This is young generation nuclear in North America, and you guys feel like you have enough membership and momentum to actually have your own conference and, and host it and put it on yourselves, and that mm-hmm.

That, what does that say about the industry with the, the growth and the interest in young people and people getting involved? Like, I, I think this is important, right?

[00:35:55] Sarah Davis: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s, I, I just am, am like beaming with excitement about it just because Yeah, exactly. It’s so important. It shows that, the interest in the industry is growing.

I know that there’s been. Throughout history of, popularity of nuclear and whatnot. But now we’re basically at an all time high especially with just support in general of nuclear. And so, the, the fact that we have enough momentum, we have enough membership people are excited, we have people like wanting to speak at the conference, people are, are trying to get in to be speakers at the conference.

It’s so exciting and just shows, if this is the traject trajectory of the nuclear industry. I am so excited that I jumped in when I did because, I think it’s just gonna continue to grow and get better. And I know I’m part of the young generation. I’m a young millennial. I’m on the, the, young end of, of the millennial spectrum.

But. The, the more I see the even younger generation get involved, it just makes me so excited because they’re so smart and they want to save the world. And, being involved with NAYGN definitely makes, makes me see that a lot. So I am just so pumped for this conference. It is June 21st through the 23rd in Minneapolis.

So if anybody wants to come, registration’s opened, it’s gonna be great. So excited about it.

[00:37:23] Mark Hinaman: Yes. Excellent. So it’s non-profit, I assume, NAYGN? Yes, correct. Yeah. Okay. And are you guys mostly member funded or there dues that people pay into or are there donors? What’s, yeah, what’s the structure of that?

[00:37:36] Sarah Davis: Yeah, so, it is free. It’s a free organization. There are no member dues or member costs. We are a nonprofit, but we do have sponsors. And so different companies spon can, Have different sponsorship levels and, donations as well. And so, with, with over a hundred chapters, active chapters and over 6,000 members, the, the fact that it’s free is, is great,

[00:38:01] Mark Hinaman: oh, that’s helpful for people young in their career.

Right. They may not be making much money, but then I assume the benefit to sponsors is they get exposure with those people and get their brand recognized. Right? These are gonna be the up and coming leaders of the nuclear industry in the future. So, if you wanna reach them and, and develop brand recognition and promote your products, right, you can.

[00:38:20] Sarah Davis: Right, right. They have, they’re, we, we definitely show them on our website. We, we talk about them with all of our, our. Announcements and, and things and, and communications. We always thank our sponsors and, and, want to show that, that we are very thankful for them and the how they, they, they fund us and help us do what we wanna do and do you know, what we think is important.

And, I think also to them, they want to invest in a, in an organization that really, I believe is helping the industry in all different ways. And so, to put your money back into an organization that does that, I think really helps you as a company. It helps your business fundamentals and, and all of that.

So we’re very, very thankful for our sponsors and they absolutely allow us to do, all of, all of the good that we try and do in, in North America, so, absolutely.

[00:39:15] Mark Hinaman: Mm-hmm. Okay. So you’re on the diversity, equity and inclusion committee, or you’ve helped stand up that pillar it sounds like.

Mm-hmm. For the organization. What, what is this? Why, why is it important? I know it’s been in the news a lot, people talk about it a lot. But why did you guys think that this was important to bring to nuclear? Notwithstanding I’ll just preface, when I look at all the old pictures of nuclear, it’s all just a bunch of white guys and lab coats, like building, building stuff, and that’s, okay.

Well, this probably has a very diverse and not very representative of what the, the industry actually looks like, so,

[00:39:42] Sarah Davis: right, right. So, yeah, so to break it down a little bit so I am the inaugural Diversity, equity and Inclusion officer for the board of directors. So it is the, the first term of this position.

And so I’m very, very, glad and thankful that I was elected to be in this role. So this role was started back in or it was decided on back in 2020 Covid was happening after the murder of George Floyd and the, real height of the social injustice that was happening over that summer.

NAYGN took an introspective look and said, oh, wow, as a, as a development organization that reaches out to the community that’s so involved in so many different ways in the community, this, this is something that we need to talk about. This is something that we need to focus on and let’s take a look in.

Is our organization diverse and inclusive? And so, they thought, okay, we need. We need to focus on this area. So the Diversity and Inclusion Committee was created they put out some, some communication in the newsletter, and I saw that and was immediately like, yes, I wanna join. DEI is definitely a a passion of mine.

I am a Latino woman in the nuclear industry, so it, is definitely something that, that is, is very close. So, join the, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. And then with that, they announced the new board position that was being created in the 2021 elections Board of Director elections.

And so after being involved with the DEI committee for a little bit I ran for that position and, and got that in the summer of 2021. And so, The main focus really of the DEI committee and having this role is again, to make sure that NAYGN is as diverse and inclusive as, we want the nuclear industry to look and, making sure that everybody.

In North America feels welcomed and feels like they have the tools and resources that they can join the nuclear industry and that they can thrive in the nuclear industry. Making sure that that voices are heard from, the marginalized groups. You did mention that there might be a lack of racial and gender demographics within the, the industry.

And so, that’s not what North America looks like. That’s not what North America is. So to have a an industry that isn’t reflective of, the community is, is something that we need to work on. And I think having diverse backgrounds, people tend to think of diversity as.

Race and gender or ethnicity and, and gender. And, those are absolutely two very, very key components of what that looks like. But I think also in a broader sense it touches a lot more areas of the nuclear industry and NAYGN. So making sure, when we make our decisions for NAYGN, okay, how is this gonna affect our different regions?

We have diverse regions, Canada versus Mexico versus the southeast west, things like that. And just it’s so much broader than, what people try and put it in a box as. And so, I, I think NAYGN has has done a, a good. So far I, I would hope as, as that is my role,

[00:43:05] Mark Hinaman: like I’m in charge.

I feel like I’ve done a good job.

[00:43:07] Sarah Davis: Yeah. Yeah. I, I think I’ve done, I think I’ve done well, but part of our plan, our strategic plan and just for the organization is making sure we’ve, we’ve partnered with different organizations to put on, various diverse events such as, we had a for national coming out day in October.

We partnered with oSTEM, which is out in STEM organization to do out in the workplace panel. And so just talking about what that process was like for cer, for people and, and what it’s like to be out in the workplace. We did a microaggressions webinar with Dr.

Angel Jones, who is just phenomenal if you have the chance to, to look her up. Microaggressions for Black History Month webinar. And so, putting on various webinars and events and to highlight certain, groups and ideas. And then also making sure at our conferences, our regional conferences and our, our annual conference that we have diverse speakers and we have diverse topics as well.

So, I know. Lots of people in the industry would like to just hear technical topics on SMRs and, the new ap,

[00:44:18] Mark Hinaman: that’s not the biggest problem facing the industry. Right. The biggest problem is the regulatory constraints and getting stuff approved, which comes down to being a people P problem.

[00:44:27] Sarah Davis: Right. Right. Exactly.

[00:44:29] Mark Hinaman: And so, and so like the, I, I don’t know. That’s where I come from with the, it’s not notwithstanding. Right. I definitely support diversity, equity, inclusion, and it’s awesome. And I think we should have diverse people in every profession, skillset. And, and, but it’s like this, this is, if we wanna better human lives and build more nuclear and use this technology to our advantage, we have to be able to get along and agree on ideas.

You’re right. If you’re not understanding everyone that’s involved in the conversation, which with a topic like nuclear, The world, right? Then you need to, reach out to them and get on their level and actually say, Hey, what’s where, how can I meet you where you’re at? Right. And understand more about what you know, who, who everyone is.

So I, I think it’s awesome that you guys include it, so,

[00:45:12] Sarah Davis: yeah. Yeah. No, I, I’m really excited about it. I think even just within NAYGN as a whole, it’s, it’s a. Like feeder of de and I just having the different regions, like being involved with Canada, the US and Mexico. Cuz you can see that, so diverse.

It’s so, it’s so diverse. Exactly. And just like, even like the geological repository conversation, which is so important, right? Yeah. So for for those audience members who don’t know the plan was when nuclear power plants were started up is that the federal government would decide on a location to put the nuclear fuel, the, the spent fuel that has been in the reactor that they would have a place of storage for all of the plants to, send.

Fuel that, that, that has been used to this storage facility. And so that has been promised and promised and promised and has not come, come to light in the United States. But you know, Canada is, is basically deciding on their geological repository right now. And that’s, yeah, definitely moving forward for them.

So to be able to see the differences there. Diversity of thought, diversity of policies and procedures again, DEI is so it can touch so many things, right? And so, just seeing that conversation is, is so important and to, your point of understanding where people are coming from and people’s thought processes, so we, that we can agree on the best case scenario.

I think it’s, it’s important to see how other people do it too. So hopefully we can bring that here to the states.

[00:46:49] Mark Hinaman: I like that. Another way to say it might be, it provides. Folks an opportunity to learn from others and do thought experiments that maybe they, they hadn’t done previously in their communities, but just, think about a different way of solving technical or social problems.

Mm-hmm. Yeah. How, how do you see this transforming over time and maybe more broadly, the nuclear industry changing in coming years?

[00:47:16] Sarah Davis: I think we, we touched on it earlier, just with the upcoming generation of those in nuclear just, yeah. So, so passionate about changing the world and environmental education, that is,

[00:47:29] Mark Hinaman: well, the, the youngest environmentalists that are coming to environmentalism with an open mind are all for nuclear.

Exactly. They look at the facts objectively, and they’re like this makes the most sense. Baby boomers are crazy. Why are we doing this this way? Right.

[00:47:43] Sarah Davis: Right, right. Yeah. It was, it’s been so surrounded by fear just because of, previous events. And so to have, the, the young generation have an open mind and open perspective.

Like, oh, we can just look, look on the table, look and look at the fact sheet and see that, that this is the way to go. Right. Especially with all of our regulatory and safety requirements that we have, like we Nuclear is, is one of the answers Right. To the climate change. And I think that’s, the hottest topic as far as, What’s the, what is society?

What is the world gonna look like in the next 20, 30 years? And so, the young generation knows that. They know, oh, this is gonna be our problem, and we have to figure it out. Right? And so, working together, I think with clean energy I, I don’t want it to be a competition, right?

I think that, that we need all forms of clean energy to be able to, come at, come at this climate change, right? Do I, am I biased towards nuclear? Yes, I will. I won’t hide that. I think nuclear’s great with the,

[00:48:48] Mark Hinaman: we’re, we’re biased. This, this podcast is biased, right? We, we open with energy dense fuels all the way to save the world.

So we think, yeah, we think nuclear’s the only thing that can displace oil and gas and we, we even like oil and gas. We think it’s, it’s good for humanity.

[00:49:01] Sarah Davis: Yeah. Right? And so, with the, with the efficiency of nuclear, like, I, I absolutely think the, the investment needs to be there. But you know, I, I am excited about it.

We’re seeing new advanced technology. We’re seeing SMRs and micro reactors. Can those be retrofitted to coal plants and old nuclear fleets. Our old. That have maybe be been decommissioned and just seeing all of the advancement, strides with fusion that are happening.

I have, I can’t even fathom like what that is gonna look like in X number of years. But you know, just the idea that we’re one step closer in that area. I think the technology is there, the interest is there, the momentum is there. So in the next five to 10 years of nuclear, I know some things happen pretty slowly in the nuclear industry.

But, which we can change, which, which we can change exactly. The next 10 years or so. Next 10, 20, 30 years. I think, I, I’m, I’m really excited to see how, how much growth there really is in the industry. Cuz I think we have all of the key components that we need to absolutely make an impact.

Absolutely going

[00:50:14] Mark Hinaman: well. This, this actually brings me we’re coming up on our time, so I’ll Yeah, for sure. I’ll shortcut to kind of our, our last two questions. And meaning, sorry, my last question for you is what’s the most impactful action that we can take, say, as a society or an industry to ensure that we can build more nuclear?

So I asked that question first, but an impactful thing that comes to mind, which I’m gonna preface it with is this children’s book that you guys wrote. Awesome. Educating young minds, getting people up to speed. Mm-hmm. So I have one prequel questions and final question, which is, if a donor wanted to come in and buy a bunch of these books and distribute them and take them to schools around the country, how, how would they do.

[00:50:55] Sarah Davis: Great, great. I love it. So we actually have three children’s books available on Oh yeah. Really? So, three children’s books and we wanna continue to make them because I, think that overall the answer to my question is education, but I’ll, I’ll dive into that a little bit. So, with the children’s books, that, that’s absolutely the goal.

Educating young people, educating children with the nuclear industry. We are a nonprofit, so we our books are available online as p d f versions of the books. We do have several Yes. For free on NAYGN.org. Oh. I, you may have to, you may have to be a member to access them.

Okay. So, there’s a, there’s one of your free memberships right there. Just, just log on. They are available. But we do have hard copies of them that we donate to schools and, and things like that. But, we, we are a non-profit organization, so we do we don’t, make money off of our books.

But they are available, if, if you’re a school or you know something and, and would like a book, feel free to reach out to me. I don’t know how I can throw my information in the little notes of the

[00:52:03] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, we can try to put it in the Yeah. Show notes.

[00:52:05] Sarah Davis: Yeah. But it’s dei@naygn.org. Send me an email and we, we can, if we have any available.

Absolutely. But I think, overall the education component is so important. I think people are worried about nuclear just because they don’t really understand it or they think it’s scary or they’re, they’re not quite sure they’ve heard of Three Mile Island or Cherno or something like that.

Right. And they’re like, oh, nuclear’s bad. And I if there is something that we see as normal at a nuclear plant that, a media source might take and say, oh, look how scary this is. And then people freak out and it’s like, wait, wait, wait. No, that’s, it’s actually not, let me, let me educate you.

Yeah. So I. As an organization, as an industry, the most important thing that we can do is educate our community, educate our friends and our family members, and our government officials that are voting on these bills and legislation for license renewals and, geological repositories and things like that.

Just making sure everybody has the correct information that they need to know that nuclear is the right choice for climate change, for clean energy, for, net zero. I, I think, yeah. The, the more we can do that as an organization, as a society, the better off we’ll be the, like we touched on earlier, the better understanding that we’ll have of each other.

And, overall, just making sure that, that we’re all on the same playing field and then we can go from there. Right. So, that’s what I’ll, I’ll leave everybody with is if you’re interested in nuclear, if that’s a passion of yours, if you like nuclear, go tell your friends. Go tell your family, go tweet about it.

Go, do what you can to educate as many people as possible to try and just, the ball is rolling with nuclear. It’s just, I, I think we have all of the components. Let’s keep it rolling. Let’s keep it rolling. Exactly. So yeah.

[00:54:09] Mark Hinaman: Sarah Davis, thanks so much for your time. Couldn’t end on a better note than that.

[00:54:13] Sarah Davis: Yep. Thank you so much, mark. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

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