The ACerS Glass and Optical Materials Division is holding its annual meeting May 15-19 in Savannah, Ga., and I just learned that nuclear energy materials expert John Marra has agreed to do a special and timely presentation about Japan’s nuclear power accident at the conference dinner May 17. Marra, the chief research officer of the Savannah River National Lab, has tentatively titled his talk, “Beyond Fukushima: Advanced materials to enable enhanced nuclear power systems.”

I am really looking forward to this because, as far as I know, it will be the first semi-public presentation by a federal lab official in which there is an attempt to sum-up some of the engineering lessons from the Fukushima/TEPCO situation.

The context of this, of course, is that rising fuel prices and increased concerns about greenhouse gas emissions had many scientists and policy makers looking toward nuclear power (and new generations of nuclear reactors) as a way to offset fossil fuels. In reaction to the Fukushima situation, some nations and some members of the science and technology community now want to take a second look at future plans for growing nuclear power systems.

In an abstract on his presentation, Marra says:

On March 11, 2011 an earthquake centered near Japan and the resultant tsunami caused significant damage to several reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant causing many to question the long-term future of nuclear power. As Japan and the international community begin to look at the lessons-learned from the Fukushima accident, advanced materials that eliminate or reduce the consequences of severe accidents will find increased application in advanced nuclear power systems.

Ceramic and glass materials, which have long played a very important role in the commercial nuclear industry, offer some significant advantages under accident conditions. This presentation will review the sequence of events that led to the Fukushima Daiichi accident and discuss the critical role that ceramic and glass materials play throughout the nuclear fuel cycle, and the critical material advancements required to enable the “nuclear renaissance” in light of the recent events.

The conference dinner runs 7-10 p.m. on May 17, and I expect Marra will begin his talk around 8:30 p.m.

I plan on running an interview with Marra, a past president of ACerS, for the August issue of the Bulletin, but I highly recommend that anyone interested in advanced glass science and technology (including optical materials, optical devices, coatings, sensors, solar energy materials, glass–ceramics, and structures and properties) considere coming to the GOMD meeting.