NE PhD candidate Alyssa Hayes served as a panelist at the 2022 American Nuclear Society (ANS) Annual Meeting earlier this summer. The plenary session, “President’s Special Session: The Nuclear Grand Challenges: Moving the Needle,” centered on exploring the progress that has been made in the five years since ANS announced its nine Nuclear Grand Challenges.
Hayes focused her presentation on two of the Grand Challenges—public engagement and knowledge transfer—and discussed advocacy and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
She has been advocating for nuclear energy since 2016. More recently, she spoke at a rally in San Luis Obispo, California, to protest the possible closure of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, the last nuclear power plant in the state. She also testified before the Illinois state legislature, helping prevent the retirement of three nuclear power plants. And she previously served as a delegate with the Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation, which pushes for federal policies that benefit the nuclear industry.
She said work like this is important, but it isn’t the only way to be an advocate.
“Advocacy is also phone banking, e-mail campaigns, and letters to the editor,” Hayes said. “It’s so important to have organized advocacy. I encouraged the different ANS chapters that were present to take time out of their regular meetings to talk about the issues in their local area or state, then come up with ways their chapter can get together and do something about it.
“Organizations can reach out to groups like Generation Atomic, Nuclear Matters, or Stand Up for Nuclear to find help with organized advocacy.”
Hayes was the 2020–21 co-chair for NE’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Committee (DEIAC), which was formed after the department published its Pledge for Allyship, Social Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion in July 2020. She told the audience about some of the actions DEIAC recommended that have been implemented by the department, including eliminating the GRE requirement and improving the availability of fee waivers for graduate student applicants, as well as ensuring faculty candidates meet with students and DEIAC.
She also mentioned her participation in the Computational Research Access Network (CRANE), a coalition of graduate students and young professionals from underrepresented groups working in nuclear engineering and plasma physics. The group teaches computational skills to undergraduate and some graduate students from underrepresented groups.
Hayes also mentioned the ANS 2023 Student Conference, which will be held at UT April 13–15, 2023. She is currently the logistics director for the student conference planning committee.
Other panelists included Kathryn Huff, the Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy in the US Department of Energy, Paul T. Dickman, senior policy fellow at Argonne National Laboratory, and Amir A. Bahadori, associate professor and Steve Hsu Keystone Research Faculty Scholar at Kansas State University. ANS President Steve Nesbit and Westinghouse Electric Company Principal Engineer Catherine Prat served as moderators.
In addition to being a panelist at the President’s Special Session, Hayes also spoke to the ANS executive board during its meeting held in conjunction with the conference. She had just joined the ANS Diversity and Inclusion Committee and wanted to encourage the executive board to continue its support of the committee and its initiatives.
While this was first time Hayes attended an ANS annual meeting, she said she was delighted to be on the panel and that the meeting won’t be her last.
A recording of the plenary session is available for ANS members.