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Weber honored for his lifetime efforts in nuclear safety excellence

by on January 27, 2016
Larry Weber and his wife, Kris, (center) with Japanese students attending Weber’s lecture on nuclear safety culture at the Cook Visitors Center. Also pictured second from left is Dr. David Miller, nuclear specialist in Cook Radiation Protection and adjunct professor at the University of Illinois.

(Story by Dave Lefor)

Most often, when U.S. presidents retire, they get a library named after them. But you don’t often see former chief nuclear officers being honored that way. At least, not until this year.

That’s why the announcement made at the Information System Occupational Exposure (ISOE) ALARA Symposium in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, earlier this month was particularly special. The College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana announced a brand new addition to its Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering (NPRE): the Larry Weber Center of Nuclear Safety Excellence.

Weber recently retired as AEP’s chief nuclear officer.

The Larry Weber Center of Nuclear Safety Excellence officially opened in early January providing nuclear safety and radiological engineering education for five Japanese graduate engineers visiting the U.S. from January 10-24. The engineers are from Kyoto, Hokkaido and Tokyo universities and will be employed by Japanese nuclear utilities, including Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), upon graduation.

Those same Japanese students attended a presentation by Weber at the Cook Plant in January on “Developing a Strong Nuclear Safety Culture.” His presentation included topics on information from Three Mile Island and Fukushima and how those accidents have made reactors in the U.S. safer by incorporating the lessons learned and improved training to better prepare nuclear sites.

Weber also talked about the importance of transparency with the surrounding community and the public. Gaining and keeping the trust of the public is vitally important, he said, and it is something Cook has always worked very hard to achieve. It takes many years to build trust, but it could all be lost in one negative moment. Weber concluded by emphasizing the importance of the good relationship between Japan and the U.S., noting that both countries have a lot to learn from each other. Nuclear power is a critical part of the world energy mix and a strong and safe nuclear culture is essential to ensure its success.

The Japanese government funds the program for educating Japanese graduate engineers in order to address the engineering challenges of the Fukushima Daiichi site recovery going forward. The stop at the Larry Weber Center is just a part of that education. The graduate engineers will receive additional nuclear and radiological engineering training at NPRE to support their nuclear professional careers upon returning to Japan. The engineers will also attend the Information System Occupational Exposure ALARA Symposium in January each year, followed by technical tours of Cook and other U.S. nuclear plants.

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