A team of undergraduate students from Stevens Institute of Technology have won the People’s Choice Award in the nationwide National Academy of Engineering Ethics Video Contest for their investigation of nuclear energy as a sustainable power source. Seniors Robert Truppner, Scott Reardon, Frank Coppola, and junior Bryan Vianco created a video titled "Thorium Future" (available for viewing on the OEC site) that explores ethical concerns related to nuclear energy production. Videos in the competition were submitted by students from universities all over the country, including Purdue University, Smith College, Oklahoma City University, and the University of North Colorado.
The People’s Choice competition was conducted through Facebook, with users voting by “Liking” their favorite video. With the strong support of the Stevens community, the video garnered an impressive lead in “Likes” on Facebook. The students will each receive a copy of the National Academies’ America’s Energy Future: Summary Edition report for their achievement and hard work.
“The video was a thoroughly interdisciplinary effort,” says Dr. Keith Sheppard, Associate Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer School of Engineering and Science. “The team included students from the Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering Departments, and the advisors were Professor Gregory Morgan from the College of Arts and Letters and Professor Anthony Shupenko, P.E. of the School of Engineering and Science. Dr. Edward Friedman, Professor Emeritus at the Howe School of Technology Management at Stevens, provided his expert perspective on Molten Salt Reactors in the video.”
"I am proud of my HPL480 Environmental Policy students for working together as a team and presenting a potential solution to our energy and climate change challenges,” says Dr. Morgan, Professor of Philosophy. “Five minutes is not a lot of time to articulate a vision of the future, but they pulled it off admirably.”
The students’ video considers the possibility that the dangers of nuclear plants and energy have been overstated. They outline the unique advantages of nuclear energy and describe a nuclear technology, a molten salt reactor (MSR). Some key benefits to the MSR are safer production and operation than pressurized or boiling water reactors, 1% of waste generated compared to traditional reactors, and a fail-safe which completely inhibits the chances of a nuclear meltdown.
“There is a lot of passion on both sides of the nuclear power debate, and the key to moving forward on the issue is being well-informed,” says Professor Shupenko, Associate Professor in the Engineering Design Laboratory. “Our students have put forward a well-researched and reasoned perspective.” According to Robert Truppner, “We wanted an objective investigation that would be a positive voice in the discussion and this competition was the perfect opportunity.”
The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Online Ethics Center (OEC) sponsored the first Ethics Video Challenge to promote consideration of ethical issues in the research and work life of scientists, engineers, and engineering students. This year the contest topic was Energy Ethics. The contest encourages students to identify an ethical issue that is important for the nation’s energy future and to produce a video that examines the ethical aspects and presents approaches to address them.