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Clean Nuclear Energy: Past, Present and Future

Understanding Tomorrow's Nuclear Energy lecture series

Aug. 30, 4-5 p.m.
Stewart Center Fowler Hall
Presented by Dr. Arden Bement, David A. Ross Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Engineering

Recorded Presentation

The first installment of Understanding Tomorrow’s Nuclear Energy — a lecture series sponsored by Purdue University and Duke Energy — will provide an overview of nuclear reactor technologies. Follow along from their first uses in submarines in the 1950s to the growth of nuclear power plants from 1980-2000 to how small modular reactors could be used in the near future to provide safe, renewable energy to power electrical grids, a university or even a remote village. Learn about the rigorous approval process for nuclear reactors, their safety systems and the evolution of reactor technology.

Post-lecture summary

Nuclear reactor technology that was first used on submarines in the 1950s has the potential to replace existing nuclear power plants as they phase out of operation in the coming decades, said Dr. Arden Bement, Purdue University’s David A. Ross Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Engineering, in a lecture on Aug. 30.

This technology, called small modular reactors (SMRs), would make it possible to provide more reliable renewable energy to remote regions as well as to major cities, Bement explained.

“Nuclear power is currently undergoing a renaissance as a source of clean energy,” he said.

Bement named numerous benefits of SMRs over current generations of reactors, such as their ability to be fabricated before transportation to an installation site, shorter construction timelines and longer operation periods in between fuel replacement.

Universities are crucial to the development of SMRs, Bement said, noting that the number of reactors in the U.S. has correlated over time with the number of nuclear engineering degrees awarded. Purdue and other universities across the country are advancing SMR technology by providing technical expertise and offering research and training opportunities.

SMRs would play a key role in decarbonization by displacing coal-fired power plants. Bement also pointed out how SMRs could further reduce carbon footprints through their integration with microgrids that are in development to protect against blackouts and better support the charging of electric vehicles.

Despite leading the world in gasoline consumption, Bement explained, the U.S. has become a leader in next-generation nuclear reactor technology because of rising venture capitalist investment in recent years.

Bement’s lecture, titled “Clean Nuclear Energy: Past, Present, and Future,” was the first monthly installment of the “Understanding Tomorrow’s Nuclear Energy” series hosted by Purdue and Duke Energy. The lecture took place in Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall on Purdue’s campus.

More about Dr. Arden Bement

Dr. Bement was the National Science Foundation Director from 2004 to 2010.


In addition to having served as the head of the School of Nuclear Engineering at Purdue University, Dr. Bement held appointments in the schools of Nuclear Engineering, Materials Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, as well as a courtesy appointment in the Krannert School of Management.

He has earned numerous awards; served in diverse government roles, including the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); served as a member of the NIST National Research Council, Space Station Utilization Advisory Subcommittee, and the Commercialization and Technology Advisory Committee for NASA. He has consulted for the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.

Dr. Bement holds an engineer of metallurgy degree from the Colorado School of Mines, a M.S. in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Idaho, a Ph.D. in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and honorary Ph.D. from Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, and the Colorado School of Mines. He is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal of the Department of Defense.


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