Nuclear Groups Band Together to Support Ukrainian Peers
Nuclear technology does not often evoke thoughts of humanitarian aid, but several nuclear societies are coordinating to help their colleagues in Ukraine by providing supplies they need in the moment to keep them safe, warm, and connected to their families.
The American Nuclear Society’s Rapid Response Taskforce network of experts is monitoring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the war’s potential nuclear safety and security repercussions. ANS also moved quickly to help their counterparts in Ukraine by establishing a fund, in partnership with the European Nuclear Society (ENS), to send supplies into the war-torn country. The groups have raised more than $120,000 so far.
“The nuclear technology community is fairly tight-knit,” said ANS Executive Director and CEO Craig Piercy. “That’s really where the benefits of civil society organizations come to the fore.”
ENS is a strategic partner that is helping not only with funds but also with on-the-ground logistics. The group coordinated with contacts in Poland, which have been instrumental in helping order supplies, transport them across the border into Ukraine, and get them into the hands of nuclear workers and their families.
ANS is also in contact with workers in the country through the Ukrainian Nuclear Society. While communication with the Chernobyl site has been problematic, they have been able to connect with other plants to understand what they need.
The first shipment went out several days ago and included first-aid kits, personal protective equipment, and—something a little unexpected—long underwear. “It’s cold in these facilities, especially places like Chernobyl, where the power supply is not reliable at the moment,” Piercy said. They also sent battery packs that charge phones so even if the power goes out, workers can still be in communication with their families.
The key near-term objective is ensuring there are people on the ground at the other end to help identify what is needed and help get it into the country. “That is really the biggest challenge,” Piercy said. “If you solve that, then you can have confidence that you’re having an impact.”
Helping Humanity—and Their Own
ANS has approximately 10,000 individual members and about 80 organizational members and is focused primarily on the nuclear technology area. A significant percentage of its members are nuclear engineers, and it has a robust student membership, which helps nuclear engineering students get in touch with the community and start to build relationships. “It’s a people business,” Piercy said.
This helps explain why it’s such a tight-knit community. “It’s my experience that people don’t just fall into nuclear,” he said. They are drawn to it because they understand the technology and what it can do for humanity, whether it’s solving the climate change challenge or curing cancer through gamma knife therapy. “We’re not just energy,” he said. “People see the power of technology to improve human lives.”
It also makes it clear why the groups are committed to helping their peers. There have been days when nuclear workers in Ukraine have had to sleep in the plants, work long shifts, and have not been able to go home. The workers in the Chernobyl plant haven’t been home in weeks. “There’s a lot of stress and we want to help however we can to ease that stress in some small way,” Piercy said. “We’re committed to providing help to those folks as long as it’s needed.”
The cooling towers of Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Station in Enerhodar, Ukraine. (OlyaSolodenko/iStock/Getty Images Plus)