During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama pledged to end our addiction to foreign oil, reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, deal with climate change, and create millions of new energy sector jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. To many of us, the only way for the President to show he was serious about achieving these goals was through a demonstrated commitment to nuclear energy.
The President didn’t get off to a very good start when he made the political bargain with Senator Harry Reid to kill the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. But things have started looking up since then.
The Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, has said “I think nuclear power is going to be a very important factor in getting us to a low carbon future,” and the President himself has been heard supporting the increased use of nuclear power. But the most encouraging sign yet of the President’s growing support for nuclear energy may be the man he placed in charge of the nation’s nuclear energy program – Dr. Warren “Pete” Miller.
The nomination and subsequent confirmation by Congress of Pete Miller (left) as the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy is a welcome and heartening development. If our country is really going to get serious about the advancement of nuclear power there isn’t a more knowledgeable and experienced person to lead the effort.
Dr. Miller holds a PhD in Nuclear Engineering from Northwestern University and worked as a research scientist, senior research advisor and associate lab director during a 27 year career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering and is a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society. You simply can’t find someone who is better qualified for the job.
Miller in Idaho
Of course, qualifications are only part of the picture. Recently, we got a glimpse of Dr. Miller’s intellect, character and determination from his keynote address at the 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet in Idaho Falls.
Many of us have gotten to know Dr. Miller over his decades in the nuclear research community, but few of us knew that he was a childhood friend and classmate of Emmett Till, the fourteen year-old boy whose brutal murder helped catalyze the civil rights movement.
Dr. Miller shared with a rapt audience the story of how his feelings of profound sadness over the loss of his friend were transformed into a deep-rooted determination to succeed that led to a hard-won Congressional nomination to West Point and a doctorate from one of the nation’s top engineering schools.
What did we learn about Dr. Miller from his inspiring and heartfelt talk? Well, we learned that this is a man who has succeeded in the face of overwhelming adversity. And importantly for those of us who follow the INL, we learned that the nation’s nuclear energy program is in the hands of a man who doesn’t back away from a challenge.
Sure, there are still reasons for skepticism about the Administration’s commitment to nuclear energy. But for all the pro-nukes and INL supporters, the message sent in the person of Warren “Pete” Miller is louder and clearer than any Presidential sound-bite in support of nuclear energy.
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