The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Class of 2021 First-Year Fellow: Alice Zhang '21

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As a First-Year Fellow, Alice Zhang ’21 interned at the Department of Energy under the mentorship of Sarah Lennon ’90.

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Alice Zhang '21 along with other interns from the Office of Nuclear Energy with the head of the office, Edward McGinnis, and Senior Advisor Michelle Scott.

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As a First-Year Fellow, Alice Zhang ’21 interned at the Department of Energy under the mentorship of Sarah Lennon ’90. The following is an excerpt from her final report.

This summer, I interned at the Department of Energy. Specifically, I worked in NE-6, a sub-office within the Office of Nuclear Energy which deals with international nuclear energy policy and cooperation. This sub-office strives to ensure international nuclear security and commercial cooperation.

Throughout the course of the internship, I was in charge of updating internal databases and drafting memos and letters. I was also assigned three projects that I worked on throughout the course of my internship.

The first of these project was a collaboration with interns in NE-1, the Office of Nuclear Energy front office. Together, we conducted a feasibility study regarding the implementation of small modular reactors (nuclear power generators that produce less than 300 MWe of energy) and microreactors (nuclear power generators that produce less than 25 MWe of electricity) in islanded communities. We identified three regions to use as case studies: the Rail Belt Grid in Alaska, various municipalities in Puerto Rico, and Jordan. We additionally conducted research on the use of nuclear power to produce clean water in these communities and other water stressed communities. At the end of our internship period, we presented our findings to the head of the Office of Nuclear Energy, Edward McGinnis, as well as various stakeholders within the U.S. Department of Energy.

I was also tasked to design a program for the United States to train nuclear power plant operators from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE has recently completed construction of one unit of its Barakah nuclear power plant, but have delayed operation due to a lack of locally sourced operators. In order to design this program, I conducted research on needs of the UAE and the United States, as well as the current status of nuclear energy and regulation in the UAE and the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s standards for nuclear power plant operators. At the end of my internship, I presented my report to my mentor, Sarah Lennon, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Nuclear Policy and Cooperation, and prepared a briefing paper that the head of our office, Edward McGinnis, took with him to a conference with the UAE and various other countries.

The final project I was tasked with was collaborating with senior members of the Office of Nuclear Energy to finalize a European nuclear safety report. This paper evaluated the safety of nuclear power reactors in Europe, excluding those of the Russian Federation.

My most significant takeaway came from the dialogue that this opportunity created. I learned about the importance of various energy issues that I had never paid too much attention to, but that are essential. I learned that there is no perfect energy source, and I learned about the importance of reconciliation and cooperation in perfecting our energy infrastructure to make our energy solutions both clean and reliable. Thank you to all the Rockefeller staff for their unwavering support and for making this fellowship possible.

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