Clarke receives NRC’s Distinguished Service Recognition award

James H. Clarke, professor of civil and environmental engineering, last week received a Distinguished Service Recognition award from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for his service on the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste and Materials (ACNW&M).

Plaques were presented in a ceremony at the Rockville, Maryland, headquarters of the NRC to Clarke and to three other members recognized by the agency.

“This has been a great experience [serving on the committee]. It has benefited me personally and it has allowed me to bring a lot back to the School of Engineering,” Clarke said.

Clarke was the lead member for the committee for the areas of decommissioning and risk-informed regulation.

Clarke has provided assistance to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the investigation and remediation of subsurface contamination, risk-informed approaches to contaminated site remediation, and the management of high level, hazardous, and mixed waste.

The exclusive, five-member ACNW&M was established by the Commission in June 1988 to provide independent technical advice on agency activities, programs, and key technical issues associated with regulation, management, and safe disposal of radioactive waste.  The ACNW&M grew out of the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards.

The ACNW&M is independent of the NRC staff and reports directly to the Commission, which appoints its members.  The primary focus of the committee’s work is currently on waste disposal facilities.

Clarke, who is actively engaged in research focused on the long-term management of legacy hazardous and radioactive waste sites, and the application of risk assessment to decision-making at contaminated sites, became a consultant to the committee in 2000.

He was named a committee member in January 2005 and is nearing the end of his first four-year term.  Members normally serve no more than two terms.  “This is a highly competitive post. In 2005 there were more than 80 nominees for a spot on the committee,” he said.

In the 20 years since it was formed, the ACNW&M has had only 14 members – six chairs and eight members. The committee will soon reunite with the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards.

The membership currently includes individuals with expertise in geosciences, radioactive waste treatment, environmental engineering, and health physics. Consultants are engaged to provide technical assistance on specific issues when required.

The bases for the committee’s advice include the regulations governing high-level waste disposal, low-level waste disposal, and other applicable regulations and legislative mandates. The ACNW&M examines and reports on areas of concern as requested by the Commission and may undertake studies and activities on its own initiative.

“I originally thought of my involvement with the NRC committee as an outreach opportunity. As it happens, my contacts at the Commission have proved beneficial. Our students are being actively recruited by the NRC,” Clarke said.

Clarke’s expertise and experience are in environmental fate and transport of chemicals and radionuclides in the environment, risk assessment, hazardous and radioactive waste management and the investigation and remediation of contaminated sites.

In addition to the NRC, Clarke has provided assistance and independent peer review for the National Academies, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Clarke has more than 35 years of professional experience with approximately 150 publications and presentations. He is a member of the American Nuclear Society, the International Society of Environmental Forensics, and the Society for Risk Analysis, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.