Skip to main content

Charles Powers

Professor of Environmental Engineering

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Intellectual Neighborhoods

Research Focus

Understanding and improving the technical, social and regulatory interface for nuclear waste management; defining the scientific and technical processes and procedures that make the development of technical information publicly credible and able to inform the contexts in which such information actually facilitates risk management consensus and implementation; the integration of environmental regulatory regimes and the implications of such integration for more cost-effective and sustainable energy choice and use; and understanding and finding tools for the resolution of the ethical/legal dilemmas faced by professional practitioners in various fields including engineering, medicine, law, business and government.


Dr. Powers is Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Vanderbilt University where he is also co-principal investigator (with David Kosson) of the evolved Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP III). The Consortium is a uniquely trusted technical and stakeholder-responsive resource on diverse problems in legacy nuclear waste cleanup.
Prior to coming to Vanderbilt Powers had served on the faculties of Yale and Princeton Universities and was professor of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; he has held part-time appointments also at Harvard and Tufts Universities and Haverford College. Beginning in 1979 he created and served as the initial principal officer of diverse non-profit institutions and programs designed to address complex environmental and/or public health challenges: The Health Effects Institute (automotive emissions) 1980-84 remains the world center of automotive health effects research; Clean Sites Inc.(technically-complex multiparty Superfund sites) 1984-87; the Industriplex Custodial Trust  (Superfund beneficial site use) 1989-92; Health Effects Institute Asbestos Research (asbestos-contaminated commercial and industrial buildings) 1989-92; The Institute for Responsible Management’s cooperative agreement to track EPA’s Brownfield Pilots program (1993-2000); the Institute for Environmental Health Risk (IEHR) focused on reproductive and developmental health risks (1990-1992); and the New York Academy of Sciences’ New York/New Jersey Harbor Project.  (1998-2008).   
Additionally,  from 1975-80 he worked for Cummins Engine Company and became its Vice-President for Public Policy and Cummins’ chief environmental officer.
Dr. Powers is regularly asked to advise diverse national institutions on complex ethical and social/technical issues involving national environmental challenges.  For example, the federal Blue Ribbon Commission on Nuclear Waste has asked his advice in September 2010 on stakeholder participation/siting dilemmas associated with the disposition of high level nuclear waste and used fuel.

Click here to visit the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering website.