Q&A Blog, Mar. 3, 2021

Getting Prepped for #WMSym 2021

Next week, two Deep Isolation company leaders, Chief Operating Officer Rod Baltzer and Director of Partnerships Jim Hamilton, will be presenting at Waste Management Symposia 2021, an annual conference that provides an opportunity for education and information exchange among those in the radwaste industry.

For this year’s event, featuring the theme “Reducing Risk Through Sound Technical Solutions,” Baltzer will highlight the results of a recently published EPRI report in his session, “Disposal of Radioactive Wastes from Advanced Reactors in Horizontal Boreholes.” The session is part of the High-Level Radioactive Waste, Spent Nuclear Fuel/Used Nuclear Fuel track, 7 a.m. to 10:10 a.m. PST on March 11. Hamilton will participate in the panel session, “Stakeholder Involvement in Consolidated ISF Storage, Disposal, and Transportation Initiatives,” 7-8:30 a.m. PST, also on March 11.

To help conference attendees get to know Baltzer and Hamilton, we sat down with them for a short Q&A.

Rod Baltzer Headshot
Chief Operating Officer, Rod Baltzer
Jim Hamilton Headshot
Director of Partnerships, Jim Hamilton

Q: Let’s get to know you both a bit. Why did you choose careers in something as challenging as nuclear waste disposal? What keeps you inspired each day?

Rod:  I think nuclear waste chose me.  I got a degree in accounting and agricultural economics.  After working in public accounting, I worked for a company that owned a nuclear waste company.  It was fascinating, and I really enjoyed working on the issue and have been in the nuclear waste industry ever since. 

Jim:  In the literature, nuclear waste is described as a “wicked problem.”  Any attempt at a fix requires balancing technology, policy and pragmatism combined with a deep appreciation of the societal issues surrounding nuclear energy.  It also requires forming collaborations and partnerships across sectors, cultures and disciplines.  Sure it’s not for the faint of heart, but I find it fascinating and feel lucky to be working toward a solution.

Q: If I’m a first-time WM Symposia attendee, what should I expect? What are some highlights, learnings etc. from past conferences?

Rod: I can’t imagine attending WMS for the first time in a virtual format.  I’ve attended the conference for the last 15 years, and I’m not sure what to expect this year.  Typically, you have about 3,000 people from around the world in a large exhibit space with hundreds of exhibitors. There’s really good content and intriguing new ideas and discussions. The best part is randomly meeting new people and then seeing them every year after that. 

Jim: I agree with Rod. The real learning comes from the interactions in the hallways, meeting new people, then building on those relationships in the future.

Q. When you think of this year’s theme, “Reducing Risk Through Sound Technical Solutions,” what’s top of mind for you in terms of your respective roles at Deep Isolation?

Rod: Deep Isolation believes that fitting the right disposal solution to the right situation can allow disposal to be accomplished sooner and more cost-effectively.  Borehole disposal — whether vertical or horizontal — may provide a safe, cost-effective solution to reduce risk and make progress on waste disposal. 

Jim: I’m a bit of a contrarian. Yes, we need sound technological solutions. Nobody will argue with that.  But technology by itself is only half the issue. In parallel, we need to earn public trust and support.

Q. Let’s give conference attendees a couple of reasons to attend your sessions. Can you share a few high-level goals for what you’d like attendees to learn in your presentations?

Rod: Well, first off, we’re having a swag giveaway for my office hours session. (Sorry, Jim!) So if you show up, you can enter a drawing for your choice of a cool portable speaker or a nifty set of earbuds.

Other than that, I think a discussion about costs for disposal for advanced reactors is very timely. 

Jim: Ok, Rod. Well, I can’t top you on the swag, but I’ll do my best here. I can promise my session will give an update on how we view stakeholder engagement and its importance in supporting our overall mission.

Q. Aside from your sessions, is there a session that you’re particularly looking forward to attending? Tell us why.

Rod: I like the Plenary sessions and am looking forward to a session on the cleanup of Fukushima in Japan.

Jim: I’m a fan of the student poster sessions.  It’s always invigorating to see new ideas and innovations coming from national and international research institutions.

The virtual Waste Management Symposia is set for March 8-12. Register or learn more about sessions and speakers. See Swag Bag Giveaway contest rules here.