Going nuclear in Alaska: Past…and Future?

This is a photo of preparations for the Cannikin nuclear test on Amchitka Island in 1971. Amchitka is the southern most of the Rat Islands in the Aleutian Island chain. Since the photo was produced by a US federal government employee, it is in the public domain. The photo is dated December 31, 1970.

The UAA Japan Center will host a public event remembering the effects of dropping a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan during World War II, and the underground testing of a nuclear weapon on Amchitka Island in Alaska in 1971. The free public event is Saturday, September 14 from 4-6 p.m. at the Anchorage Museum Auditorium.

Both of these nuclear uses remain controversial in human history. In addition, the March 11, 2011 failure of a nuclear power complex at Fukushima, Japan—a plant using technologies from the 1950s—has further chilled public interest in nuclear energy to meet demands of modern life.

Guests from Saturday’s event will focus on nuclear disarmament.

But beyond the story that history tells, technology continues to advance. Today, new smaller-scale nuclear power plants are being developed. Some Alaskans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, have identified these developments as potentially significant for the high-cost energy demands in Alaska, including rural communities.

To update our audience on these developments, we will turn to a UAF design engineer and founder of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, a research center that focuses on community-scale fossil and renewable/alternative energy technologies. Specific areas of emphasis include power systems integration for microgrids, hydrokinetic energy, low temperature geothermal, and diesel efficiency.

Join us to remember nuclear energy’s difficult past, and how to think about its re-emergence in the future. Your calls and emails are welcome throughout the hour.

HOST: Kathleen McCoy


  • Kathleen Sullivan, 30-year advocate for disarmament, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, weekend speaker
  • Bruce Wright, senior scientist, Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, weekend panelist
  • Gwen Holdmann, founder and director of Alaska Center for Power and Energy, University of Alaska Fairbanks


  • ‘Why a bomb test in the Aleutians still strikes fear in workers 46 years later,’ Anchorage Daily News, opinion by Charles Wolforth, 1.26.2017
  • 1971 Cannikin explosion on You Tube: ‘6.8 earthquake simulated by underground nuclear explosion.’
  • ‘Hiroshima’ book by John Hersey, 1946 Wikipedia
  • ‘An opportunity for nuclear energy in Alaska,’ opinion commentary by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Anchorage Daily News, April 13, 2019
  • ‘As advanced US reactors move closer to reality, DOE seeks fuel to power them,’ Utility Dive, January 9, 2019
  • ‘Cost Competitiveness of Micro-Reactors for remote markets,’ National Energy Institute report, April 15, 2019
  • ‘Small scale modular nuclear power: an option for Alaska?’ 2011 report by the UAF Alaska Center for Energy and Power, Gwen Holdmann, director.
  • ‘The Answer: Why only inherently safe, mini nuclear power plants can save the world, by Reese Palley, 2011
  • ‘The Firecracker Boys,’ by Dan O’Neill, the story of a plan by the Atomic Energy Commission to use a thermonuclear blast to create a harbor along the Alaska coast in the 1950s, published 1994.
  • Beir VII: Health risks from exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation, report from the Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board.


  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
  • Send e-mail to hometown@alaskapublic.org before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
  • Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air
  • LIVE: Monday, September 16, 2019 at 2:00 p.m
  • RE-AIR: Monday, September 16, 2019 at 8:00 p.m.
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