Cynthia Pederson was introduced as the newest member of the Health Physics Board of Advisors on May 2, when she met with students and spoke about the role of nuclear regulators during a visit to Illinois Institute of Technology’s Mies Campus.
Pederson spent more than 30 years working with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, retiring in January 2018 as the NRC Region III regional administrator overseeing the inspections of 23 nuclear power plants in eight states, as well as the licensing and inspections of more than 1,000 radioactive materials handlers.
Pederson says she is excited to join the board of advisors after receiving an invitation from S.Y. Chen, senior lecturer and director of the Master of Health Physics program.
“I was not out looking for an opportunity like this, but I think this is a very worthy program,” Pederson says. “Health physics, as a discipline, has a major shortage, and working with a strong program like this one could support an intake of new talent.”
Pederson says she is intrigued by next year’s expansion of the program, when it will begin offering a master’s degree in Radiological Security, Emergency Preparedness, and Response. It’s an area of expertise in which she is well versed, as part of her NRC duties included working with the Incident Response Center.
“I’m not aware of another program where emergency preparedness and response is embedded into an academic curriculum,” she says. “A lot of emergency preparedness training is homegrown.”
Chen says he has long sought to have a regulator from the NRC join the board of advisors, and is pleased to welcome Pederson, specifically, as Illinois was one of the states under her watch. Illinois has the most commercial nuclear power plants in the United States, with 11 reactors operating at six sites generating about 50 percent of the state’s electricity.
“Nuclear regulation is a big part of the program, and regulators have a different point of view than licensees,” he says. “And I always have respected the NRC. If you ask me, they are the most organized federal agency, and they are the most focused federal agency. We’re very fortunate to have [Pederson] join the board.”