Natalie Cannon

Ph.D. Student Natalie Cannon Participates in 2023 Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation

October 11, 2023
By Chloe Arrington

Natalie Cannon, a third-year Ph.D. student in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, recently participated in the Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation (NESD). 

First formed in 1994, the NESD is an independently organized, student-run program, where students studying nuclear science and engineering receive hands-on experience with the political process, learning how they can positively impact the future of nuclear energy, policy, education, and research. 

As part of the NESD, Cannon and other members of the 2023 Delegation traveled to Washington D.C. to discuss current nuclear legislation with policymakers such as members of Congress, White House representatives, and the Department of Energy.  

The delegation began with the group taking two days to discuss and outline a policy memo that details the delegation’s stance on current nuclear policies. Individual delegates then scheduled meetings with congressional offices in their state(s) to discuss the policy statement with them and learn more about the representative’s nuclear energy goals. 

“I started the week apprehensive about whether or not I would be able to make much of an impact,” said Cannon. “I was coming as a student; I wasn’t sure if very many people would take my opinion and what I was advocating for seriously.” 

During the session, Cannon met with members of the National Security Council, the Office of Budget Management, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, a highlight for Cannon. 

“We were able to have an incredible meeting in the White House about the current administration’s stance on nuclear power and international nuclear policy,” she said. 

Cannon expressed how, as a Ph.D. student with a focus in nuclear nonproliferation studies, it was incredible to ask questions directly related to her research and see how it is relevant to current international nuclear policy that the U.S. is involved in. 

Cannon concluded the delegation by spending the final day meeting with congressional offices about the NESD policy statement. She met with seven offices, including both Georgia senators and House Representative Nikema Williams. 

Though she was initially nervous about these meetings, Cannon was pleased that each meeting was extremely productive, and she was proud to promote the NESD policy statement as well as clear up a lot of misconceptions surrounding nuclear energy.  

Cannon is still in active communication with the offices she met with and is now working with Senator Raphael Warnock’s office to help develop a bipartisan bill to amend portions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that he plans on co-sponsoring with senators from Idaho and Nevada. 

Along with her research, Cannon is excited to continue this work and see how she can contribute to nuclear policy in the future, urging anyone interested to apply for the NESD next year.