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Noble Prize Helps American Promote Nuclear Safety Around the World

Ken E. Brockman discusses the challenges and rewards of establishing energy strategies for the 21st century
 
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  • <strong>Ken E. Brockman</strong>
    JASPER, GA, July 22, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/ --- A little over three decades ago, when nuclear energy was still a far-fetched concept many associated with science fiction, Ken E. Brockman landed his first job as a power plant operator. His mother was understandably concerned. "The first day that I qualified as an operator of a nuclear power plant," an amused Mr. Brockman recalled in an interview with Cambridge Who's Who, "she calls up and says, 'Are you afraid to be doing what you're doing?' At that time I said, 'No, I am not afraid. But I am very respectful.'"

Cognizant even then that the benefits of nuclear power also came with real hazards, he always imbued his efforts with a keen sense of personal responsibility and a meticulousness that took no detail for granted. Thirty years after his mother's phone call, this same respect for his profession continues to drive his work at the helm of MEM, LLC, a firm that specializes in safety and managerial consulting for the American and international nuclear industry. It is the culmination of a career trajectory that spanned continents and included a memorable 2005 stopover in Oslo, where he joined the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.

A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Brockman began his career as an armored cavalry officer in the First Armored Division, serving in Europe for three years. He was stationed in Fort Knox upon his return to the United States and worked primarily in advanced weapon designs with the Armor Engineering Board. Mr. Brockman left the Army in 1979 and joined Westinghouse Electric Corporation, where he found his military background to be especially helpful. "The need for safety in [nuclear] facilities is so great that you must be able to present strong leadership skills. This [tied in with] the studies that you got at the military academy and the experience that you had as a military officer," he explained.

His ability to lead and communicate his vision to others also served him well in his stint with the United Nations. Based in Vienna with the IAEA from 2003 to 2006, Mr. Brockman served as the director of nuclear installation safety and led the division that was responsible for developing safety standards for nuclear facilities around the world. One may say he honed his diplomatic skills during this period, traveling to multiple countries on assist missions to help individual facilities implement new regulations. The science was actually the easy part. "Nuclear science is nuclear science throughout the world," Mr. Brockman surmised. "But when you look culturally at how the applications in other countries are seen and applied for their individual citizenry, that's when the creativity [has] to come about. I had to find new ways to do my tasks." Despite the challenges that beset him, he considers helping developing countries establish energy strategies for the 21st century to be among the highlights of his career.

Fulfilled by his work for the federal government and the UN, Mr. Brockman returned from Austria in 2006 with the conclusion that there was only one thing left for him to do. "It seemed logical at that point to try to be of service to the industry as an individual," he shared. He then established MEM, LLC, and has since imparted his expertise to nuclear facility operators and national regulatory authorities across the U.S. and the world. The firm counts among its clients the Arizona Public Service, the Omaha Public Power District, Southern Company, Southern California Edison, the Republic of South Africa and, in a smaller capacity, France's Areva power conglomerate.

Looking back on all that he has achieved, Mr. Brockman believes that his greatest role has been that of a manager, setting up the kind of environment in which others with technical capabilities can contribute as best they can. The consummate team player, he maintains that his success simply comes down to two things. "First is a willingness to give of yourself - the team is more important than the individual, the task is more important than your part [in] it," he said. "And [you have to be] willing at all times to recognize the contributions of others. If you're focused in this way, you can't do anything but succeed."

Not to say that Mr. Brockman hasn't been recognized for his contributions, too. In addition to the Nobel that he received with the IAEA, he was honored with a Meritorious Service Award and a Presidential Rank Award for Senior Executive Service as a member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "It's been most humbling but it's been very gratifying too," conceded Mr. Brockman, "that your contributions are seen by others as having made a difference."

Inextricable from his work experience, Mr. Brockman's academic background is as varied as the offices that he held. He completed three terms in chemical engineering at the University of Louisville prior to earning his bachelor of science in general engineering and mathematics at West Point. As a professional, he fulfilled postgraduate studies in nuclear engineering through Westinghouse Electric Corporation and obtained a master of public administration from The American University.

Ken E. Brockman may be reached via email at brockman_ken@hotmail.com.

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