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Penn State Engineers in the Spotlight

In Case of [a Nuclear] Emergency …
Electrical Engineering Alumnus Oversees Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Incident Response Program

February 2014

Scott Morris

Two decades into his career at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Scott Morris (’86 E E) says he feels very blessed. “I absolutely love my job! I work with people from diverse science and engineering backgrounds, and I am challenged every day.”

In 1981, the Southern California native enrolled in the electrical engineering program and applied for a Navy ROTC scholarship at Penn State. He was put on a waiting list because he didn’t have perfect vision. Scott recalls, “I joined the Navy ROTC as a sophomore but still had to fulfill the four-year commitment.” He notes the extra year on campus gave him the opportunity to complete nuclear engineering courses he may not have otherwise taken.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1986, Scott was accepted to the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program. He spent the next year and a half training at a Nuclear Power School in Orlando, a Navy reactor prototype in upstate New York, and Naval Submarine School in Connecticut.

In late 1987, Scott was assigned to a submarine that was still under construction. He spent his first year completing the building and construction, missile testing, and operational phases, followed by two years at a submarine base in Kings Bay, GA. Scott says, “I was the officer in charge of a team of 28 who were responsible for nondestructive testing of critical submarine systems.”

Shortly after the Cold War ended in 1991, the Navy considered a reduction in submarine forces. Scott recalls, “My wife Karen (’87 LIB) and I just had our first daughter. I had met my Navy commitment, so I came off active duty and was fortunate to find a great job at the NRC in early 1993. I’ve been there ever since.”

Scott joined the NRC as a reactor engineer in the agency’s regional office in King of Prussia, PA. During his first year, he learned the craft of supporting the inspection, enforcement, and assessment of power reactors throughout the entire Northeast United States. Through the years, he served as a Senior Resident Inspector at two different power reactor facilities; a Senior Technical Assistant in the Office of the Executive Director for Operations; and Branch Chief and then Deputy Director for Reactor Security in the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response (NSIR), responsible for new and operating power reactor security-related policy and guidance development, rulemaking, and licensing activities.

In May, 2010, Scott was named the NSIR’s Deputy Director for Incident Response. He says, “We maintain the NRC’s emergency operations center, recruit and train people from around the agency to staff the center during exercises and real-world events, and collect lessons learned and feed them back into the program.” Scott has capitalized on opportunities to travel to other countries and collaborate on security and response-related matters. The Fukushima nuclear disaster has ramped up the need for more coordination of these efforts. “I interact with numerous other federal agencies (e.g., FEMA) and White House national security staff every day.”

Scott also oversees the agency’s continuity of operations program. “If there is a situation during which an evacuation is imminent, we have confidential programs to sustain mission-essential agency functions.”

One of Scott’s favorite tasks has been helping to create NRC cyber security requirements. He worked with staff from U.S. national laboratories and even the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, to pool resources and implement industry standards. Scott smiles, “I fancy myself the godfather of cybersecurity for the commercial nuclear industry.”

He and Karen reside in Frederick, MD. They have three children, Megan (’14 COMM), Matthew, and Adrianna.

—Stefanie Tomlinson