Keynote speakers

Professor Vaclav Smil

Professor Vaclav Smil is regarded as one of the most important thought leaders of our time. One of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2010, Smil has spent his career exploring new ground in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment and public policy. Publishing 35 books and over 400 papers, Smil has revolutionized the way the world thinks about its future energy and food needs. In addition to his published research, he has also worked as a consultant for many US, EU and international institutions.

Smil believes it is his duty to bring hard numbers and hard facts to public debates on energy, environmental changes and feeding the world, using them to moderate exaggerated expectations of rapid innovative solutions. An expert on a vast number of global issues, one of Smil’s major concerns has been the history of technical innovation and the speed of energy transitions. In his fascinating work, Smil points out that the modern energy industry constitutes the world’s most massive, most indispensable, most expensive and most inertial infrastructure.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Vaclav Smil is the range of his expertise. In 2013 alone, he published four new books on a wide array of global issues. Harvesting the Biosphere looks at the extent in which we exploit the world’s resources for food and raw materials. Should We Eat Meat? provides a systematic look at the evolution of human carnivorism and modern meat production. Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing explains how manufacturing made the U.S. a superpower and how that achievement is threatened by that sector’s serious weakening. Finally, Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization focuses on material foundations of modern civilization and on more efficient uses of materials.

Engaging and energetic, Vaclav Smil has taken his messages to hundreds of conferences and workshops around the world. This interdisciplinary scholar leads audiences step-by-step through some of the most important issues facing our rapidly changing world. Wishful thinking, Smil believes, is no substitute for recognizing the extraordinary challenges posed by our future energy and food needs and by the necessity to maintain a habitable biosphere. Tirelessly providing the most cutting-edge information on these challenges, Vaclav Smil remains one of worlds the greatest guides to a better future.

Featured speakers

Rep. Mike Simpson, Chairman, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Water and Energy

Michael (Mike) K. Simpson is serving his tenth term in the House of Representatives for Idaho’s Second Congressional District.

Mike serves on the House Appropriations Committee. He is the Chairman for the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. He also serves on the Interior and Environment Subcommittee and the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. These committees have jurisdiction over funding for a number of programs critical to Idaho, including the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, our National Parks, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Smithsonian Institute.

Simpson is one of the House’s leading advocates for a new energy policy and a renewed commitment to research and development of improved nuclear energy technologies. Mike has also gained national attention for his bill to split the massive, overburdened 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as well as his Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act which addresses the concerns of economic growth and stability for rural Idaho and resolves long time wilderness debate over the Boulder-White Clouds and was signed into law in August of 2015.

His political career began in 1980, when he was elected to the Blackfoot City Council. In 1984, he was elected to the Idaho Legislature where he served until 1998, the last six years serving as Speaker. Simpson was born in Burley, Idaho and raised in Blackfoot. He graduated from Utah State University and earned his DMD from Washington University School of Dental Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduation, he joined his father and uncle at the Simpson Family Dental Practice in Blackfoot.

Mike is an avid golfer and enjoys painting. He has been married to his wife Kathy for over 40 years and they live in Idaho Falls. Ashley Finan serves as Project Director for Advanced Energy Systems at Clean Air Task Force. In that role she manages CATF’s advanced nuclear energy project, coordinates studies on energy innovation policy and on advanced energy technologies. She works with the CATF team to develop and implement strategies that facilitate the commercialization of promising energy technologies.

Dr. Ashley Finan, Policy Director, Nuclear Innovation Alliance

Ashley Finan serves as Project Director for Advanced Energy Systems at Clean Air Task Force. In that role she manages CATF’s advanced nuclear energy project, coordinates studies on energy innovation policy and on advanced energy technologies. She works with the CATF team to develop and implement strategies that facilitate the commercialization of promising energy technologies.

Dr. Finan earned her Ph.D. in Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her doctoral work focused on energy innovation investment and policy optimization, both in nuclear and renewable energy technologies. She has played a key role in studies of the use of advanced nuclear energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in several applications, including hydrogen production, coal to liquids processes, and oil production methods.

Dr. Finan has worked as a strategy and engineering consultant, primarily on nuclear energy applications. She also contributed to an analysis of the techno-economic potential of energy efficiency improvements in the residential and commercial sectors and several related topics. Dr. Finan holds an SB degree in Physics as well as SB and SM degrees in Nuclear Science and Engineering from MIT.

Dr. Robert Schleicher, Chief Nuclear Engineer, General Atomics

Dr. Schleicher is a Chief Nuclear Engineer at General Atomics, where he has been an employee for over 40 years. During this time, he has been a contributor and innovator in the fields of nuclear fission, magnetic and inertial fusion and high energy lasers. At present, he is the co-inventor and technical leader for the EM2 nuclear reactor, an advanced helium-cooled, convert and burn reactor.

Dr. Schleicher believes that fission is an essential energy component in the world for the next two centuries. He is working to cross-fertilize technologies and materials from other fields to improve the safety and economics of nuclear fission. His previous experience includes 10 years developing innovative solid-state lasers. He is the co-inventor of the HELLADS high power military laser. Prior to that time, he worked in General Atomics’ Fusion Division and was appointed to the ITER Joint Central Team where he was responsible for tokomak electrical systems. Dr. Schleicher also led a team to develop innovative methods of water purification and desalination with reduced energy consumption. He has a Ph.D. from Cornell University in Applied Physics. He is the author or co-author of over 40 articles and papers on advanced energy production technologies.

Dr. Schleicher is committed to innovation and technology advancement in the energy field. He believes that the engineering and science community must advance substantially new and better concepts in order to have significant influence in the direction of the global nuclear economy. He believes that new ideas are key to attracting talented young minds into the nuclear field to make these technologies a reality.