Penn honored with American Nuclear Society service award

Engineer stands out as nuclear energy leader, advisor and visionary

November 29, 2021


Robert F. Penn Jr. was recognized with the American Nuclear Society’s (ANS) Milton Levenson Distinguished Service Award for his dedication to nuclear science and technology and the society.

According to the citation, Penn has provided “untiring and continued support for the mission of nuclear energy for over 45 years with ANS as a leader, an advisor, a hard worker, a friend, and a visionary.”

Penn is a project engineer currently supporting TA-55 capital projects with the Associate Laboratory Directorate for Plutonium Infrastructure (ALDPI). He was deployed to ALDPI from the Associate Laboratory Directorate of Facilities and Operations (ALDFO).

“In his two-and-a-half years supporting the TA-55 capital projects engineering group, Robert has made a significant impact as a valued resource,” said Mark Anthony, ALD for Plutonium Infrastructure. “We were very happy to learn that the American Nuclear Society has recognized his extensive contributions to our sector. Robert is well-known across ALDPI and ALDFO as someone who can always be relied on to provide guidance and share his expertise and insights with the team.”

Serving public and private organizations

For most of his career, Penn worked for commercial nuclear power plants, both boiling water and pressurized water reactors. He joined the Laboratory in 2019 as a project engineer to help with sweeping changes at complex Los Alamos nuclear facilities in support of expanding plutonium missions.

Penn has worked for other U.S. Department of Energy projects including the U.S. ITER fusion project with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the DUF6 conversion project in Ohio and the Advanced Test Reactor project at Idaho National Laboratory.

Throughout his career, he’s been part of small, select teams solving pressing challenges. “I’ve been involved with those Friday at 3 p.m. situations that resulted in staying through the evenings and weekends to recover and resolve the event,” he said.

Society leader in many roles

Penn holds a bachelor’s in nuclear engineering from the University of Illinois-Urbana and a
bachelor’s in physics from Western Illinois University.

As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Penn joined ANS and served the society in several capacities. In 2014, he received the ANS Presidential Citation for his leadership in national and international local sections, and was a key member working details with ANS headquarters in 2017 to organize the legal, administrative and business aspects of successfully transferring and incorporating the ANS from the State of New York to Illinois.

As a guest lecturer, Penn presented power plant refueling seminars at three universities: the University of Illinois, BYU-Provo and Kansas State. He also serves on the University of Illinois’s Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) Constituent Alumni and Industry Advisory Board. He was honored by the University of Illinois in 2019 as a distinguished alumnus for his NPRE advocacy.

Awards ceremony in December

Penn will be honored at the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 2. Other recipients receiving awards at the meeting include former Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz and former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director John Browne.

The American Nuclear Society is an international professional organization of engineers and scientists devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. The society’s more than 9,500 members represent government, academia, research laboratories, medical facilities, and private industry. ANS’s mission is to advance, foster, and spur the development and application of nuclear science, engineering, and technology to benefit society. It was established in 1954.