Pawnee teacher learns the ins and outs of modern uranium mining
Jul 28, 2010 | 1903 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kathy Naylor of Pawnee ISD gained first-hand experience from experts in the mining and nuclear energy fields at the third annual Texas Mining and Reclamation Association (TMRA) uranium mining teacher workshop held July 19 through 23 in Corpus Christi.

Naylor was one of 19 science teachers selected out of hundreds of applications received by TMRA to participate in the all-expense-paid workshop.

“[Naylor] has been a tremendous asset,” said Pawnee principal Demetrio Garcia. “She’s very passionate about teaching science, so any training she goes to will be useful to our students.”

The teachers spent five days with industry experts learning the ins and outs of uranium mining, including exploration, mining techniques, permitting, groundwater protection and land reclamation.

“Teachers learned about how the uranium located in this region was deposited as a result of volcanic ash clouds settling from eruptions in Mexico and the Big Bend region millions of years ago,” said Naylor. “The uranium “dusts” sand particles in sandy sediments that are now 300-500 feet underground. At the conference, the presenters debunked many common misconceptions the public has about the safety of nuclear power.”

Teachers were also given a tour of a fully operational uranium mine operated by Mesteña Uranium, LLC.

“One interesting thing that we observed at the Mestena Mine was how the engineers look at the color of the stratigraphic layers as one indicator for uranium deposits,” said Naylor. “More nuclear reactors are being planned for Texas, and this presents the opportunity for jobs for those who qualify.”

This year’s workshop paid particular attention to providing teachers with resources they can use when advising students interested in careers in the mining and nuclear fields.

“At Pawnee ISD, we place great emphasis on the math and science curriculum in order to give our students the foundation they need to become the nuclear, electrical, chemical, mechanical, and industrial engineers of tomorrow,” Naylor said.

Wayne Kinnison, associate professor of physics at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and advisory committee member of the Nuclear Power Institute, led an in-depth session on nuclear power and nuclear-related disciplines.

Kinnison stressed the dire need for skilled workers in the nuclear industry and urged workshop participants to inform their students of the tremendous employment opportunities available within the field.

A typical nuclear power plant has 450 positions available that require only a two-year degree, he said.

“The goal of this year’s workshop has really been to provide teachers with the tools they need to advise students who might be interested in pursuing a career in the nuclear industry,” TMRA Education Director Francye Hutchins said. “These students have many options open to them that do not necessarily require your typical four-year college degree.

“Our goal is to educate these teachers about our industry and the many employment and educational opportunities available to interested students.”

Naylor will receive state-approved professional development credits for her participation in the workshop, which is aligned with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for grades four through 12.

“I learned that several colleges in Texas located near the mining and reactor sites have excellent programs in place to provide training for jobs in the nuclear industry,” Naylor said. “As a result of this workshop, I hope to be able to spark curiosity in my students about this natural resource that holds much promise for the future.

“I received a wealth of ideas on how to make this happen.”

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July 29, 2010