John Abrefah

Who you are and what your job title is – name, title, and any specialty area/s.

John Abrefah, Ph.D. - Senior Engineer I am proficient in nuclear and engineering materials performance degradation and stabilization. I have expertise in the area of nuclear fuel cycle chemistry and the characterization of irradiated nuclear materials for scientific and engineering performance issues that support environmental remediation projects and/or advancement of nuclear technologies. I am an experimental scientist and have experience in variety of scientific analytical tools to interrogate materials for their environmental behaviors.

Why you were interested in the agency – how did you choose the DNFSB?

When I made the decision to leave the National Laboratory for my next career endeavor, I went through a thought process of what should be my next meaningful and career challenge. After careful evaluation I concluded that I should continue to work in the nuclear science and technology industry to be able to tap into my years of experience, but that my actual job responsibility should be different and at the same time relevant. Finally, I settled on the safety aspect of the industry and so I applied to the Board and NRC. When I applied to join the Board I also contacted some professional colleagues I know in Japan, and they offered me a sabbatical opportunity to join them for developing the nuclear fuel and testing matrix for the proposed actinide burner fast reactors. After careful examination and with input from my family, I settled on coming to the Board because of the important role of the Board in ensuring safety at the Department of the Energy Nuclear Facility Complex.

Overview of work/education before joining the agency – where are you originally from in the country, where you went to school (if young in career), and what, if any job experience did you have before coming to the DNFSB.

I am originally from Ghana in West Africa. I received my Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering in 1987 and an MS in Nuclear Engineering in 1982 from the University of California, Berkeley. I completed my undergraduate studies in 1981 at the University of Manchester, Manchester, England where I obtained a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Nuclear Engineering. Prior to joining the Board in 2008, I was a staff scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, Washington for about 15 years. I started as Senior Research Engineer and became the Team Lead for the Radiomaterials Chemistry Group. Before joining PNNL I worked with Professor Don Olander at University of California, Berkeley, first as a Post-doctoral Researcher and later as Research Engineer on nuclear material degradation.

What is the best work aspect of your job – what is a unique experience the agency offers you?

With my research background and broad technical experience, the best part of my job is to assess the technical basis of DOE and its contractors’ analysis of technical information and standards that support the identification of barriers designed to protect the public. This sometimes offer the challenges of staying focus on what is important to explicitly assess the effectiveness of information provided to ensure that the barriers presented can protect the public, workers and environment.

What is the best public service aspect of your job – what is important to you in terms of giving back?

The most important public aspect of my job is the technical responsibility to ensure that the operations of DOE defense nuclear facilities do not increase the safety risk of the public.

What is the best people aspect of your job – who do you get to work with?

The best part of my job is the diversified skilled staff and the continuous challenge to intellectually assess the variety of DOE and its contractors’ operational activities. Who you think will enjoy working at the agency – what type of personality thrives – curious, flexible, self-starter, committed to excellence, continual learner, working in teams, etc. The person who has a broad base of intellectual scientific abilities and curiosity with practical experiences in research operations and engineering practices will enjoy working at the Board. Individuals with knowledge in nuclear science and engineering, human performance and investigative progression of scientific phenomenon processes will find the oversight role to be rewarding.