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In honor of Women’s History Month, TerraPower wants to celebrate the important contributions of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The nuclear field has been shaped by transformational work – both past and present.

Women Contributors to Nuclear Science

There have been many women throughout history who have advanced STEM fields in momentous ways and set the stage for researchers and scientists who came in their wake. With TerraPower’s focus on the development of the next generation of nuclear reactors and potentially lifesaving isotope treatments, we would like to acknowledge a few women whose contributions to nuclear science have helped make today’s innovations possible:

First, Lise Meitner discovered the physical process behind nuclear fission alongside her collaborator, Otto Hahn, in the 1930s. While Hahn was the sole recipient of a 1944 Nobel Prize for their work, Meitner’s investigations of nuclear fission must be acknowledged as one of the most significant developments in nuclear energy. Secondly, Chien-Shiung Wu, a physicist best known for her 1950s “Wu Experiment,” challenged the long-held conservation of parity theory. For this work, she received the Nobel Prize in 1957. Additionally, Shirley Ann Jackson is a noted physicist and the first Black woman to receive a doctorate from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jackson is also known for her advocacy work that supported students of color and women. Time magazine referred to Jackson as “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science.”

Whether under-celebrated or widely regarded as pioneers in their respective fields, women continue to shape the face and trajectory of STEM in our world.

Women in TerraPower Leadership

While TerraPower’s efforts are supported by many outstanding women, Kristine Svinicki, Marcia Burkey, Tara Neider and Irene Hsieh hold leadership roles and have significantly shaped the trajectory of the company. They carry forward the story of women in STEM, building upon the work of their predecessors and carving out new chapters as they move forward in their careers today.

Kristine Svinicki is an internationally recognized policy expert and innovator with over 30 years of public service at the state and federal levels. Currently serving on TerraPower’s board of directors, she has a demonstrated record of success gathering diverse coalitions to move solutions to our most complex energy and environmental challenges from concept to reality. Appointed to her role by three successive United States presidents, Svinicki is the longest-serving member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the agency’s history, having stepped down as Chairman in early 2021. Svinicki holds a bachelor’s in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan.

Marcia Burkey is TerraPower’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. She is responsible for a myriad of essential processes at the company, including finance operations, human resources, procurement and contracts and commercial development, and was instrumental in TerraPower’s historic $830 million capital raise in 2022. Before entering her role at TerraPower, she spent time in Venture capital and in investment banking as well as served as senior vice president and Partner of Bechtel and CFO of Bechtel Enterprises. Burkey has served on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee (CINTAC), providing guidance on the most pressing trade issues facing the U.S. civil nuclear sector. She holds advanced degrees from Macalester College and Columbia University.

Tara Neider is the senior vice president and project director for the Natrium™ demonstration reactor at TerraPower. In this role, she leads TerraPower’s efforts to demonstrate the Natrium reactor as part of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. Her team is responsible for plant design, testing, licensing, design integration, procurement and project leadership and administration. Ultimately, Neider serves as the leader of this cohort of professionals that will bring the next generation of nuclear technology to market. She holds advanced degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University.

Irene Hsieh serves as the vice president of finance and accounting. In this role, Hsieh leads a team responsible for government compliance, shareholder reporting, payroll, benefits, corporate planning and financial systems. She has 25 years of experience across government compliance, international joint venture, fundraising, cost optimization, risk management and corporate strategic planning. In addition to financial and operational expertise, she has led various transformational initiatives such as the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system transition. Hsieh holds an advanced degree from the University of Washington. She is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Washington State. 

Kristine, Marcia, Tara and Irene, who have blazed unique career trajectories of their own, have simultaneously built upon and carried forward the professional endeavors of women in STEM who came before them, including nuclear energy production and research.

Thank you to all of the TerraPower women who propel our mission forward, including our board members and leadership team. You help to push our company forward while we strive to provide the world with safe, clean and affordable energy, eradicate energy poverty and develop the next generation of isotopes.