Whittaker recognized for contributions to nuclear energy

Inside of a nuclear reactor.

Whittaker is credited with significant contributions to develop standards related to the seismic isolation of nuclear reactor technology. 

By Peter Murphy

Published September 8, 2023

Andrew S. Whittaker, SUNY Distinguished Professor in civil, structural and environmental engineering, is the inaugural recipient of the American Nuclear Society’s (ANS) Untermyer & Cisler Reactor Technology Medal.


According to ANS, this medal “recognizes an individual who has made outstanding scientific, engineering or management contributions to the advancement of nuclear reactor technology.”

ANS honored Whittaker for his leadership in developing seismic isolation technology and the regulatory framework to deploy this technology in nuclear energy facilities, like advanced, micro and large light water reactors.

“A goal of this work is to standardize nuclear reactors, enabling their deployment at an unprecedented scale to help achieve climate targets,” Whittaker says.

Whittaker chairs the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Nuclear Standards Committee. He has written contractor reports for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission and is writing a topical report on seismic isolation for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by Southern Company. Whittaker has also led the effort to develop ASCE standards, including ASCE 4 and 43, for safety-related nuclear facilities, authoring stand-alone chapters on seismic isolation in each standard.

In recent years, Whittaker has expanded the scope of his engagement with the nuclear energy industry. For the past few years, he has worked with non-profit climate action NGO TerraPraxis, architectural and engineering consultancy Bryden Wood, the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Microsoft, and KPMG on a global effort to repower 2TWe (terrawatts) of coal plants using advanced nuclear technologies. He serves on the TerraPraxis Board of Directors, as well.

Andrew S. Whittaker.

SUNY Distinguished Professor Andrew Whittaker. 

This is the third time in the last six years that Whittaker has been recognized for his contributions to the energy sector. In 2017, he received the Stephen D. Bechtel Jr. Energy Award from ASCE for promoting the safe design and operation of nuclear power plants and Department of Energy facilities. In April 2023, he received the ASCE Nathan M. Newmark Medal for fundamental contributions to earthquake, blast, impact, and performance-based engineering for buildings and mission-critical infrastructure, including advanced nuclear reactors.

The Untermyer & Cisler Reactor Technology Medal combines three independent awards recognizing recipients for different achievements associated with nuclear energy and technology. The Samuel Untermeyer II Medal recognized pioneering work in the development of safe, water-cooled nuclear power reactors, and was established to honor Samuel Untermeyer II in 2004. The Walker Lee Cisler Medal recognized an individual for outstanding scientific or engineering research achievement or management of a project associated with the design, development, or deployment of fast reactor technologies. This medal was established in 1991 to honor Walker Lee Cisler. The Reactor Technology Award recognized individual’s original and outstanding contributions to the advancement of nuclear technology and was established in 1993 at the request of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan. Whittaker is the first structural engineer to receive any of these ANS awards.

Whittaker joined UB in 2001. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Federal Highway Administration, among others. He received his doctorate in structural engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.