Oregon State University maintains one of the nation’s leading programs in radioecology, the study of the long-term impact of radioactive isotopes on the environment. Research on this topic goes back to the 1950s when agricultural scientists at OSU and elsewhere in the United States were confronting questions about how to manage radioactivity in the environment.
With memories of the Fukushima nuclear disaster still fresh, radioactive pollution can generate strong feelings among members of the public. So when questions arise about health impacts on humans and other organisms, Kathryn Higley can find herself in the media spotlight.
As concern about climate change has grown, nuclear energy — long a polarizing subject — has gained increasing favorability. Its low carbon footprint, reliable power supply and strong safety record convinced many critics that nuclear power should be a bigger part of our energy mix.