CCST Senior Fellow David Okrent Dies at 90
CCST Senior Fellow Dr. David Okrent
CCST Senior Fellow Dr. David Okrent, Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of
California, Los Angeles and world renowned nuclear physicist and expert on nuclear reactor safety,
died at his home in Los Angeles on December 14, 2012, after a sudden illness. He was 90.
Dr. Okrent obtained his MS and PhD degrees in Physics from Harvard University. He worked at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois for twenty years, initially focusing on
designing the reactor for the Nautilus Nuclear Powered Submarine; later he concentrated on fast reactor physics
and safety. While at Argonne, Dr. Okrent also designed
the TREAT Reactor, for which he got a commendation from the Atomic Energy Commission. He was selected to
serve on the ACRS (Advisory Committee For Reactor Safeguards),
which advised the Atomic Energy Commission (now Nuclear Regulatory Commission) on issues related to
nuclear safety, in 1963, and continued to serve for on the ACRS for 24 years.
In 1971, Dr. Okrent left Argonne National Laboratory to establish the Department of Nuclear
Engineering at UCLA, where he became Professor of Engineering and Applied Science. At UCLA, Okrent
and his graduate students utilized quantitative safety goals in researching other environmental
risks such as hazardous waste removal and transport, earthquakes, dams breaking etc. He retired
from UCLA in 1991, but continued teaching classes and mentoring graduate students for several years
Dr. Okrent received many prestigious awards during his long career: he won two Guggenheim
Fellowships (1961-62 and 1977-78), received the first Argonne Universities Association Distinguished
Appointment Award in 1970, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1974 (which Okrent
considered as the greatest honor for an engineer) and, was the first to receive the (ANS) Tommy
Thompson Award for nuclear reactor safety in 1980. He also received the USNRC Distinguished
Service Medal in 1985 and the (ANS) Glenn Seaborg Award in 1987. In November 2007, Dr. Okrent was
honored by the American Nuclear Society with the prestigious George C. Laurence Pioneering Award.
Dr. Okrent is survived by his three children, Neil, Nina and Jocelyne and by four grandchildren. His
beloved wife of 57 years, Rita, died in 2005. A memorial service was held for him on Monday,
December 17th at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles.
Later this year, a memorial event for Dr. Okrent will be held at UCLA in
honor of his career.
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