Prize Recipient

Recipient Picture

Robert J. Budnitz
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (retired)


"For outstanding leadership in formulating and guiding the US Nuclear Regulatory Research program in areas of reactor safety, waste management, and fuel-cycle safety, and for significantly advancing seismic probabilistic risk assessments as applied to nuclear power worldwide."


Robert J. Budnitz has mainly been involved with nuclear-reactor safety and radioactive-waste safety, with one emphasis being on seismic safety. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, the APS, and the Am. Nuclear Society, he remains active after having retired in 2017 from the Univ. of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. From 2002 to 2004 he worked for 2 years in Washington leading the development of a new Science & Technology Program for the DOE Yucca Mountain Project. Prior to 2002, he had a consulting practice in Berkeley CA for over 20 years. In 1978-1980, he was at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as Deputy Director and then Director of the NRC Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research. He was also the technical coordinator of the NRC’s special inquiry into the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. Since 2007, he has served on the State of California’s Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee, reviewing the safety of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. Since 1998 he has been on an international standards committee (that he co-chaired from 2012 to 2021), that develops and maintains methodology standards for probabilistic risk assessment. Earlier, he chaired both the NRC's Expert Panel on Seismic Margins that developed the widely-used seismic-margin methodology for assessing the seismic capabilities of nuclear reactors, and the National Research Council’s Committee on Remediation of Buried and Tank Wastes. For many years, he was heavily involved in assisting eastern-European countries to upgrade their reactors’ safety, including advising the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development on the multi-hundred-million-dollar multi-year safety backfit program for Soviet-designed reactors. B.A. (Yale, 1961) and Ph.D. (Harvard, 1968).