Frank Lee "Skip" Bowman, SM '73
Championing a future for nuclear energy
Admiral Skip Bowman places two priorities squarely at the top in his life: spending time with his family and promoting nuclear power as a solution to both global warming and the nation’s energy needs.
Bowman stepped into his current role as president and CEO of the nuclear industry’s policy organization, the Nuclear Energy Institute, in 2005 after a successful 38-year career in the U.S. Navy. During that career, he served as director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program for nearly a decade. At the same time, he was the deputy administrator of naval reactors in the National Nuclear Security Administration at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In these dual positions, Bowman headed operations of 103 reactors aboard aircraft carriers and submarines, as well as four training sites and two DOE laboratories. When he was a ship commander, Bowman’s crews won many awards, including five “E” Ribbon awards for battle efficiency.
Bowman acknowledges widespread concerns about civilian nuclear power plants, such as the potential for nuclear proliferation and the problem of storing used fuel rods. But he believes that recycling methods now being tested could solve those problems. He says the new techniques would harvest up to 90 percent of the rods’ energy while binding the plutonium waste product to elements that render the plutonium unusable in nuclear weapons.
He is as ardent an advocate for safety as any devoted family man. He married his high-school sweetheart, Linda, in 1966, and they now live in Arlington, VA; their two grown children each have three children. “The family plays a huge role in my life,” says Bowman, who especially likes to swim with his grandkids.
Family life was more stressful when Bowman attended MIT. “I found myself on a rapidly spinning treadmill with two babies at home who cried all night, but only when I had a test the next day,” he recalls. Today he maintains close ties with MIT, serving on the Nuclear Engineering Visiting Committee and counting among his friends several faculty members in nuclear science and engineering.
Bowman is optimistic that the 31 new U.S. nuclear plants now being planned by utility companies will be as safe as the submarine fleets he once commanded. He says, “I feel that what I’m doing now is an extension of what I’ve done for 38 years: helping to ensure the security of the country for my children and their children.”