Dana A. Powers received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1970. He received a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Economics in 1975 from the California Institute of Technology. His research for this degree program included magnetic properties of basic iron compounds, catalyst characterization and the rational pricing of innovative products. In 1974, Powers joined Sandia National Laboratories where he worked in the Chemical Metallurgy Division. His principal research interests were in high temperature and aggressive chemical processes. In 1981, he became the supervisor of the Reactor Safety Research Division and conducted analytic and experimental studies of severe reactor accident phenomena in fast reactors and light water reactors. These studies included examinations of core debris interactions with concrete, sodium interactions with structural materials, fission product chemistry under reactor accident conditions, aerosol physics, and high temperature melt interactions with coolants. In 1991, Powers became the acting Manager of the Nuclear Safety Department at Sandia that was involved in the study of fission reactor accident risks and the development of plasma-facing components for fusion reactors. Powers has also worked on the Systems Engineering for recovery and processing of defense nuclear wastes and has developed computer models for predicting worker risks in Department of Energy nuclear facilities. Powers conducted analyses of accident phenomena for safety analyses of the Cassini and New Horizons deep space probes. Dr. Powers was promoted to Senior Scientist at Sandia in 1997. Dr. Powers is the author of 126 technical publications. He is a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society. Dr. Powers retired from Sandia National Laboratories in 2015.
From 1988 to 1991, Dr. Powers served as a member of the Department of Energy Advisory Committee on Nuclear Facility Safety (ACNFS). In 1994, he was appointed to the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He was Vice Chairman of the ACRS in 1997 and 1998. He was elected Chairman in 1999 and 2000. In 2001, Dr. Powers received the Distinguished Service Award from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Dr. Powers served on committees for the National Research Council involved with the safety of Department of Energy facilities and the nuclear safety of reactors in the former Soviet Union. He has been an instructor for courses on reactor safety and accident management held by the International Atomic Energy Agency in several countries. Dr. Powers received the Theos J. (Tommy) Thompson Award for Nuclear Safety in 2007 from the American Nuclear Society “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of nuclear reactor safety”.
In 2015, Dr. Powers was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.