John J. TaylorFebruary 27, 1922 — December 09, 2013
John J. Taylor, 91, former executive at the Electric Power Research Institute and Westinghouse and expert in nuclear energy technology and safety, died on December 9, 2013, at his residence at the Vi in Palo Alto, California. He was an early pioneer in the development of nuclear power for naval ships and civilian electricity production, a leader in the promotion of nuclear safety and reliability, and a strong supporter of research on the design of a new generation of nuclear power plants.
He began his career in nuclear energy at Kellex Corporation in New York shortly after the end of World War II, during which he served in the Pacific as a naval officer on the destroyer escort USS Carlson. In 1950 he moved to the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was operated by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program under Admiral Hyman Rickover. At Westinghouse, which became a major producer of nuclear reactors, he played a key role in the design of the reactor for the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus launched in 1954, with responsibility for designing and testing the radiation shields to protect the crew. He also contributed to the design of the reactor for the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise.
He then shifted his focus to development and use of nuclear power for civilian electricity production beginning with the first U.S. nuclear-powered electric generating station in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. From 1975 to 1981 he served as vice president of Westinghouse and General Manager of the Water Reactors Divisions Business Unit with responsibility for the company's worldwide commercial nuclear power business.
After more than 3 decades at Westinghouse he moved from Pittsburgh to Palo Alto, California in 1981 to lead the nuclear power division at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) where he served as vice president from 1981 to 1995. While at EPRI he galvanized support for a new generation of more compact nuclear power plants using probabilistic risk assessment.
Mr. Taylor was a member of the American Physical Society and won many awards for his leadership and contributions to nuclear power, including his election as a fellow of the National Academy of Engineering for his "contributions to the application of theoretical methods to nuclear shield and reactor design" and to the American Nuclear Society. In 1993 he received the American Nuclear Society Walter Zinn Award for outstanding contributions to the advancement of nuclear power, and in 2007 he received the American Nuclear Society's Nuclear Builder Award for laying the design foundations for new nuclear power plants. He also won the George Westinghouse Gold Medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
He served on many national and international advisory committees on nuclear power plant safety and on the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation, including panels of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. He authored the 1998 report "Disposing of Weapons-Grade Plutonium" along with Senators Pete Domenici and Lindsay Graham. He testified on nuclear energy issues at the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
He was born on February 27, 1922 in Hackensack, New Jersey. He attended high school at St. Augustine High School in Brooklyn, college at St John's College (then also in Brooklyn) where he was later awarded an honorary degree, and graduate school at the University of Notre Dame. He served on the Board of Regents of St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.
His wife of 67 years, Lorraine C. Taylor, died in 2010. His survivors include his son and daughter-in-law, John B. and Allyn Taylor of Stanford, California, his daughter and son-in-law Nancy T. and Paul Gray of Wayne, Pennsylvania, his daughter and son-in-law Susan and Paul DeMuro of San Francisco, California; his granddaughter and grandson-in-law, Jennifer and Josh Salcman of Walnut Creek, California, his grandson, John A. Taylor of Oakland, California, his granddaughters Melissa, Natalie, and Alanna DeMuro of San Francisco, and Taylor Lin Gray of Wayne, and his great-grandchildren, Olivia and Andrew Salcman of Walnut Creek.