NextGenSim 2020

Twenty years ago...

a civil war divided the country of Yasric into North Yasric and South Yasric. During the war, the Zelfia nuclear power plant located in the country’s south was shut down to prevent its sabotage during the conflict.



Currently, South Yasric is a peaceful and rapidly developing country. While not without its challenges, its democracy is now ten years old. Its newly-elected president has announced that in order to promote further economic development, South Yasric must not only ensure the entire country has access to electricity, but South Yasric must develop a transition plan whereby the country is completely powered by carbon-free energy in twenty years. A central aspect of the transition plan is the Zelfia nuclear plant. While the Zelfia nuclear plant will provide enough electricity to power all of South Yasric and even enough to sell to neighboring countries – which will enable the South to construct extensive wind and solar farms – nuclear energy has significant concerns.

Some South Yasric stakeholders are concerned about the environmental effects, sabotage and accidents, and especially the proliferation risks, as North Yasric remains a bitter enemy. Would forces loyal to the North try to either sabotage the plant – or use its waste in the construction of nuclear weapons?

Learning Objectives


Objective 1

Understand how a nuclear power plant produces energy, including the amount of electricity and the  cleanliness of nuclear energy relative to coal and natural gas. 

Objective 2

Understand how nuclear energy can be used as a transition to a carbon-free energy sector (providing enough electricity to power the country and an ability to sell the surplus). 

Objective 3

Understand risks related to the environment (waste storage), accidents (meltdown), and proliferation risks (weaponizing spent fuel).

We're Digital!

Given the effects of covid-19, CIR has transitioned NextGenSim 2020 to digital.

CIR recognizes that high school students outside Albuquerque and Santa Fe may be interested in participating in NextGenSim 2020. CIR is committed to bringing our education programs to students who have not previously had the opportunity to participate. We have transitioned NextGenSim 2020 to a digital format suitable for 30-40 students and lasting 2.5 hours. Our education programs are free and there is not pre-work or homework.

If you are a teacher interested in your class participating in the digital NextGenSim 2020, please send an email to CIR’s Director of Education, Tacarra Lake at 

If you are a high school student interested in participating, please reach out to Tacarra, as there will be digital simulations organized throughout Fall 2020 you may be able to join! 

How does it work?

Students are assigned characters ranging from executive political leaders (including international influencers and North Yasric officials), business representatives, social activists, environmental experts, journalists, and concerned citizens. Ultimately, South Yasric’s “National District Representatives” will vote “on” to turn the Zelfia nuclear plant back on or “off” to keep it shut down. 

This year, a nuclear energy expert provided a 30-minute student overview on nuclear technology, its benefits, and its risks. Experts came from Los Alamos National Laboratory and UNM’s Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM). After each presentation, students were able to ask questions and the speakers floated among groups throughout the simulation.

Students received their character card at check-in and able to learn about their character before and during the expert presentation. In addition to experts able to answer general questions about nuclear technology,  students were encouraged to ask the experts questions related to their character.  

There are four rounds in NextGenSim 2020:

  1. Introduction. Students are pre-assigned small-groups according to their character’s hometown or profession. Students should assume their character and begin initial discussions/deliberations within their small groups. 
  2. “Insider Info” introduced. Each student will receive a second card that is unique to their character and reveals hidden motives or additional information designed to complicate negotiations. Students are also assigned new “working groups”. They will be grouped with students according to professions. 
  3. This round gets heated. Students return to their initial student groups (hometowns) for a one last opportunity to sway their legislator’s vote. 
  4. Final round. Legislators from each district vote, live. Students who are assigned the role of a legislator must justify their vote in front of the student audience. 

Map of the fictional country, South Yasric. Included on the map are major rivers, interstates, gas pipelines, and the location of Zelfia nuclear plant and Anaya coal plant. 

Flyer for NextGenSim 2020 that was distributed to high schools in Albuquerque, Los Alamos, and Santa Fe. 

Participating Schools

In 2020, CIR hosted NextGenSim at three high schools: Los Alamos High School, Sandia High School, and Santa Fe Preparatory. A total of 275 high school students participated in NextGenSim 2020.

In addition to the three hosting schools, several high schools sent delegations of students to participate. Those high schools included: 

  • Desert Academy
  • East Mountain High School
  • La Cueva High School
  • Los Alamos Middle School
  • Mandela International Magnet School
  • Menaul School
  • Moriarty High School
  • Santa Fe High School
  • The ASK Academy

A total of 275 high school students participated in NextGenSim 2020! There were five additional simulations planned for spring 2020, but cancelled due to Covid-19. 

Sponsored by

With thanks to PNM, we would also like to thank all students, teachers and volunteers for ensuring the success of NextGenSim 2020!

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