I have just spent a pleasant hour perusing a fascinating site called Decarbonise SA (where SA = South Australia). Ben Heard, an Australian who operates a consultancy named ThinkClimate Consulting is the force behind the site. He is a man on a mission – to move South Australia’s electric power system to zero carbon dioxide emissions as quickly as possible. (Hence the name of his site.)
Like a growing number of thinking people who are deeply concerned by the realization that business as usual in our energy supply system is putting future generations at grave risk of a greatly changed environment, Ben evaluated all of the possible actions that might avert danger, including taking the time to reevaluate why he was reflexively opposed to nuclear energy. Though his story is told in a completely different manner than the way that Gwyneth Cravens described her own journey from antinuclear activist to pronuclear advocate in Power to Save the World, the journey of discovery was similar.
Ben has produced and continues to refine a PowerPoint Presentation that is worth a look. He calls it Nuclear Power from Opponent to Proponent and he is working to find ever larger audiences to hear him tell that story.
He also worked with Barry Brook of Brave New Climate to produce this punchy video:
His most recent post is titled Why pro-nuclear has failed when anti-nuclear has succeeded. It is an intriguing essay that points out a key factor – the antinuclear message is so simple that it can be stated in a single word that can be grasped and repeated by any two-year-old – “NO”. That is a message that is easy to propagate. In contrast, Ben believes that nuclear supporters have never developed a strong sales message.
Ben believes that having a mission and a message is the way to inspire active support for nuclear and he believes that his Decarbonise SA message is a template that can spread to other areas. It is very much a think global, act local way of thinking. That methodology has been quite effective for many movements over the years.
Regular Atomic Insights readers would be disappointed (or at least surprised) if I did not offer my additional thoughts on the topic of antinuclear successes in contrast to pronuclear stumbles. Here is a copy of the comment that I left on Decarbonise SA.
Your analysis leaves open an important question whose answer offers the key to pronuclear success – “Why?”
The mission of the antinuclear movement is clear enough, as you stated. It is a simple “NO”. However, pronuclear activists hand that opposition all of the moral strength that they need by accepting the premise that the basis for the “NO” is fear of radiation or fear of the bomb or fear of the possibility of a massively damaging accident that never seems to actually happen.
The real strength of the opposition to nuclear comes from the people who derive their wealth and power from the whole range of economic activities required to extract, refine, transport, distribute and consume the hydrocarbons that produce the emissions that you want to stop. Fossil fuel pushers have a fundamental reason for disliking clean, concentrated, abundant, affordable nuclear energy. They hold sway in a LOT of decision making bodies that can delay nuclear projects and add to their cost. They have influence in the media due to their continuous use of paid advertising campaigns sustained over many decades. They have influence in foundations that have been formed from fossil fuel derived wealth and they have influence in powerful unions like those associated with the railroads that derive most of their steady income from moving bulky fuels like oil and coal.
Your message of DecarboniseSA scares the heck out of the very rich and powerful people who are rich and powerful because THEY SELL CARBON!
The real way to defeat the “NO” to nuclear energy is to find people who benefit from “YES” to nuclear energy. The fuel suppliers have concentrated strength, but the majority of the world’s population does not supply fuel; they consume fuel and have to pay high prices, accept nasty pollution, and suffer through periods of supply constraints. Some of those consumers are major corporations in their own right and have a lot of sway – they just need to be told (over and over again) why fission is so much better than combustion.
Reliable power plants
Responsive enough to power warships (so other ships are a piece of cake)
Tremendous growth opportunities for future generations
Incredible record of public safety
Pointing out the means, motive and opportunities that the fossil fuel industry has had to kneecap nuclear technology (including many “inside jobs” at supposedly “nuclear” companies) helps to knock the antinuclear movement off of the moral high ground of being ideologically motivated.
It is a worthy battle, but never expect it to be easy.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
If you have a few moments, please follow at least one of the links that I posted above to Ben’s site and peruse some of the excellent material that he has posted over the past few months. Welcome to the world of active nuclear supporters, Ben. We need more like you.