Atomic Show #254 – Don’t let a crisis go to waste
Rachel Pritzker and Ben Heard, two skilled communicators that have recognized the immense gift to humanity represented by the tightly packed power inside uranium and thorium nuclei, joined me in a terrific discussion about effectively communicating the awesome story of nuclear energy.
It should be apparent by now that the US nuclear industry is facing a situation difficult enough to qualify as a crisis. We must seize the attention grabbing opportunity that briefly accompanies such a situation.
Despite a couple of decades of outstanding plant performance, the number of units that have been declared to be uneconomic is growing. Plants are being shutdown and replaced by a plants burning natural gas with occasional support from wind or solar when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.
Nuclear professionals, traditionally a group of people that is still strongly influenced by the presence of a large contingent of people from the Silent Service, have not successfully made the case that their product is difficult to replace. They have not effectively provided an optimistic vision for the future, instead spending most of their time in public on the defensive.
Rachel and Ben both recently returned from attending the Nuclear Energy Assembly in Miami. Ben attended the Clean Energy Ministerial in San Francisco and shared some important thoughts about the contrasts between the two events. He also shared some reflections on the differences in the audiences that attended the two events.
The gulf between those two events was more than just the three thousand miles of geographic distance.
I hope that a few people who are in New Orleans this week for the ANS Annual Meeting have a chance to download this episode. Perhaps they can make use of the discussion to stimulate some conversations of their own.
Towards the end of the episode, we mentioned Mothers for Nuclear and the March for Environmental Hope that they are organizing. Please take the time to learn more about the organization and try to plan at least some participation in the March.
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Good show and only wish the other Atomic Show “regulars” were on hand to chime in. We really need a show putting all the nuclear advocate PR head honchos on the line to grill about nuclear’s non-web public perception and mass education.
I have to return to a seemingly simplistic question; Since the U.N. or whatever international bodies responsible for banning nuclear from all Antarctica based on some assumed hazard or peril got their way, just how much of a peril do they regard global warming and its effect on civilization? If they have enough moxie to get the atom banned from the frozen continent, I assume they also have the weight and equal moral obligation to re-boot nuclear as a climate-saving measure to save the earth with the same passion they had “saving” Antarctica. Really, what’s the U.N.’s stand on global warming? Have they deemed it a pending climatic catastrophe or not? Would then formally citing it so help dramatically reverse NPP closings or even push a “Splinter Cell Fifth Freedom” move for blue berets to commandeer them over all financial and political issues as an emergency planet saving energy resource? Just how bad must the climate get before they are pushed such a move?
First off let me say that forums such as “The Atomic Show” and “Atomic Insights” are invaluable. Participants in the Nuclear conversation such as Ben Heard, Rachael Pritzker and Michael Shallenberger and many others (and certainly Rod as an excellent and expert host/moderator) are indispensable yet lamentably not sufficient.
Ben makes the salient point – There is so much work that remains to be done. The Chinese saying, “Many hands makes light work” must be recognized and embraced.
The battle enjoined between the pro and anti forces is not to claim ground already possessed by either camp but to take possession of the massive middle of unclaimed territory – the General Public, what John Hopkins of NuScale characterized in the 2016 NEA Panel as the “Manipulatable Uninformed”.
This will not be accomplished by tactical battles but only through a comprehensive strategy. The anti forces have acquired a distinct advantage in this regard through consistent, coordinated (in Ben’s words) attacks but they have also amassed a war chest of funds and an arsenal of weapons (environmental organizations and much of the media) ready to respond to their bugle call.
So the challenge, properly framed, is “What will provide the most effective mechanism(s) to first engage and subsequently prevail in the realm of Public Opinion ?” – “How will those mechanisms be identified and developed” AND “Who is best positioned to serve as the Supreme Allied Commander for the pro-nuclear forces?” As the adage in the private sector goes “If it’s everybody’s job, it’s nobody’s job”
Another advantage the anti-nuclear forces have is that they control the narrative in the mainstream media. Whenever a news story involving nuclear comes up, the meme is always something like, “This is TERRIBLE! Mr. Pro-Nuke, what do you say NOW? We have to DO SOMETHING!” And they always have their go-to guys. Want an anti-nuclear spokesperson? Well, Arnie Gundersen is always available (at a cost, of course), with his embellished credentials, professorial demeanor, and patented concerned scowl. Who is going to be the counter for our side? Any photogenic, optimistic, Carl Sagan-types at ANS or NEI public outreach?
I am far from photogenic, but in an earlier life when I worked in academia, I had occasion to interact with journalism students, some of whom were eager to do an “exposé” and “blow the lid off” about how the university had a NUCLEAR REACTOR (Oh My God!) on its property (never mind it was a sub-megawatt research reactor, it was a reactor, and that was enough). So we’d talk with the students and while always being clear we were not telling them how to write their story, we’d kind of use a little pop psychology and challenge them to maybe go against the grain and put a positive spin on it. IOW, don’t reflexively fall in line with the groupthink meme, maybe branch out on your own and throw a little curveball to your editor. You know, in some cases, it worked, we gained a little yardage. That may seem manipulative, but in some cases you have to find ways to work in your message in a manner that has at least a chance of countering the accepted narrative. Many hands make light work indeed, and perhaps starting early, planting the seeds where you can when the audience is in a more formative stage, is another way to lighten the load.
All’s fair in love and war, and this is war. Let’s not kid ourselves.
I agree with BMays completely. This is bloodsport, and it doesn’t do our side any good to sit back and hope the facts speak for themselves and ‘lose with dignity’.
I heard this on a Apple blog a while ago. Didn’t believe it till this. Apple’s totally lost my respect now. NEI misses the point that it’s public perception that matters, not the awareness of nuclear insiders. Apple wins public favor just for appearing they are unhitching from evil nuclear.
The studies mentioned about how productive humans are even capable of being depending on their working environments are very cogent and should be elevated in all discussions regarding efficiency.
Mark Z. Jacobson’s “studies” seem to be completely devoid of any acknowledgement of these factors, as he damns (inadvertently?) people in both India and Finland to far less economic development/opportunity than they should be able to achieve simply because of his ideologies regarding “WWS” energy harvesting devices and nuclear energy.
And here is why Nuclear Power can not compete.
“U.S. WIND-ENERGY SECTOR GETS $176 BILLION WORTH OF CRONY CAPITALISM”
Well it says, “Of the $176 billion provided to the wind-energy sector, $2.9 billion came from local and state governments; $9.4 billion came from federal grants and tax credits; and $163.9 billion was provided in the form of federal loans or loan guarantees.”
So, it sounds like the subsidy is really 2.9 + 9.4 = 12.3 billion. How much is a loan guarantee really worth? Certainly it isn’t face value; how many times have we read that here about the loan guarantees for the AP1000 construction at Vogtle and Summer?
I’m not saying things are not skewed, I’m just recommending we here not be the ones trumpeting “176 billion dollars!!” if it isn’t really that much…
I am flying out from Maine to attend the March for Environmental Hope. So far 70-80 are committed to be there, many are nuclear workers. Hope the cameras are rolling. This is a crucial time for nuclear. Last week I attended a DoE meeting on Consent based siting for nuclear waste(reusable fuel). There were only two of us speaking for nuclear.
Seize the Day!
It is wonderful to see as many participants as possible at the march to Sacramento. As laudable as this is, it will not be sufficient. The time has arrived for the pro-nuclear community to be as activist as the antis have been for decades. Do we lack the courage of our conviction? Certainly Michael Shallenberger gets it! Having grown up in the “Environmental Movement” Michael knows the power of a grass roots movement that possesses the staying power of a “BELIEF”.
“Belief”, often times, is faith in the absence of evidence. Most religions garner their support from this premise. Many philosophers and theologians have weighed in on the existence of “God” for centuries (most notably St. Thomas Aquinas) Although no one can prove “His” existence that is of no significance to “True Believers” (and I must confess despite or perhaps because do my background in science and mathematics, I am one) but I digress.
I encourage everyone to read Eric Hoffer’s seminal treatise on the subject of mass movements published in 1951 “TRUE BELIEVER”, for which Hoffer received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan. (Michael Shallenberger especially, although I’m sure that intuitively and from his immersion in the environmental movement, that he knows much of it already)
Belief does not require an absence of evidence. On the contrary, if a belief is borne of a conviction based not only on blind faith and intuition but can be supported by scientific evidence as well, that belief should be all the more robust.
It is time to take a page from the antis playbook and initiate a truly momentous event, perhaps a “March on Washington”. Or are we so fearful that we are truly a splinter of society that we will continue to merely preach to one another. Who will sound the bugle? Who will respond to the bugle’s call?
Rod – thanks for the post and the conversation. It’s definitely time to start grilling the ‘environmentalist’ groups about their failure to deliver cleaner and lower impact power and energy systems for the whole world. Their failure to reduce carbon emissions.
@Phil Weyenberg – go get ’em. It wouldn’t be smart for me to go (I’m living with primary progressive MS) but I’ve ‘voted with my wallet’ by donating $200 to the march. Make a big noise and start a lot of conversations! Some of the best ones might begin with asking what the environmentalists know about successful decarbonization around the world. Ben Heard addressed that point when he was in Ontario: as I understand the story, Ontario retired their coal fired plants by refurbishing their nuclear fleet. Steve Aplin’s site CanadianEnergyIssues.com tracks Ontario’s grid carbon intensity. Ontario’s grid is frequently more than ten times better than Alberta’s (my province of residence). Be alert for opportunities to get people to want to learn.
Meanwhile, in Japan:
The antinuclear FUD is increasing the use of Coal. Yes, it will probably be the newest generation Advanced Ultra High Critical units they are building in Asian countries that have emissions, per kWh, essentially the same as that of the CCTGs we are installing.
Again, more actions by environmentalists that increase my skepticism of CAGW caused by CO2.
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