Nuclear’s Future Lies With Us
By: Ryan Kinney and Randy Reames
The U.S. nuclear industry is in a tough spot right now. The closures of well-operated units, e.g. Vermont Yankee, and the potential closures of several more (e.g. Fort Calhoun, Clinton, Quad Cities) are neither motivating nor good press. While some people may despair that we are doomed because of market forces and government mandates, especially since there seems to be a large number of people against us, we believe there are still many reasons to hope. These include the on-going startup of Watts Bar 2, the progress of new construction at both V. C. Summer and Vogtle, the development of many advanced reactor designs by firms around the country, and the various legislative efforts currently in Congress trying to reform our industry and regulatory regime. Instead of symbolizing our eminent collapse, our current struggles are a sign that we must change, that we must do things differently than we have in the past, if our industry is going to survive.
In case you have not noticed, a growing number of individuals and groups who are deeply concerned about the environment have begun actively supporting nuclear energy in the past several years. The publication of An Ecomodernist Manifesto and the presentation of the documentary Pandora’s Promise on CNN are good examples of actions by environmentalists who have become pro-nuclear. They have recognized that nuclear fission produces clean, abundant, reliable, and affordable heat for power plants or other needs .
Unfortunately for us, because of a change in direction in the Environmental Movement many years ago, most groups that identify as Environmental still reject nuclear power and do everything in their power to stop its use. This includes everything from frivolous lawsuits and interventions to picketing, protests, and other highly visible forms of disparagement. As the anti-nuclear activists became better organized in their efforts against us, we either were not able to or chose simply not to effectively engage them. We believe this is an issue that must be corrected, and it is up to us to do it.
While there are many reasons why our industry is where it is today, we have focused on our industry’s relationship with the anti-nuclear movement because we believe that the anti-nuclear movement effectively controls the “nuclear power message” to the general public. One simply has to look at the media coverage of nuclear issues and the misrepresentation of nuclear power in the movies, on television, and in literature to see that our industry does not effectively help people understand the benefits of our technology.
It is critically important for our industry to regain its voice to the public at-large, because although explaining the benefits of nuclear power to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; giving presentations in elementary, middle, and high school science classes; and participating in STEM events are beneficial outreach initiatives, these efforts are not enough to affect public opinion regarding nuclear power. We need pro-nuclear individuals to stage grass roots-level events such as marches, 5ks, and demonstrations. We also need – this may be a shocker – advertising. I cannot overstate the importance that an informative, yet approachable pro-nuclear advertising campaign would be to improving our public image. We need to copy from the playbook that has been used against us, and use it to our advantage. Whatever we do, we must do it consistently and persistently, as change will not happen quickly.
To all reading this call-to-action, we invite you to join the various efforts that already exist and to start your own. Think about what you would want to do to support nuclear power and tell that idea to your local American Nuclear Society (ANS) section or the national ANS leadership. You can also email us. You should review the Nuclear in the States Toolkit as it is a great starting point that details needed actions. However, we do not believe the toolkit is enough. If change is going to occur, we need to think about our situation differently.
Here are some ideas:
- If your area does not have an ANS Local Section, then start one. For us, Ryan restarted the Kansas Local Section.
- We are about to reach out to our local Sierra Club section in an attempt to communicate how our organizations are in alignment. You can do similar or just reach out to those you know who may not understand nuclear energy. Basically, get the positive word out!
- You can also join ANS, which has a wealth of information and tools you can use to let the public know about the benefits of nuclear power.
- Have you ever considered joining the ANS Speakers Bureau? It’s free, and ANS national members are encouraged to be a part of it
- How about a march in support of Indian Point or any of the other “at-risk” plants?
- Check out org, and let your school districts know about this awesome outreach effort to educate our youth, who are our future.
This article, and the impetus behind it, is not only about ensuring our own industry continues to survive and thrive, but is also about ensuring that humanity may continue to prosper—that the world we leave to our children will not be a bleaker place than the one in which we were born. The future of the nuclear industry is in our own hands and it can be as bright or dim as we want it to be.
A version of the above guest post originally appeared on ANS Nuclear Cafe at The Future of Nuclear Lies With Us. It has been reworded and reprinted here with permission.
At every conference convened to discuss Nuclear one or more of the panel participants states that education of public and understanding by the public is the pathway to greater Nuclear utilization. Often they go on to say that efforts have and are being made in this regard. Sure, there are ample NUCLEAR FORUMS where those of us who understand the promise possessed by nuclear energy express our views, but it amounts to preaching to the choir. The authors of this article go on to ask that we become more involved. I won’t bore you with my own efforts locally for a very long time as those efforts have been woefully inadequate, but it hasn’t dissuaded me from trying.
The authors correctly suggest that the Nuclear Industry needs to provide a center of gravity, a focus for all of us to point to and rally behind, to step up with a positive Advertising Campaign, adequately funded, run by professional PR firms.
The Fossil Industry runs countless advertisements, the latest being the “I’M AN ENERGY VOTER” campaign. The pharmaceutical company Pfizer is running a commercial campaign spoken by “an average guy” delineating the arduous process of bringing a prescription drug to market culminating in that “average guy” saying “and it saved my life” as he plays with his young child.
These are effective campaigns with positive messages about their products and industry that influence the general public’s perception. Has anyone seen a comparable advertisement, let alone a campaign, by the Nuclear Industry? The complacency of the industry with respect to public perception borders on contempt. It’s almost like “We have to tell the public how beneficial we are? Are they that stupid?”
I absolutely agree, it is time to stop preaching to the choir. Many people have recognized that the nuclear industry needs an advertising campaign that reaches a broad audience (unlike the NEI’s advertising campaigns, which seemed to be focused on the political-class), but, like you, I have never seen one. As a result, I believe that someone else will have to do it. My question to you, and everyone else, is would you contribute to crowed-funded effort to promote nuclear power?
@ Ryan Kinney
I would certainly contribute to a crowdfunding effort if I was convinced that whoever was administering that effort had the bona fides to ensure an efficient, effective campaign. Given the track record of many crowd funded endeavors my initial reaction is reluctance.
Take a look at my crowdfunding effort. The book is called Energy Reality: A Necessary Renaissance
The FB group is called Energy Reality and the website is called Energy Reality Project
“…although explaining the benefits of nuclear power to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; giving presentations in elementary, middle, and high school science classes; and participating in STEM events are beneficial outreach initiatives, these efforts are not enough to affect public opinion regarding nuclear power.”
I’ll second that. SONGS had a very active community outreach. When the plant was on the ropes – crickets.
I think a meaningful strategy should be a top priority after the election. Hopefully it will encompass a pro American investment in Nuclear power. But im probably showing my hand too much there.
I am skeptical of the PR approach, at least one directed at the general public. The major influence on nuclear plant closures have been the owners, legislators and regulators. Most of the public is skeptical of global warming despite the free advertising available to promote it. Yet policies are enacted by governments and businesses despite public skepticism.
I would copy AIPAC’s playbook. They promote the interests of a foreign country that is of direct interest to perhaps 2-3% of the US population. Yet, I cannot recall ever seeing any advertising sponsored by AIPAC aimed at the general public. Even when caught red-handed facilitating intelligence gathering, they avoid prosecution and remain highly effective. Politicians grovel before them. They are obviously doing something right.
Then again, it might just take high electricity prices and or shortages to get the attention required.
Your skepticism is reasonable.
The owners are utility companies. They are interested in turning a profit, as well they should as a business entity. If the cost of Natural Gas provides them with the best avenue to achieve that due to severe regulatory compliance costs, a government that fails to recognize the value of minimal air pollution and CO2 emissions, and a public that has been taught to fear all things nuclear, how can you fault them. Additionally, they understand that present legislation does value minimal air pollution and CO2 emissions when the energy produced comes from Renewables; and since Renewables are so intermittent that they must have a back-up (i.e.. Natural Gas), they see that as both an emerging growth and profit center.
With respect to AIPAC, their’s is a well funded and effectIve lobbying effort. There is no well funded opposition to their legislative agendas so there is no need for a public relations campaign. Oh, and much of Israel’s intelligence gathering is on our behalf and at our request. They are the only true ally we have in the Middle East.
I was referring to Israel’s intelligence activities against us. We have no allies. Only nations that want something from us or ones with leaders we have temporarily bought off.
Jeb Bush was well funded. I don’t think PR funding is the nuclear industry’s problem. Unless nuclear power can be shown to be a safe, more effective substitute for Viagra, It seems unlikely a grassroots marketing campaign could save the plants that are closing or likely to close over the next few years. Maybe this would have made a difference 10 years ago.
The strategy most likely to succeed is to work for Trump to get elected and get pro-nukes into his administration that will declare operating nuclear power plants a national security asset. Clinton would grease the skids for nuclear’s extinction.
You could rename Diablo Canyon the “Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant and Casino.”
Oh … wait … Casinos haven’t done all that well under Trump management. Never mind.
You nailed it. I second this strongly, Trump is the *only* candidate who might ensure your survival. Yes it’s existential at this point.
Hillary’s “nuclear as a path to clean energy” is a bare campaign ruse. It is a shallow tactic to use the words ‘clean energy’ in a sentence to attract Sanders supporters, and the hedge phrase ‘path to’ is calculated to imply just enough reluctance to try to sell those on both side of the issue — if you hate nuclear power you’re grateful it’s just on the ‘path’. If you love nuclear power, you’re just grateful that there is something out there shaped like a Democrat you can vote for who might not want to decommission you all tomorrow.
Soon after Hillary is crowned, it will be ‘discovered’ that nuclear plants take significant time and capital to build. And the folk who push irreliables will exclaim that there just isn’t enough time to consider that path, because energy utopia and deep grid storage is sooo just around the corner, and fusion is tomorrow and by the way, we have these natural gas plants ready to go! Cool! Any illusion that the federal government will help will fade.
And Hillary will toss some interest in the way of next generation reactors — utility scale fusion containment by 2100, we really mean it this time. Because the Church of Environmentalism allows its adherents to discuss fusion.
Fast forward 50 years. No electric coal and no nukes. The irreliable wind and solar utility scale projects will be rusty spots on the landscape (who’da thunk it) and those natural gas turbines will have been spinning 24/7 for the last 20 years. And our entire United States will be dangling from a single, delicate thread of natural gas. Which is either starting to decline — or not, as mere rumors of its decline, as for oil, are sufficient to feed the financial volatility circus. At least a good time will be had by some.
Truth is there isn’t anything out there shaped like a Democrat you can support right now to keep you off the chopping block. No one.
Nuclear will never gain any meaningful support from those who favor irreliable energy sources, because they are members of the new Church of Environmentalism which has granted them the indulgence to crypto-advocate (as in, without open discussion or admission) natural gas to step in and replace everything else, including coal and nuclear. No amount of “Guess what folks? Nuclear is carbon-neutral energy!” campaigns will save you. Research James Hansen’s nuclear remarks and sample the reactions of his pronouncement by the climate change community: a bit of calculated interest, and a blast wave of hate.
With Trump you have a chance… ironically, because of his skeptical position on the urgency of so-called climate change. It’s a slim chance because you’ll not only have to present a workable business plan, you’ll have to convince him and those he appoints that a stable and growing nuclear fleet is essential to our National Security. You do believe this, right?
Perhaps this item will help, since as practical engineers you can appreciate the practical possibility of securing nuclear power plants, but are not afraid to ask the question, can anyone ensure the safety of thousands of miles of high pressure natural gas pipelines? In this age when people prefer to put fingers in ears I probably risk being put on a watch list myself for bringing it up… but for me it’s a simple matter of being able to see just slightly around the corner, to ultimate survival. No one wants to see us continue to mine coal for electricity. But I seem to be the only one who has serious reservations about natural gas distribution networks in an age where people like to blow things up.
Please once again forgive my forwardness, thanks.
Let’s not forget that Obama was the pro-nuclear Democrat running in 2008, and we’ve all seen how that turned out. Hillary was “agnostic” at the time, and Edwards was even more anti-nuclear than Sanders, if you can believe it. Because of Sanders, Clinton has had to tack left this year to try to bring in the “environmentalist,” anti-nuclear base of the party. It doesn’t look good.
Trump’s a wild card. Nobody knows what he’s going to do over the next four weeks, much less the next four years. Still, it’s difficult to imagine him doing something as harmful and stupid as appointing Jaczko to be chairman of the NRC.
I don’t concur with most of your political analysis, but that’s okay. Politics is just a sideshow here. Our common goal is a sane energy system that recognizes limitations and advantages of various energy sources.
You wrote “But I seem to be the only one who has serious reservations about natural gas distribution networks in an age where people like to blow things up.”
Please don’t feel so alone. Many of us recognize the vulnerability of both natural gas pipelines and electrical transmission and distribution networks to people that like to disrupt our economy by blowing things up. Speaking as someone with a bit of training in both offense and defense, it’s easier to defend a small, self contained installation and easier to attack one that is huge with many points of vulnerability whose destruction would have cascading effects.
I’m dumbfounded by the suggestion that Trump will do anything positive, much less take a specific policy direction, on any issue. The man has proven himself to be an unabashed liar. Doesn’t that count for anything anymore. Have we reached the point we forgive dishonesty when choosing our leaders?
The advocates for NE have to be smart at this point. You are losing. Plants are closing like falling dominos. When I read flowery endorsement of a shyster like Trump, I wonder at the intelligence of someone who can offer such endorsement. (I wonder, as well, about their integrity.) I really don’t understand how someone possessing the degree of ignorance required to endorse Trump can offer any intelligent opinion about how to stop NE’s fall from favor.
And no, I cannot, and will not, vote for Clinton, either. The sad truth is that neither one can be trusted. And to predict what either one will do, concerning NE, is a fool’s task. Unless, of course, NE can come up with the bribery power required to buy the favor of either of one these pathetic lying criminals. But my guess is the fossil fuel folks have ya outbid.
Thanks kindly for agreeing to disagree on politics. Truth is I’ve never been able to run down a list of positions and have them fall to one side of the Republicrat/Democan dividing line. I have been attuned to nuclear energy as a campaign focus because I think we are dangerously close to a tipping point that is more near and real than any oft and over-discussed aspects of climate, immigration, even terrorism. On those things I believe the wise moderate positions will prevail in the end. But we are fast approaching a point at which nuclear generation loses ground beyond all hope of recovery — a threat all the more urgent because it is not being discussed. The ‘moderate’ approaches are no longer viable as nuclear’s status quo is decline and its opponents are obnoxious. Extreme position and action is necessary.
I feel the angst, but your resolve not to vote for either candidate doesn’t sound like a workable strategy. Rather than wasting Rod’s real estate debating my intelligence and integrity, I’ll offer everyone some reading matter. I write letters on energy and mail them to people. Here are three of them,
This letter of mine has been in Donald Trump’s possession since May 2, 2016. If you read it you may discover why I considered Trump the only candidate worthy of such a message. In his pronouncement to pursue energy self-sufficiency in general and consider nuclear an essential part of the mix, there is hope. The others offer nothing but more years of bad road and an obscenely stupid fixation on base load irredeemables (wind and solar). Trump is literally the only one with the courage to stand up to the tripe. You have heard him mention the word ‘nuclear’ in positive context. What have the others done, save gainsay his message?
In 2013 I reached out to Senator Inhofe to propose an energy path for Oklahoma and the country. Sadly I have not seen a glimmer from this outreach.
Also in 2013 I reached out directly to Halliburton Corporate with a very specific idea that just might have laid groundwork for their secure long-term future. At the time their stock was climbing towards $70 and they probably thought they didn’t have a care in the world. Not so good now. Not a glimmer from this one either, I had high hopes for this one.
Mentioned in these letters is Faulkner’s 2005 paper on Electric (HVDC) pipelines, and the two hour Thorium Remix 2011 video presentation (topic list with time indexes in the Trump letter).
One letter I had sent to a billionaire who is deeply vested in natural gas elicited a personal reply thanking me for the idea but said “regrettably, I am not a candidate” [to pursue Thorium energy]. Nevertheless, I cherish his candor and the politeness to reply in kind.
Nuclear is essential and presently endangered. Thorium is a good path, and it may be that to save nuclear at this juncture we will need to double down and devote all our efforts to a single path. I strive to put all my intelligence and integrity into letters spiced with a bit of righteous anger. Maybe I used it all up.
I won’t be expending the time to read your letters. I have seen enough of Trump to know that he stands for too much that no person of integrity, that respects what our founding fathers intended, can support. Its not about you. Its about Trump, and our country. That we have sunk so low that someone like him, or Hillary, can be placed in the White House causes me great sadness. I wouldn’t want either of these two as a nieghbor, much less as a President and role model for my daughter. I stand by my original comment, in regards to supporting Trump. It dumbfounds me that he has found such a large segment of our population willing to expose themselves as being completely ignorant of what this nation once stood for, and should again. We won’t get there by placing people like Trump in power, thats for sure. And those ignorant enough to think we will, and bigoted enough to buy into his proposed policies, deserve what they’ll get.
FYI: to clarify here that pipeline plans ‘news’ item is in dispute and may be a hoax. It is being denied by official sources, yet Judicial Watch has said they stand by the story and claims the arrest was ‘corroborated’ by 3 witnesses known to National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers Chairman Zack Taylor.
I’m ready to rule this one a cruel hoax, but the threat remains. Even with no specter of terrorism, Dominion is waging a battle to route its Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Wouldn’t it be nice if those gas plants could be refitted so they didn’t need that pipeline? Just a bit of fuel, say uranium, delivered every ~18-24 months by truck. That would really change the game. I smell a patent here and will start to draw up some plans.
“Oh, and much of Israel’s intelligence gathering is on our behalf and at our request. They are the only true ally we have in the Middle East”
With friends like that…..
You really should dig a bit deeper. Ironic, seeing your wisdom on one topic, and your naivetee on the other.
A targeted approach may be the correct first step, but who do you target? The “closet pro-nuclear” members of the environmental movement? The donors to political parties at the local and state level? The workers who want to keep their jobs? Some other group?
Let’s begin at the beginning. Just who / what do you consider to be included in “the nuclear industry?”
Excellent question. While there are many different parts to the “nuclear industry”, I would focus in on those that stand to profit from the sale of heat generated through nuclear fission….basically, nuclear power plants and their supply chain. Although, detailing the other parts of our industry, e.g., the medical isotopes, would be a good tactic to show how the entire nuclear industry is beneficial to all of us.
While the employees at the nuclear plants may consider themselves “nuclear industry,” the plant owners are in the electricity business, and also own coal and gas fired units, and these days, wind and solar units also.
If you look at who pays for the “safe, clean natural gas” ads, it’s the “American gas association,” or some such. It is rarely the power company. It’s the people selling the fuel to the guys who make electricity.
In my view, the low fuel cost for the nuclear units is the root of the problem (no advertising advocate). Ironic.
I agree that fact that the biggest “users” of nuclear technology are utilities that also happen to own gas, coal, wind, etc. plants (and don’t want to disparage those assets) is a big contributor to why we don’t see any advertising for nuclear.
Since most people don’t have any experience with nuclear technology, unlike their experience with gas, coal, wind, or the sun, I can see the reluctance to promote nuclear technology to them. That is an obstacle to overcome. We, collectively, need to get the nuclear industry out of this Twilight Zone that we are in.
You’re correct about how the utilities are mostly agnostic.
What companies could truly be considered the “nuclear industry”, i.e., whose fortunes are tied to that specific energy source? Uranium miners and Westinghouse. Pretty much all I can think of in the US. And they represent negligible overall financial and political power.
Your point about low fuel costs being the problem is insightful.
@ gmax137 and RyanKinney
The Nuclear Industry- The following, although not an exhaustive list, is a reasonable cross-section of Companies and Organizations that support, profit from or would have no reason to exist without Nuclear Power and Technology.
AMEREN – Missouri
ANI – American Nuclear Insurers
APS – American Physical Society
Black & Veatch
Burns & Roe
Energy Future Holdings
Energy Industries of Ohio
TVA – Tennessee Valley Authority
GE – Hitachi
Next Era Energy
Nebraska Public Power District
Omaha Public Power District
STP Nuclear Operating Company
ANS – American Nuclear Society
AWE – Association of Women in Energy
CNTA – Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness
Center for Environment, Commerce and Energy
ATOMS 4 CA
AAEA – African American Environmentalist Association
Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster
Consumer Energy Alliance
MBEF – Missourians for a Balanced Energy Future
NAYGN – North American Young Generation in Nuclear
Illinois Clean Energy Coalition
Energy Information Center
NAN – Nuclear Advocacy Network
National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
USWIN – US Women in Nuclear
Why does everyone always forget the Nuclear Industry’s very own silent O&M killer? INPO.
Sure enough, add INPO to the list, although I did list NAYGN (North American Young Generation in Nuclear) which is an off shoot of INPO. I also didn’t list NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute). Nor The Breakthrough Institute, Environmental Progress, Third Way. Without too much effort I sure many more could be enumerated.
I guess that’s the most frustrating aspect of being Pro-Nuclear. There are so many groups, organizations, and businesses that are involved with Nuclear Technology YET there is no comprehensive, coordinated strategy, voice and message provided to the public at large extolling the virtues of Nuclear- Just many disparate voices addressing an echo chamber.
Who, how, and when will a coordinated effort arise that will break out of that echo chamber. As I said in an earlier blog, there’s an old axiom in business “IF IT’S EVERYBODY’S JOB, IT’S NOBODY’S JOB” – Is there No One (Individual or Oganization) in the Nuclear Community with the Presence, Prestige, Enthusiasm, Tenacity, Contacts, Resources, etc,etc,etc…….Who can and will look outside his own niche within the community and endeavor to galvanize all of the disparate entities into a truly formidable, overarching “Nuclear Omnipresence” to effect change in the current stasis.
Totally agree. It would serve us all well to listen again to Jigar Shah on Atomic Show 247. (Search Rod’s archive for Jigar Shah). He will tell you very clearly where to “target” the effort.
NA-YGN is an offshoot of INPO?!
Your statement is incorrect. INPO had nothing to do with the formation of NAYGN, though there is an INPO chapter of NAYGN that has a unique restrictions compared to all other NAYGN chapters.
“The NAYGN INPO Chapter does not participate in nuclear power industry advocacy activities.”
@Rod and Brian Mays
Oops, thanks for correcting my error. NAYGN is certainly NOT an offshoot of INPO. Sorry to all, especially to any NAYGN participants for the transgression.
It will be very difficult. You are playing thirty years of catch up by neglect and arrogance without the overt cheer-leading of crucial politicians to back up much less commit to nuclear power policies and a TV-movie culture where nuclear is almost always the heavy and a mass media weaned on green environmentalism and highly (willfully) cynical of anything nuclear from assorted reasons from Hiroshima-guilt to corporate hate. Would in fact sabotage fact to make their ends (i.e. that burning oil refinery in Tokyo taken for Fukushima during the quake — an “editorial mistake”, right?) In a nutshell, all mass media news about nuclear power is bad news, period. One fatal heel has been that the nuclear industry long wrongly assumed that its product was so inherently superior and obviously essential that the public would accept it as a no-brainer, no mass education needed. I include all these “over the horizon” nuclear technologies whose qualities are supposed to bail nuclear power out of its hole but constantly forget that the ultimate bottom line of nuclear power success is ONLY if the public wants it, not the ledger and market. Completed and ready to go Shoreham was a pitiful example. Cuomo and people in NY State are being coddled that any higher price of power by wind and solar (even gas) is off-set merely by the “heart’s ease” that no NPPs means a radioactive monster is no longer looming over their families. And New Yorkers are buying it and I’m sure its same elsewhere. The way fear stands, the public will never welcome back shutted NPPs much less take new ones. Again, outside the laid-off, who mourns for a shut NPP? If you REALLY want to turn nuclear’s regard around hit and mass educate (ADs like yesterday!) the public who’ll determine if you’ll even have it, not the ledger sheets. As Carl Sagan said, scientists and engineers are often negative self-promoters which why they should leave it to the pros. With all its sterling merits and record behind it, it’s just unreal that U.S. nuclear just keeps dropping the ball.
Get them when they’re young.
Get hold of primary and secondary school textbooks. Ctrl-f nuclear and energy. Correct inaccuracies. Fill-up gaps. Add (or remove) nuance. Update facts and figures.
When energy technology is discussed, include a discussion of the complete nuclear power technology family (not just the once-through segment, with its inherent problems and constraints).
Wherever the climate issue is discussed, add the fact that nuclear is zero-carbon and nuclear fuels are inexhaustible.
Wherever energy related pollution is discussed, add the fact that nuclear is non-polluting: clarify the difference between waste and pollution.
Wherever medicine is discussed, add the fact that nuclear medicine, radiotherapy and radioimagining are the foundation of modern cancer treatment.
When geopolitics and war is discussed, include that nuclear fuels cannot be monopolised, access to these fuels cannot be denied and their global abundance is guaranteed, essentially forever. Clarify the distinction between civilian (power) and military (weapons) applications.
If we are clear that there is a public perception problem now, then we should understand that the problem was largely created decades ago when today’s adults were in school. They got the wrong information, or didn’t get the right information. And it follows that while there may be little we can do to change the opinion of today’s adults (though we should try), the opinion of adults twenty years from now is fully in our own hands, if we make sure the content of school books becomes as accurate, reliable and complete as necessary.
I agree, however those efforts wont help in the near and intermediate term. The nuclear industry has to approach the issue with several time horizons in mind. The near term – what actions can we do now to stop the premature shutdown of our best clean energy sources (marches, demonstrations, negotiations with state governments, attempts to change the RTO market conditions). The intermediate term – what actions can we do over the next few years to help establish a firm, long term financial security for our best clean energy sources and to promote the creation of more of them (challenge the Clean Power Plan to highlight the benefits of nuclear power, both new and existing; challenge the Renewable Energy Portfolios programs in the states to include nuclear power; challenge utilities to allow individuals to purchase “nuclear power” at a slightly higher price so they can say they are “clean power purchases” – note this idea is similar to what use to exist, and perhaps still does, for wind power, challenge the current regulatory regime). The long term – what kinds actions can we do now that will have a benefit in 10 to 20 years (this is more than just the Gen IV effort as it would include changes to our education, changes to how we engage Hollywood, etc.).
By the way, I don’t know if you’re following the NEI on facebook, twitter, etc, but in recent weeks/months I’ve notice a significant improvement in their messaging. More forceful, more focused and less passive. It seems to me that “the nuclear industry” has found it’s fighting spirit!
That’s an improvement. Up until recently, most of Mark Flannagan’s NEI blog posts seemed to promote wind and the low energy fantasy more than nuclear.
I believe the best method to change this behavior is this…….
You want renewables?
Good, you will ONLY have power when these “wonderful” suppliers of power….make power. When the sun ain’t shinning and the wind ain’t blowing….good luck keeping your house cool/warm.
Shut off their electricity and see how “reasonable” they become.
I think ‘their’ plan is to tell everybody that they are “energy neutral” and hence should have an energy bill of zero, while they quietly leech off the stable generators whenever the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, sticking the rest of us with the cost of that arrangement.
At least, that’s what’s happening in my country, The Netherlands.
You know, your last line about shutting off their electricity triggered a thought that has always lingered in the back of my mind. It has to do with the unreliable energy advocates’ love of mentioning “the smart grid” as part of their energy system “solution”. A component of the “smart grid” includes what is euphemistically called “demand management”, which when you get down to the basics is really just load shedding. So maybe a way to turn this to our advantage is to say fine, go with your smart grid, and we’ll insist that it include a provision to shed the load of anyone who is tied into the grid and is doing the net metering thing. Let them be the first to be “demand-managed” off the grid if they aren’t producing power and the demand is too great for the unreliable generators to meet.
Now thats sheer genius!!! That a great way to get the public to trust NE advocacy! Yeah!!! Punish those heathens for their stupidy. Shut their TVs off, by golly!
No, just live by the old adage, you make you choices and you live with them. Something I was taught as a child many, many decades ago. Maybe that’s what we’ve lost over the years, the understanding that choices have consequences, and that they should not be borne by others, but by those who make the choices.
And at the same time, make it clear that it doesn’t have to be that way, there there are ways to avoid the unpleasant results of poor choices. But if you choose poorly, you just might have to pay a price.
Prayers to alligator victim families, but to regrettably to be cold about it, watch how fast Disney mounts an effective and quick PR campaign to repair its image and how fast the public “forgets” the tragedy because of it, just like BP with Deepwater.
It’s becoming pretty clear that we need to lobby at the state level to save operating plants in distress. And time is a wasting. That needs to be # 1 priority. And the message is that wind/solar are not replacing nuclear. Natural Gas is with greater CO2 and all of the evil fracking that goes with that.
A new EPA rule rewarding operating plant CO2 free generation would be really great but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Can Illinois come through and save Clinton and Quad cities? It seems possible and Exelon has even stated its still possible.
Can NY save Nine Mile Point and Ginna? Another test.
The public has to know that they are increasing CO2 and rewarding fracking by not crediting nuclear as CO2 free.
OPPD Board Votes to Shutdown.
Thank you, NRC and INPO……….great job of sqeezing a great plant to death.
More fuel thrown on the Anti-Nuke Fire.
State’s largest wind farm preparing to power OPPD customers
Look, citing Co2 stats is well and good but that’s NOT what pops up in the public’s head in mentioning nuclear power. The very best mass media nuclear education ads if they’re ever made should finally take the bull by the horns and smack down the twin 800 pound gorillas haunting any nuclear image and mention Fukushima and Chernobyl and _compare_ _compare_ _compare_ their injury and damage stats with all plants fossil — even hydro. You can’t lose!! This has to be done to achieve some confidence in the technology! Look, maybe outside SAAB, it wasn’t all that long ago that car makers simply never showed commercials featuring their lovely cars being smashed and mashed in crash test footage. Now it’s a major selling point. The meltdown bogeyman is the PR knife in nuclear energy’s back and it has to be openly excised, not hidden under layers of well-meaning clean-energy speak. Again, literally, what does US nuclear have to lose trying it?
And today there are no more SAABs being built.
Not exactly the most inspiring example, is it?
Might not be an inspiring example, but it is a relevant example.
As I recall, Saab and Volvo both invested a major portion of their communications budget into their safety message. While Volvo is still in production, they went through a period of low sales and a substantial investment in redesign. As far as I can tell from my unscientific observations, Volvo hasn’t gotten rid of safety as part of their marketing, but it isn’t the primary message anymore.
Nuclear has a great safety story, but we’re way past the time when it needs to be the lead. In fact, without the focused efforts of people like Edward Teller, it never would have been the leading item of concern or marketing.
It continues to intrigue me to know that a guy like Teller was the leader of a scientists’ movement to teach the public to be aware of the “safety issues” associated with building and operating nuclear power plants. His primary research area did not demonstrate any concern about the value of human life or need to avoid environmental destruction.
The main difference between Volvo and Saab that I see is that Volvo was known for selling station wagons, while Saab was known for selling funny-looking luxury cars whose popularity peaked with Liberals in the late 1980’s. When I was in college, you couldn’t throw a rock in Charlottesville without hitting a red Saab 900 Turbo. They were the Prius of the era.
Fashions change, and so did Saab’s fortunes. The death knell for the brand came when GM refused to allow Saab to be purchased by the Chinese, because they didn’t want the Chinese to acquire Saab’s technology. This, I think, has more relevance to the situation in the global nuclear industry today than any of Saab’s advertising ever did.
Well, considering that Teller was from Hungary, perhaps he considered a little “environmental destruction” preferable to living under Soviet domination, where human life was not valued at all.
In the end, he was right. His hydrogen bomb staved off major conflict with the Soviet Union until it managed to collapse under its own weight. I fail to see any need to apologize for that.
When it came to nuclear reactors, Teller’s biggest shortcoming was that he was a physicist and not an engineer. Physicists cannot design effective nuclear reactors for power production. That has been demonstrated so many times that it’s practically an axiom by now.
You’re probably right in asserting that GM’s refusal of Chinese investment is relevant to nuclear energy’s woes in the US. Of course, it’s not just Chinese capital that is kept out; no foreign “dominance” is allowed for any nuclear power plants. I wonder if so many plants would be closing if foreign purchasers could be considered?
I think you’ve given Teller more credit for the H-bomb than he deserves. You’ve also given the H-bomb more credit than it deserves in terms of staving off major conflict. Though I would never have advocated subjecting our nation to Soviet domination, I’ve also never been a “better dead than Red” ideologue.
IMO the arms race, its associated security infrastructure, and its incredibly costly diversion of resources (human and material) was an integral part of the effort to impose as much “nuclear fear” as possible.
How much do you know about the organized effort to discredit Oppenheimer and force him out of the nuclear enterprise? He was an articulate spokesperson for the importance of peaceful development with less focus on building the biggest, baddest weapons of all.
I had dinner with Edward Teller when he came to my town as an invited speaker at a national meeting of our professional society (HPS). I have to say he was one of the most brilliant men I have ever met, and quite charming and approachable. But, as you note, he was not only a physicist, but a theoretical physicist, which further distances him from the practicalities of engineering science. He was also a very stubborn man, as we all know if we read his various testimonies and biographies. He could be convinced to change his views, but you had to make utterly logical and verifiable arguments, because he could be ruthless in shredding weak logic or speculative positions. Probably his surprise change of position on the LTBT caused his supporters the most consternation of all his pronouncements.
I’m not disputing Teller’s intelligence. I just don’t see how the positions that he took on reactor safety as the head of the ACRS square with his interest in developing Plowshares, the Super, Lawrence Livermore and Star Wars. His explosives testing deliberately distributed more radioactive material to the environment than would ever be released from any kind of realistic event at a nuclear power plant.
Can you provide more information about your following statement? “Probably his surprise change of position on the LTBT caused his supporters the most consternation of all his pronouncements.” I have not been able to find any information about a change of position. As far as my searches have revealed, Teller was resolutely opposed to the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) throughout the period before its ratification.
Well, Edward was an enigma in many ways, and what you cite is just one of them. I always thought that Plowshares could be much more readily linked to the weapons program, and therefore be subject to the resultant shunning, than any related to nuclear energy. Not to mention the safety issues associated with Plowshare. And that’s not even touching on LLL or SDI.
As far as the LTBT, I recall his one speech where he went through the pros and cons and everyone thought he was going to denounce the treaty, and he did and didn’t in the same concluding lines. His concluding remarks were something like, “To ratify this treaty would be a mistake. Not to ratify it would be an even bigger mistake.” There were audible gasps and groans from the audience, IIRC. While hardly an endorsement, later explanation revealed that while he didn’t like the LTBT in its present form, he believed that it was better than nothing. I cannot find a video of that speech, either, but I seem to distinctly recall seeing it back in the day just after I got out of grad school and was involved in hosting that one meeting.
Just had this thought. People have sympathy for the victims. They don’t like it when “big brother” is raising havoc with whomever.
In the past nuclear power interests were portrayed as “big brother.” In some respects, that may have been true. It is true no longer. Big brother goes to whomever can give him the greatest return on investment with no regard to the people “big brother” hurts, their community or environment.
Today, nuclear power plants are the victims. Seeing no immediate advantage, “big brother” has abandoned them. These plants which for years have provided safe, environmentally friendly power at a reasonable cost have become the victims of a decades long negative PR campaign.
Isn’t it time the average Joe on the street learned the truth?
I have tried precisely that approach with student journalists who would ask to talk to us when they learned for the first time that their university had a (research) reactor on campus and had visions of writing a major exposé (even though their predecessors had written similar exposés with little or no effect). While always being careful to note that we did not believe in prior restraint and were not telling them how to write their story, I for one would leave them with a subtle (or not) hint that maybe they should think outside the box on this one and not go along with the approved groupthink meme of “all things nuclear are dangerous and bad”. Maybe turn the tables a bit and point out some of the positive things about the technology, go against the grain, more or less. Occasionally it worked and we got a good story. Although I learned from talking with our chief public information officer that if a mainstream journalist gets the technical content right at about a 60-70% rate they are doing very well for journalists. For student journalists, maybe 40% is doing well.
I thought this might amuse some here. My relatives own a 13 acre wooded parcel in upstate New York, and family and visitors there just love the well water from the place and often took gallon bottles of it back to the city. My dad loved teasing guests of how some of the wildlife still percolates down through the sand and shale to the well’s water table. “Yea, count that there’s tiny trace of bear piss and deer dung in there!” Dad would clucked of a sparkling clear glass of well water and Gulp! A guest suddenly dumps the idea of taking a gallon bottle back to the city. Always got a kick out of that! I want clean water too, but these ultra-finicky (anti-nuke) clean water people better get real about what trace amounts of anything will and won’t do to you! What is telling me is I’ve yet Googled up any news report or environmental study in Japan determining the massive ground water contamination brought when that quake’s tidal wave swept a massive witches brew of sewage, sludge, toxins, chemicals, fuels, rat poisons, solvents and graveyard corpses –human and animal — and maybe even biological waste samples and heaven knows what else far inland and which had to’ve soaked deep those lowlands and farmlands water tables or at least settled in the soil (heck, if just one oil truck spills here on Long Island it’s like a EPA ten alarm to make sure nothing taints the aquifers!). That massive wave contamination should alarm Japan far more than anything Fukushima ever did — or is such news and study being suppressed just to prevent such? Just that it’s curious that there’s no overt wonder about such over there.
Despite all the factual evidence in support of nuclear power’s safety and no CO2 emissions, many of those who supposedly value these two features still oppose nuclear power.
Perhaps they really don’t care about safety or CO2 emissions. Maybe these are just for public consumption.
Can you really “educate” people through advertising if they are intellectually dishonest?
I think it will take electricity deprivation as previously suggested by others.
There didn’t to be any noise at all about trying to save Fort Calhoun.
There is still hope in Illinois and New York to save those plants. The energy should be invested there to lobby state lawmakers.
Folks understand if you get a few minutes to explain why wind/solar can’t replace nuclear and why closing operating plants dramatically increases CO2 emissions.
And the people I have talked to are OK with paying a slight bit more to keep the nukes open after just a little education.
Problem is its a non-story in the MSM. No one knows about it. If the NYT blared “Closing NY Nukes Adds to Global Warming Crisis” I think all of sudden the NY legislature would pass the bill.
Say what you will about Exelon they seem to be giving warning which provides the possibility of saving the plants.
“I’m not sure the public en masse is educable.”
“Folks understand if you get a few minutes to explain why wind/solar can’t replace nuclear and why closing operating plants dramatically increases CO2 emissions.”
“And the people I have talked to are OK with paying a slight bit more to keep the nukes open after just a little education.”
“Momma always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them” – Forrest Gump
I am not happy. Day after day I read of announcements to shutdown perfectly good nuclear power stations. Some of these stations have seen their share of challenges, but have largely advanced to contemporary expectations providing reliable quality base load power with advantages not available from other sources.
There is a trail that leads through these shuttered plants and those entrusted with the well-being of this valued resource. This business is not for the weak. It demands all you’ve got right from the starting block. Our predecessors understood the necessary commitment and resolve. They signed on with full knowledge, and when handed a bag of bones they did not shrink, but surged forward reaching new levels of excellence. Corbin McNeill took a neglected sleepy plant to world class levels. Bill Lee embraced the changes needed after TMI and made operational excellence the norm. When I was failing and wished to leave the Penn State program, Nunzio (Dean) Palladino encouraged me with grandfatherly council, coaching through the low points. Later, He accepted Ronald Reagan’s request to chair the NRC following the accident at TMI. Dixie Lee Ray served as the last Chairperson of the AEC and was perhaps the strongest supporter this industry has been privileged to know. You simply could not attend one of her lectures without becoming a changed person.
These champions did not shrink. They were not bullied. They doubled down and did not look back. We are here today because of their efforts. What will be our legacy? Will we grow their investment or cash in and walk away?
It seems nuclear power in the United States is at a tipping point. From too cheap to meter to the brink of a renascence to a cascade of early shutdowns in the span of 50 years. Once the darling, now the nation’s red haired child has become a shameful embarrassment. Where once stood leaders and champions, we are too often subjected to short term reactionary decisions with insulting explanations. If this continues, we will very soon, cash-in the last check on nuclear power. We have been bullied by all manner of money changers into parking our future and handing over the keys.
Before my mailbox fills up, the reader should understand this is not directed at any particular group. Utility execs have been dealt the Two of Clubs. Market systems are impossibly biased. Increasingly it seems the future is in decommissioning and rad waste services.
The cold reality is what it is. We can’t go back, and tired old men and women can’t fix it indefinitely. Only bold leadership and street-smart muscle will defend these plants from a confused ledger sheet. We face a game changing task. Maybe we are up for it and maybe we are not. But do not ever forget that we have a rich heritage that deserves a better effort. From one who has earned the bully pulpit, it is time to smarten-up, get the job done and proudly carry on.
Fixing the root cause of this is in the hands of the NRC — simply approve the Marcus petition to abolish ALARA and set radiation limits for the public to be the same as for workers — 50 mSv/year. With government agencies such as EPA and NRC endorsing an unscientific myth that any level of radiation can cause deadly cancer, no wonder the public fears nuclear power. Thousands of published papers verify the safety of low-level radiation and even evidence benefits from immune system stimulation.
Indeed the irrational fear of radiation is at the root of much of the resistance to nuclear. WRT to the NRC review of the petitions put forward, is there any sort of deadline? Or could they simply ignore the petitions or must they present a ruling at some time?
My advice to anyone who fears radiation and it’s effects is to briefly reassure them that “the dose makes the poison” i.e. that radiation is safe within limits and point them to your short one-page “Radiation: The Facts” either via Rod’s posting here http://tinyurl.com/jq5u2hw or directly to the brochure http://tinyurl.com/zv5g9qq
If they thirst for more I reference Wade Allison’s two excellent books on the subject which he has kindly provided on the Internet free of charge:
Radiation and Reason: http://tinyurl.com/ybgasjn
Nuclear is for Life: http://tinyurl.com/h47cba6
Totally unreal situation. This country is the home of mankind’s first sustained nuclear fission. Home of the nuclear reactor. Home of first full unreleased chain reaction. Nuclear energy should’ve LONG been considered as American as Apple Pie at the get-go, and now it’s a pariah, shunned by most pols and disdained by media alike. The cleanest most powerful force known, yet here withering without a mean fight.
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