One Side of the Nuclear Technology Public Relations Battle in Wisconsin
The Center for Media and Democracy – PRwatch.org has a well-researched piece about the nuclear industry’s public relations actions partially aimed at overturning the outright ban on new nuclear power plants in Wisconsin. It warms my heart to realize that there are some serious efforts underway to engage the public in a discussion about the potential role that new nuclear power plants could play in a state where 62% of current power generation comes from burning coal and that has had several serious proposals for building new coal fired power plants.
Unfortunately, based on recent events in Wisconsin’s neighboring states the pro-nuclear effort is going to require some persistence. For example, Minnesota’s House Energy Policy and Finance Division voted late yesterday to reject a bill that Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul had proposed. The tally was 12-9 in favor of maintaining that state’s current moratorium. The bill would have allowed the consideration of nuclear power as future energy option. Here is a quote from Scott Wente’s article in the politics section of the Bemidji Pioneer titled Committee keeps nuclear ban in place:
Committee Chairman Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, said he has tried to keep an open mind about nuclear energy, but decided the moratorium should remain. He said an implication that more nuclear energy production is possible in Minnesota would be a distraction from the state’s emphasis in recent years on renewable energy production.
“Let’s keep focus on the path that we have already started,” Hilty said.
It is hard to “keep an open mind” yet ban the best available energy option from consideration.
My analogy for that attitude is a vision of watching a hard working, but not terribly competent neighbor trying to cut some firewood with a pocket knife. No matter how hard I apply my gentle art of persuasion, he just will not accept my offer to borrow my chain saw or even my nice sharp axe. Oh well, I will keep trying, but in the meantime, I have some logs of my own to cut up and some sweet sixteen basketball to watch after that task is completed. I wonder if he will manage to catch any of the games or if his stubborn behavior will last for several more years.
Just for the record, here is a copy of my comment on the PRwatch.org piece:
Sometimes I wish I was a former “anti”
Diane – first of all, thank you for a well researched and informative piece about the public relations efforts associated with one side of the nuclear fission technology debate. Perhaps sometime you will take an equally hard look at the economic arrangements on the other side of the discussion – the groups that actively oppose the use of nuclear fission power to produce electricity in competition with coal, oil and natural gas.
Though I have some acquaintances at NEI and have engaged in several discussions with them over the years, no one has ever offered to hire my services – perhaps because they realize that my opinions and public information efforts are not for sale. Perhaps it is just because my “story” is not a man bites dog story of a former anti-nuclear activist turned cautious supporter. I have been a fission fan since I was a young child and my father showed me the difference between an atomic power plant the oil burning power plants that his company was gradually shutting down as the new nuclear plants at Turkey Point and St. Lucie were coming on line. (Dad was an electrical engineer for FP&L; we used to regularly attend the annual company picnic at the Cuttler plant, one of the oil burners that got shut down.)
In my professional life, I learned the details of the technology as a US naval submarine officer and eventually served as the Engineer Officer of the USS Von Steuben for a 40 month tour. Since that time, I have been writing and talking about fission to anyone who would listen – when you have lived and worked within 200 feet of an operating plant for months at a time, you learn that most of what the public knows about the technology is often misleading.
As a businessman with a habit of reading about economics and trade over time, I have also learned that there are enormous rewards for fighting nuclear power that are accruing in the bank accounts of the established fossil fuel interests. By restricting the availability of a formidable competitor, the individuals, companies and government bodies that are involved in the finding, exploiting, processing, transporting, and marketing of coal, oil, natural gas, wind turbines, solar panels, emissions control equipment, and emissions certificates are able to maintain their market dominance and increase the market price for their products and services. Those products and services would be significantly less valuable in a world where fission could compete on a less restricted playing field.
There are plenty of us on the web and in the blogosphere who are not lobbyists, not paid by the nuclear industry and are truly volunteers in the battle to get rid of the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that has been spread wide and deep for the past 50 years in opposition to the commercial use of atomic fission. (A good place to start if you are interested in building a list of active blogs that cover the topic is in the right column of the Atomic Insights Blog.)
We are a diverse bunch and often argue with each other about the details of one technical solution over another, but in general we agree that fission beats combustion hands down in terms of safety, reliability, security, growth potential, and overall cost to society.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast
Note: (March 27, 2009 at 18:58) The second paragraph has been slightly modified based on reader feedback reminding me that the vote taken on March 26 was in Minnesota, not Wisconsin. Thank you, Stewart. I have also finally realized what several of you were telling me about the title of the blog – unfortunately, I broke my glasses yesterday and my spell checker does not pick up inappropriate words as long as they are spelled correctly. Many apologies!