1. Rod, I think the lesson in economics wouldn’t take with many kids who oppose nuclear energy. I would guess they don’t have enough science literacy in the first place to see any downsides to renewable energy or any upsides to nuclear energy. Words or phrases like base-load, capacity factor is just jargon to many. Some kids are very inquisitive and have a good understanding but they are the minority. I thought I’d throw in these youtube links to some student produced videos about nuclear power.

  2. Jason: Though you might be right, I have more optimism for the ability of young people to listen and learn about important topics. My hope is that our recent economic collapse, driven mainly by a very short sighted economic approach of immediate, debt-driven gratification, will have awakened some serious interest in the mind of people who want to know how to avoid the personal pain of poverty.
    A big part of that is learning the difference between spending and investing and between enjoyment of life and entertainment.
    Perhaps my view is too rosy, but having just finished raising a couple of accomplished young ladies and spending time during their development with lots of young friends, I have a lot of hope and optimism. My two tours at the Naval Academy and close association with midshipmen did not hurt – though I will admit that mids are hardly a random sample of teenagers and 20 somethings.

  3. Rod,
    It is sad that the young crowd are so ignorant on the virtues of nuclear power. Our education system is really failing us.

  4. I read somewhere that Al Gore had other people trained to give his “Inconvenient Truth” slideshow and tour with it around the country to any library, school, or community center they could find. I’ve thought for a long time – why couldn’t the same be done for nuclear power?
    There are many communities far away from the nearest nuclear power plant so the kids there are not likely to get a visit from a nuclear engineer on career day. A slideshow and a near-scripted presentation that was engaging and interesting might help educate a lot of people. William Tucker did a nice job on his presentation which can be viewed on Fora.tv, I thought.

    1. I’ve seen their website and although the slideshow was new to me as of today, both the website and the slide show are just plain bad. I’m sure this group has their heart in the right place but with a website that looks like a 1995 reject and the slideshow that looks no better, I’d even go so far as to say I think they are hurting (not helping) the nuclear cause. There are a few other pro-nuclear sites out there that are not much better. I’ve even offered my services free to help out some of these abysmal looking websites and heard crickets in return. Many other engineers and scientists are not so oblivious to realize the packaging of a message is just as important as the message itself if not even more so.
      William Tucker’s presentation is more in line with what I think a good presentation should look like.

  5. First, the tone of the students’ question betrays a bias as it’s filled with code words designed to favor the power du jour – “renewables”. Government education using agenda-driven textbooks and ignorant teachers ( and I say this as a product of public education and as the son of two public school teachers) too often produces this result.
    Second, I applaud Pres. Obama for defending the investment in nuclear power and recognizing there is a balance to be struck between energy production for a technologically advanced society such as ours and good stewardship of our environment. If he had any personal experience in running a business he would be able to answer this type of question with even more vigor. Without that experience, he sounds professorial.

    1. I don’t remember being taught about electricity except as a phenomenon, and then, only being taught about it in the 6th grade as a matter of “use the aluminum foil and the battery to light the light bulb”, “use the magnet and the wire to light the light bulb”; in 12th grade physics, which was reasonably comprehensive in terms of the laws that govern direct current (E = V * I), etc. There was no teaching, for example, of how a power plant works, how alternating current works, the hydraulic analogy, how AC is converted into DC, etc. The only exposure I ever got to nuclear anything was when my 9th grade basic chemistry and physics teacher brought a Geiger counter and a source of some kind out from the stockroom, and she was like, this is a Geiger counter, and this is a radiation source, when I move the wand near the source, the box beeps and the numbers go up!
      I wouldn’t say (public primary and secondary) education biases kids against nuclear power. I would say that it doesn’t teach kids anything about nuclear power, or electric power, or even technology. hey even stopped offering AP computer science during my senior year of high school, which is ridiculous.) When we have a 100% college-bound population…who needs to know how a drill press or an arc welder works, the difference between carbon steel and cast iron…? To teach our kids something PRACTICAL…well, that would be outrageous! They are not meant for MANUAL LABOR! (Imagine the tut-tutting that would occur amongst the women of the town if one of OUR many upper-middle-class students went to the VOKE!?! Oh noes!)
      The lack of a connection anymore between math, science, and the field of study that teaches kids how to apply the abstractions and concepts they’ve learned in math and science in a practical fashion – technology – is what causes this lack of real knowledge about real stuff. People understand what they see and they work with. They don’t see the three-phase motor driven compressors making their air cold in the building they work in. They don’t understand the massive cables powering the TIG welder at the auto shop. The lithium-ion batteries that power their iWhatever(s) are charge, plug, play, and toss when no longer usable, not lead-acid repairable units that require things like hygrometers, distilled water, safety goggles, voltmeters, and such. The forced-draft glorified air handler in their house “just works”, and you have to replace a filter, once a year, and blow out the condenser coil, once a year, it doesn’t talk back to them like the old steam boiler in my parents’ house did – their air handler doesn’t have clanking radiators, condensation in pipes, it doesn’t have tunable air valves the adjustment of which is more of an lost art than a science, doesn’t require water to be added at routine intervals, doesn’t have a combustion air blower motor that needs oiling on a regular schedule (or a motor that has been in service since the 1930s, for that matter, like the one on the burner of my parents’ oil boiler has been)…
      They don’t know why technology works, these days the inner workings of everything are hidden behind a veil of ignorance, they’re taken for granted. As such, they take crazy ideas seriously, like powering an industrialized nation on windmills and solar panels, and believe those who say “YES, YOU CAN GET SOMETHING FOR NOTHING!” They then wonder why those who do understand energy density and electrical reliability laugh and shake their heads…
      …this is because those who understand know there ain’t any such thing as a free lunch.

  6. While the anti-nuke question that you feature on today’s Blog got the most votes from participants in the Energy and Environment Area several pro-nuke question also scored well with this largely young audience.
    Only Slightly less Popular Pro-Nuke Question
    “Do you agree that nuclear power is a good, cheap and clean source for energy regarding the upcoming energy crisis?”
    LawStudent, The Netherlands
    (which garnered 543 votes versus the 749 votes for the featured anti-nuke question)
    The most popular questions with this crowd appeared to be marijuana legalization questions (four out of the most popular top 10 questions).
    I was pleased to see a pro-nuke question show up among the top ~20 or so most popular questions.
    (The unscrupulous might wonder if there is a way to hi-jack the enthusiasm for marijuana legalization with a question that subtly also supports nuclear energy – but maybe this is not possible).

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