As a native of South Florida, I’ve probably logged at least a million miles driving on its interstate and U.S. highways. Most Americans have probably had at least a small taste of that experience.
The contrast between Florida’s highways and those in Vermont is stark; Florida’s are littered with billboards. They often advertise products or services that I would have preferred not to have to explain to my children when they were young. Vermont, a state with a deep streak of independence filled with people who love their farms, quaint towns and mountains, does not allow billboards. That makes motoring along their roads a completely different kind of experience.
This week, Vermont state Senator John D. Rogers (Essex County) introduced a bill that he hopes will make industrial scale wind turbines — the kind that have grown ever larger as producers seek the promised land of “economy of scale” — go the way of the billboard.
When he introduced that bill, he was accompanied by a boisterous crowd of supporters sporting high visibility green vests so that they could be readily seen and counted by other politicians at the session.
Aside: I really like the notion of high visibility garments in a public meeting to show support; the vests allow people who more comfortable in business-appropriate attire than tee shirts to be part of the gang. Nuclear supporters should consider employing a similar tactic at public meetings. End Aside.
I am sure some of my colleagues in energy will take the dismissive route of saying that Vermonters apparently don’t want any kind of energy development. They vehemently protested Vermont Yankee out of existence, are struggling to prevent high voltage transmission lines cutting through their forests and valleys, are fighting natural gas pipeline construction, and now are working to restore local control of land use so that they can halt industrial scale wind and solar energy development.
It would be more productive to consider opposition to competitive energy sources to be an opportunity for explanation and coalition-building. Gas pipeline expansion locks in a greater reliance on natural gas for decades. Industrial wind turbines and high transmission corridors really are intrusive and ugly. I certainly wouldn’t want them in my backyard and prefer, when possible, to keep them outside of my line of sight.
Aside: One of the mountains near my home has a transmission path scar that catches my eye everytime I walk through the neighborhood and every time I drive home. I understand the need to move power from place to place, but I’d like for us to work on improvements like underground distribution lines and appropriately-sized power stations that reduce long distance transmission while needing only occasional fuel deliveries. End Aside.
If people who oppose competitive energy developments are approached with kindness, respect and concern, it’s possible that many would be open to learning more about the benefits of compact, unobtrusive, virtually emission-free, and highly reliable nuclear power plants. Some of them might get excited when they find out about the new [again], innovative ways of applying fission power principles to produce smaller plants whose fuel lasts longer and produces even less waste than prior generations.
We have a great story to tell. Nuclear energy enthusiasm is permissible and contagious.
When you find people who are so passionately opposed to having their local area invaded by industrial wind developers that they attend protests and wear bright green vests, help them see that it’s worth their time to learn more about the ways that nuclear energy can help achieve their objective of clean, reliable power. They might love the idea that will be produced in a way that is almost completely out of sight.
Help them to realize why the characteristics of well-designed reactors and the safety record that trained nuclear operators have achieved should allow them to go back to their busy lives. It is okay for power generation to be out of mind as well as out of sight — once we have achieved a sustainable path of aggressive replacement of existing power stations.
As I think about it, maybe it isn’t a wise idea to allow most members of the public to put power generation too far out of their mind. Nuclear entrepreneurs and new industry leaders should plan on maintaining a program to remind people about the benefits nuclear fission power provides so that memories of the benefits more than balance reminders of the infrequent events that have happened and will occasionally occur in the future.