The Future of Nuclear Lies With Us

By Ryan Kinney and Randy Reames

Please consider signing this petition: Keep America’s Nuclear Power Plants Working for US!

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, many anti-nuclear environmentalists have switched sides to become pro-nuclear 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 pro-nuclear environmentalism as they demonstrate that the goals of the nuclear industry and the goals of the environmental movement are aligned.  Unfortunately for us, because of a change in direction in the environmentalist movement many years ago, many environmentalists 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 environmentalists 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 environmental movement because we believe that the environmental 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 misportrayals of nuclear power in the movies, on television, and in literature to see that our industry does not control our own message.  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 nowhere near 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 members 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. Here is more information about the Bureau.
  • How about a march in support of Indian Point or any of the other “at-risk” plants?
  • Check out NuclearConnect.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.


 

RyanKinneyRyan Kinney is the current chair of recently restarted Kansas Local Section.  He served in the U.S. Navy at Naval Reactors and was responsible for various nuclear plant components including the A1B and S1B steam generators and the A1B pressurizer.  Since leaving the Navy, he has worked for a nuclear construction firm performing duties as a Lead Auditor and working in nuclear procurement and nuclear quality engineering.

 

Randy Reames (no photo) is a nuclear engineer and has an MBA focused on marketing and supply chain management.  He is an active member in the Kansas Local Section and hopes to help revitalize the nuclear industry through educational outreach, and strategic advertising.

7 thoughts on “The Future of Nuclear Lies With Us

  1. Bryan Chesebrough

    I live in Southeastern Connecticut. Our district built the first Nuclear Submarine (Nautilus), it has the largest Light Water Reactor in New England (Millstone) and our Senator Brien McMahon authored “The Atomic Energy Act of 1946″, still commonly referred to as the McMahon Act. YET, when I recently spoke with the Chief of Staff for our Congressman about supporting the efforts of the organization “Nuclear Matters”,his reply was “WHO?” No matter that it is co-chaired by two former Senators Evan Bayh and Judd Gregg, along with support from former EPA Director Carol Browner.

    I also recently spoke about the importance of Nuclear Energy and the opportunities that Advanced Nuclear Reactors present, at the Southeastern Connecticut Economic Region forum for the region’s latest “Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy”. There seemed to be an utter absence of awareness of the “Tough Spot” that the US Nuclear Industry is in.

    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 critical and 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 any more of my own efforts locally (for a very long time) as those efforts have thus far proven 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 the industry feels, “We have to tell the public how beneficial we are? Is the public that stupid?”

  2. Phil Weyenberg

    The loudest meme out there is that nuclear is bad. We need to raise our voices to counter that. The March for Environmental Hope, indexed in the piece, is a good venue to raise the call. Starting in San Francisco, we will march thru several towns finishing in Sacramento. Making the case for Diablo Canyon and all nuclear. I am excited to be going from Maine.

  3. Brian Mays

    One thing we’ve learned however (in Illinois and elsewhere, as the toolkit discussion acknowledges) is that policies that overtly support nuclear have been a tough sell politically.

    Uh … what?

    How about a few specific examples?

    … technology-neutral policies like a CO2 tax, which are not about nuclear specifically, get much more support among environmentally-minded people (in my experience).

    And yet they have gone nowhere outside of the “environmentally-minded” crowd.

    Jim – Could it be that you’re just reading the inherent bias against nuclear energy that is held by the “environmentally-minded people” you have experience with?

  4. Jim Hopf

    The Nuclear in the States toolkit, mentioned in this article, is a great summary of all the policies that could be used to support nuclear. One thing we’ve learned however (in Illinois and elsewhere, as the toolkit discussion acknowledges) is that policies that overtly support nuclear have been a tough sell politically. However, technology-neutral policies like a CO2 tax, which are not about nuclear specifically, get much more support among environmentally-minded people (in my experience).

    Thus, market-based, technology-neutral policies may be the best hope for future nuclear success. One such policy is a Carbon Fee and Dividend, where a “tax” is collected on fossil fuels right at the point of extraction (or entry into the country) and the money is sent right back to the American people in the form of a monthly dividend check.

    This specific policy is being pushed by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which I have joined. It is a very large and rapidly growing grass-roots organization which now has a branch in every congressional district and they meet regularly with their members of congress. They have thousands (if not tens of thousands) of members. Details are on the organization’s website:

    https://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/

    This is the best policy (and political organization) I can think of to support if you support nuclear power. The policy is effective and fair to nuclear (unlike renewables subsidy/mandate policies). It (a carbon price) is the policy that economists and free market conservatives agree is the best way to reduce emissions. CCL has already managed to get a surprising amount of support in Congress for their proposed policies, including most Democrats and (more surprisingly) ~1/3 of Republicans.

    I encourage everyone (nuclear proponents) to join CCL or at least check it out.

  5. Edward DeLaney

    An excellent article and message. Yes, we are way behind the 8-ball with the media and a large fraction of the population. The proposed EPA Clean Energy Plan must be attacked and revised. Maybe the closing of 5-10 plants and the impacts on the grid reliability, local jobs and taxes, and carbon dioxide emissions will begin to get through to the environmentalists.
    I’m too old now to get into this effort, but I sure will support it.

  6. Jan Bostelman, P.E.

    I am a school board member in Nebraska and will let my school district know about the website, thanks.

  7. Patricia Patton

    Very insightful and well written article. Nice to read something that is positive, possible and plausible rather than the barrage of doom and gloom that is being wide flung by the uninformed and misinformed.

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