Category Archives: Social Media

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 156

ferris wheel 1 220x201It’s time for the 156th edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers – a weekly compilation of the best pro-nuclear, English-language blogs and articles submitted by authors, editors and publishers.  As was pointed out by Entreprenuclear, this 156th edition actually marks a milestone THREE YEAR anniversary for this popular feature.  Congratulations to all of the steady contributors and hosts are in order on this important date.  Now, let’s get to it!

Atomic Insights – Rod Adams

Crash course in outrage management -  Nuclear professionals have a moral imperative to improve our ability to manage and reduce outrage to a level that is more commensurate with the demonstrably low hazard of our technology. Our technology should be serving people, not causing them to live in fear or causing them to avoid beneficial applications because they have been taught to worry about what might happen if magical forces make layers of steel, water and concrete disappear or if “hot particles” somehow find their way, undetected, into their bodies.

Atomic Show 203 – Globally distributed atomic conversation   All around the world, renewable energy advocates are promoting studies that claim it is feasible to replace our current energy system with one that is completely dependent on renewables – they want people to believe we do not need to use either fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

Attempting to transition away from fossil fuels to an “all renewable” energy system is fraught with cost and reliability challenges. Germany is running into substantial challenges and is burned 5% more lignite – brown coal – in 2012 than it did in 2011. Recently completed studies that including a range of scenarios in Australia and California indicate the magnitude of the challenge of trying to do without both nuclear energy and fossil fuel.

Yes Vermont Yankee – Meredith Angwin

Two guest posts this week from Yes Vermont Yankee:  Guy Page connects Vermont to world events by asking “As Germany goes, so goes Vermont?”  Also, in a separate installment, Willem Post compares an ambitious scheme for offshore wind on the East Coast with the simpler choice of building more nuclear plants.  Nuclear looks better.

The Hiroshima Syndrome – Leslie Corrice

Radiation Fears Continue – F. Daiichi Wastewater Build-up  –  The wastewater buildup problem at Fukushima Daiichi increases with every day that passes.  ALPS will remove all but one of the residual radioactive isotopes; tritium cannot be removed by ALPS.  The total activity of all the tritium at Fukushima Daiichi is one-hundredth of the total natural tritium in the Pacific Ocean.  Regardless, this tritium will keep TEPCO from discharging the water to the sea.

Nuke Power Talk – Gail Marcus

Differentiating Within Energy Technologies: Breaking Down the Monoliths  Gail Marcus picks up on a comment submitted to one of her blogs at Nuke Power Talk and points out that the various energy technologies are not monolithic.  When we speak broadly of nuclear, solar, or wind power, we may be ignoring important differences in the economics or other considerations of specific technologies.  The commenter raised the comparison of photovoltaics to solar water heating, but Gail notes that the same thing may apply for different nuclear or wind power options as well.

Next Big Future – Brian Wang

NASA and Ohio State University research on molten salt reactors for space

EPA guidelines to balance risks during radiation and other crisis situations – because things other than radiation can be the greater dangers

ANS Nuclear Cafe - submissions by Paul Bowersox

What does the future look like at Kewaunee?   Because it doesn’t happen often, decommissioning of nuclear plants is a topic that is rarely covered in any generally accessible way.  Will Davis presents what the known timeline for events are at Kewaunee Generating Station, which shut down for good recently, and shows by example that there are both challenges ahead in the complex (and costly) process and also a number of successful examples setting the precedent  that a natural, “green field” site is absolutely possible after all is said and done.

Energy and Equality  In the US most men support the use of nuclear power as a source of electricity — and a slight majority of women do not.  Suzanne Hobbs Baker on the issue of gender equality, an especially important issue for nuclear professionals in light of the above.


That’s it for this week’s Carnival.  We hope you’ve enjoyed the selections, and we look forward to next week’s production sure to include timely events and thought provoking insight — as the Carnival does each and every week.

Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers 148

The 148th edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers is up now at Hiroshima Syndrome.  Click here to access the site; the Carnival is at the top of the page.

The Carnival this week contains more valuable content on the 2nd anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, specific of course to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.  Radiation and risk are also discussed, as us uranium mining and mine workers’ health as well as other topics.

Each week, a new edition of the Carnival is hosted at one of the top English-language pro-nuclear blogs.  This rotating feature and the submissions made for inclusion in it represent the dedication and focus of those who believe in nuclear energy and are willing to stand up for it.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, EntrepreNuke, and CoolHandNuke.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

What to read about nuclear energy online

How to avoid information overload on the Internet

By Dan Yurman

 One thing I learned in the five years that I published my nuclear energy blog Idaho Samizdat is that there can be too much nuclear information.  This lesson was brought home with the mind-crushing rush of information that hit the wires during the height of the Fukushima crisis.  But what about keeping up with the news on the nuclear industry in ordinary times?

If your employer can afford it, your firm subscribes to one or more of the specialty newsletters that tap in at $2,000 or more per year for a subscription.  In return, readers get detailed, expert news and analysis that would never, ever show up in the mainstream news media.  I worked for such a specialty newsletter for five years and remain grateful for subscriber support since it meant the difference, metaphorically speaking, between a having a roof over my head and sleeping under a bridge.

However, because of copyright restrictions, most of these newsletters contain web beacons or other electronic devices that are designed to stop a firm from buying one subscription and then emailing each issue to its employees.  While there is the copy machine dodge, that is so 20th century.  Plus, waiting for the inter-office mail to deliver a bootleg copy puts you one day behind your electronically wired-in colleagues.

So, what’s a nuclear pro to do to stay current without shelling out the equivalent of a new car lease down payment?  The answer is there are a number of free news services available on the Internet that can go a long way to keep your mental inbox full of interesting stuff.  Here’s a short list of free sources.

Online services

Nuclear Town Hall – This is a seven-day-a-week, and twice-a-day on weekdays, summary of links to business and political news about nuclear energy.  Based in Washington, DC, it has a global perspective and also a special section on nuclear energy OP EDs and opinion pieces.  Resolutely pro-nuclear in every respect it even cites nuclear bloggers when it sees something of interest.  You can read the updates on the website or subscribe to it by email.

World Nuclear News – This is a five-day-a-week service that publishes short news reports about the global nuclear industry.  Based on London, it is available on the website, or via email delivery by the time U.S. readers are pouring their second cup of coffee.  A searchable archive allows readers to dig into the background of breaking news.

NEI Smartbrief – Sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute, it picks up news clips from the mainstream media and posts a brief summary of about half a dozen of them a day with links to the original source online.  The brief is published weekdays except major holidays.

Nuclear Power Daily – Like NEI Smartbrief, this daily nuclear news summary relies on wire services and other sources.  Like NEI Smartbrief, it is an advertising supported service.

Google News – Google News allow you to search by keywords and to set up news alerts based on them.  You can set up as many alerts as you want and have the alerts delivered by email or RSS feed.  You can select instant delivery or once a day.

Nuclear Energy blogs are a great source of information often posting news in specialized developments days or weeks ahead of the mainstream news media.  A great starting place is the blog roll list of links here on ANS Nuclear Cafe.


There is another “what to read” issue, and that is how to answer questions from in-laws, friends, and the occasional non-nuclear colleagues who genuinely want to know more about nuclear energy.  Here’s a reading list that you can clip and save.  All of these books are in print and most can be found in a public library or through interlibrary loan.  The major online book selling services stock these volumes.

Three must reads – Start here

The Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, by Gwyneth Cravens

Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Energy Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Energy Odyssey, by William Tucker

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, by Stewart Brand

Further reading for generalists

Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Charles D. Ferguson

Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century, by Ian Hore-Lacy

The Reporter’s Handbook on Nuclear Materials, Energy, and Waste Management, by Michael Greenberg


Nuclear Firsts: Milestone on the Road to Nuclear Power Development, by Gail Marcus

The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference, by Ted Rockwell

Plentiful Energy: The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor, by Charles E. Till and Yoon Il Chang

Nuclear Silk Road: The Koreanization of Nuclear Power Technology, by Byung-Koo Kim


Physics for Future Presidents, by Richard A. Muller

The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes

The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, by Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz

Single Issues

Radiation and Reason, by Wade Allison

Nuclear Reactions: The Politics of Opening a Radioactive Waste Disposal Site, by Chuck McCutcheon

Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock that Shaped the World, by Tom Zoellner

Sustainable Development / Climate Change

Storms of my Grandchildren, by James Hansen

The GeoPolitics of Energy: Achieving a Just and Sustainable Energy Distribution by 2040, by Judith Wright and James Conca

Sustainable Energy – Without The Hot Air, by David JC MacKay

General Reference

Nuclear Energy Encyclopedia – a single volume – by Steven B. Krivit (Editor), Thomas B. Kingery (Editor), Jay H. Lehr (Series Editor)

& & &

If you have a favorite news source, or best book on nuclear energy, please post your suggestions in the comments.


Dan Yurman published the nuclear energy blog Idaho Samizdat from 2007 to 2012.

ANS Social Media Gathering: TODAY, 12 NOON PT, TERRACE SALON 3

WHO:   Anyone with an interest in use of social media

WHAT:   The ANS Social Media Gathering

WHEN:   Wednesday, November 14, 12 noon – 1 pm (PT)

WHERE:   The ANS Media Center, located in Terrace Salon Room 3.

If you would like to learn more about different social media tools and techniques—this is for you.

If you know more than we do about social media and can tell us a thing or two—this is for you.

If you have ideas of how to use Social Media in its myriad forms to help nuclear professionals to communicate more effectively with the outside world—then please attend.

Attendees are welcome to show up with ideas for discussion, questions, or problems.  There will be brief remarks by Will Davis, Laura Hermann and Steve Skutnik. This is a casual, interactive, interesting and fun session!

Please note that there will be extremely light snacks available—so please feel free to bring your own lunch.

Let’s try to make this a session we can all walk away from knowing more than when we went in!



ANS Meeting Preview: Social Media Gathering

WHO:   Anyone with an interest in use of social media

WHAT:   The ANS Social Media Gathering

WHEN:   Wednesday, November 14, 12 noon – 1 pm (PT)

WHERE:   The ANS Media Center, located in Terrace Salon Room 3.

If you would like to learn more about different social media tools and techniques—this is for you.

If you know more than we do about social media and can tell us a thing or two—this is for you.

If you have ideas of how to use Social Media in its myriad forms to help nuclear professionals to communicate more effectively with the outside world—then please attend.

Attendees are welcome to show up with ideas for discussion, questions, or problems.  This is a casual, interactive, interesting and fun session!

Please note that there is no food service available, so please feel free to bring your own lunch.

Let’s try to make this a session we can all walk away from knowing more than when we went in!

The 129th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 129th weekly Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up at Next Big Future.

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by well-respected names that emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America to speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy.

While we each have our own points of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.


124th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers now on line

The 124th weekly Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers is up right now at Atomic Power Review.

Each week, the top voices in the pro-nuclear blogging universe come together to present their top posts of the week.  As a result, the Carnival is THE place to go in order to find out what the most popular voices in the nuclear renaissance are saying.  They usually have a lot to say.

The weekly Carnival posts, due to the diverse backgrounds and disciplines of the authors, have a widely varied background that is certain to present something of interest to anyone curious about nuclear energy, or nuclear energy news.

Support those who contribute to this effort by making it count via social media.  That means make a Tweet, or a Facebook post – even a post on your own blog promoting the Carnival.

Those of us who believe that nuclear energy has a safe, viable place work tirelessly to ensure it retains just that.  The bloggers do it for free on their own sites; recognize their efforts by helping to get the word out!

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

Yes Vermont Yankee passes 200K pageview milestone

On Friday, August 31, Yes Vermont Yankee passed a milestone of 200,000 page views. Yes Vermont Yankee covers Vermont energy issues and favors the relicensing of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

Congratulations to Meredith Angwin, the person at the helm of Yes Vermont Yankee, and to all the Yes Vermont Yankee contributors!

4th Annual Texas Atomic Film Festival

The 4th annual Texas Atomic Film Festival (TAFF) is being held April 26 to May 3, 2012. The festival attracts short films (3 to 5 minutes) produced by students in nuclear engineering courses at the University of Texas at Austin. A public screening of the films, which focus on nuclear and energy related topics, is being held on April 26 at 12:30 pm at the UT Student Activities Center auditorium.

The goal of TAFF is to provide an opportunity for students to take creative approaches to convey scientific information through short films. Griffin Gardner and Alex Fay are this year’s media judge and technical judge, respectively, and awards will be given in four categories:

  • Best Film
  • Technical Content
  • Editing
  • Audience Award

The Audience Award is based on the number of “likes” accumulated by each film through the Facebook social plugin available on the TAFF website for the 2012 entries.

Please visit the TAFF website, view some of the films in the 2012 Entries section, and vote for your favorites by clicking on the “like” button. You can also follow TAFF and make comments through Twitter by using the hashtag #TAFF2012.

TAFF includes 11 films this year:

  1. How Dangerous is Low Dose Radiation?
  2. An Outlook on Future Energy Solutions
  3. The Legend of HP-Man
  4. Radon—Hazards in the Home: Myths and Facts
  5. The Chicago Pile: A History
  6. The Influence of Nuclear Events on the Public Perception of Nuclear Science
  7. U.S. Electrical Power Production:  A Comparison of Energy Sources
  9. Special Report: Nuclear Terrorism
  10. From War to Peace: Non-Proliferation 101
  11. Nuclear by the Numbers

Other schools are invited to participate in next year’s TAFF. If you are interested, please contact Steve Biegalski.  Special thanks to Juan Garcia and Matt Mangum, of the Faculty Innovation Center at UT, for their continued support of TAFF.


ANS Idaho Section hosting Social Media Workshop

 Mark your calendar: April 19

The Idaho Section of the American Nuclear Society is sponsoring an all-day event “Communicating in a Changing World: Social Media Workshop” on Thursday, April 19, at the Shilo Inn in Idaho Falls.

“This workshop is for those new to social media and those wanting to learn a few new tricks,” said Teri Ehresman, communications lead for Idaho National Laboratory (INL), when ANS Nuclear Cafe asked about the upcoming event. “Idaho National Laboratory has a new Nuclear App and, as part of the workshop, we want to share some of our lessons learned from that experience. We see social media as a way to help spread our message.”

The day-long workshop features a lineup of speakers, including Sarah Lane, co-host of iPad Today, the Social Hour, and Tech News Today at

The workshop schedule follows:

  • 8:30 a.m. — Registration
  • 9 a.m. — Speaker: Sarah Lane, San Francisco. She will speak on “Communications and Media at, ” “Understanding Social Media,” and “Where are Social Media and Technology Going?”
  • 12 p.m. — Lunch Speaker: Mike Hart, president of CommDesigns of Idaho Falls, will discuss “Reaching Mobile Audiences and the Challenges of App Development.” He will share lessons learned from developing the nuclear application for INL.
  • 1 p.m. — Speaker: Cynthia Price, Richmond, Va., director of Communications for ChildFund International, will discuss “Developing and Using Social Media at”
  • 2 p.m. —  Speaker: Misty Benjamin, INL Communications  and Government Affairs, will discuss “Leveraging Social Media at Idaho National Laboratory”
  • 3 p.m. — Speaker: Paul Menser, Idaho Falls blogger, will discuss “The Transition from Traditional to Social Media at the Local Level”
  • 4:00 – 4:30 — Social time

Live-tweeting: #ifsocialmedia

RSVP to Teri Ehresman, , or call her at 208-526-7785.


Nuclear Matinee: Sustainable energy choices for the 21st century

This video takes the stance that climate change and sustainability of the global human enterprise are two of the most critical issues of the 21st century. If we are to tackle these problems effectively, we need to make prudent, evidence-based choices about energy. This is the story told in this short animated video—the first to be featured in the ANS Nuclear Cafe “Friday Matinee” series.

For more information and to continue the discussion, visit BraveNewClimate.

Nuclear energy: The moral choice

By Art Wharton

During the 2011 American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting in Washington, DC, a gathering of ANS members interested in social media and nuclear communications was held, with standing-room-only attendance. As the conversation went around the room, and people discussed their involvement in nuclear communications, a common thread held throughout: The participants felt a moral calling to advance nuclear science and technology through their work, and through their communications via social media. Most participants recounted an obligation that they felt to their community or their family, including the futures of their grandchildren.

Some of these people have been called “industry shills” by those who oppose the continued use of nuclear science and technology for the benefit of society, implying that a pro-nuclear stance is somehow imposed upon someone by the big bad industry tycoons in charge of a vast nuclear conspiracy. The reality is, I have personally met many people who chose to work in the nuclear industry because they advocated nuclear technology, not the other way around. These are the people who are leaders, or will be the future leaders, in the nuclear field.

Speaking of industry leaders, they recently collaborated on the development of the Principles of Conduct for Nuclear Power Plant Exporters. In the preamble, they call out six principles for focus: “Safety, Security, Environmental Protection, Compensation for Nuclear Damage, Nonproliferation, and Ethics.” I’m personally proud to be part of an industry that operates with these core values, and with a sincere feeling of responsibility for their product.

Nuclear professionals live on the same earth as everyone else, so they have a personal stake in utilizing this fascinating technology for the benefit of society, along with strong core values of safety and environmental responsibility. If you’re looking for the moral high-ground in an energy debate, start with advocating the use of nuclear energy.

I originally decided to work in nuclear energy because it was “cool” to me. When I first learned that the energy density of a single fuel pellet equaled almost a ton of coal, I had to learn more. When I was a young boy camping with a Boy Scout troop, they advocated leaving the campground in better condition than we found had it, so the energy density and cleanliness of nuclear energy compared with other energy sources was compelling to me as a young adult. I followed the “cool” path, in my eyes, not realizing at the time that I was making a moral or ethical choice.

That changed in an unexpected way when I graduated college, and I took an oath called The Obligation of the Engineer. At an overwhelming time, in which the excitement of a new career, the largest paycheck of my life, and a cross-country move to a new region were looming, I had an “aha moment” when I took the oath. Many readers of this blog are engineers, and many are not, but I think the oath carries with it a tremendous message worth ruminating on for all nuclear science and technology professionals:

I am an engineer, in my profession I take deep pride.
To it I owe solemn obligations.
Since the Stone Age, human progress has been spurred by the engineering genius.
Engineers have made usable nature’s vast resources of material and energy for humanity’s benefit.
Engineers have vitalized and turned to practical use the principles of science and the means of technology.
Were it not for this heritage of accumulated experience, my efforts would be feeble.
As an engineer, I pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance, and respect, and to uphold devotion to the standards and the dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of Earth’s precious wealth.
As an engineer, I shall participate in none but honest enterprises.
When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good.
In the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give the utmost.

- The Obligation of the Engineer

How can you tell if you’re talking to someone who’s taken that oath? Look at the pinky finger of their working hand, and they’ll have a modest, non-descript, stainless steel ring on it. I see many who embody this obligation as they uphold their devotion to safely implementing nuclear science and technology. I think that someone who reads this obligation slowly and deliberately can understand why emotions can run high in a time when nuclear science and technology comes under pressure. I won’t write any ad-hominem attacks on those who oppose nuclear science and technology, because I want today’s topic to be on the ethical and moral obligations we uphold in the nuclear science and technology field. I encourage engineers and non-engineers alike to renew their sense of moral focus on how their day jobs provide benefit to humanity, and to their own community.

Electrical power production provides life-saving opportunities. Refrigeration keeps food safe. Air conditioning saves many from heat stroke during the summer, and heating systems preserve life in the winter. The medical industry is dependent on electricity for many life-saving technologies. As you’re reading this paragraph, you’re probably listing out other things that electricity does to preserve and enhance life in ways that many people take for granted. Nuclear energy provides this life-saving electricity with the smallest footprint per unit of energy, and in my strong opinion, makes “the best use of Earth’s precious wealth.”

I have an obligation to give my knowledge, without reservation, for the public good. Sometimes, I don’t have all the answers. Organizations like the American Nuclear Society can be pivotal in our ability to bring knowledge together. I’ve grown as a person and as a professional from my association and participation in ANS events and governance. If you’re a member of the American Nuclear Society, as I suspect many of you are, you will find that ANS is consistent with this message of moral and ethical behavior as a society and as nuclear professionals. The ANS Code of Ethics gets specific, and the number one practice of professional conduct found in the ANS Code of Ethics is consistent with the rest of the industry:

We hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public and fellow workers, work to protect the environment, and strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of our professional duties.

If you browse around the websites of nuclear industry companies, you’ll find that safety and environmental responsibility are consistently called out in their corporate core values. Safety is also the very core of the charter of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Maybe some people can read this and think that we just provide a lot of lip service, and that this is just good PR. Is it? Who pays attention to these things? Do news reporters sift through our corporate values, or Society ethics, or the Obligation of an Engineer before they report the news, or decide which “expert” interviewee to pay more attention to? If they did, I suspect that we’d see different words surrounding “Nuclear” in headlines.

Leaders pay attention to these things. They spend hours arguing over how they want to shape the words to affect the behaviors of the people they lead. They worry about whether they’ve communicated these values often enough, or well enough. If my CEO stopped me in the hallway today and asked me what the company core values were, I could recite them verbatim.

A breach of ethics represents the largest risk we face as we operate, execute projects, or form business deals. I encourage all of you to not only re-familiarize yourself with these values that your employers and your professional societies hold, but to take that confidence with you as you communicate about the benefits of nuclear science and technology. The facts are on your side, the moral high-ground is yours, and the highest standards of ethics and professional conduct will lead you. When in doubt, ask a friend; you have over 11,000 engineers, scientists, administrators, and educators representing more than 1,600 corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies at your disposal here at the American Nuclear Society.



Art Wharton is a principal project engineer at Westinghouse Electric Company LLC in the Nuclear Power Plants product line. He is a member of the ANS Planning committee, the Operations and Power Division Program committee, the Operations and Power Division Executive Committee, is a Pittsburgh Local Section past chair, and is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe. 

The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Westinghouse Electric Company LLC.

Pretty Energy

By Suzy Hobbs Baker

I recently joined the latest social media phenomenon—“Pinterest”—after some good old-fashioned peer pressure from my pals. Basically it is an online scrapbook, where you can collect images from all over the Internet and organize or “pin” them under categories like “recipes to try” or “ideas for the garden” on your personal page. There is very little text and not much user-to-user interaction. You just browse thousands of images of party dresses, wedding ideas, art, or whatever you or other users have uploaded to the site. Essentially it’s a whole lot of eye candy.

This new forum is largely dominated by women, and has an overwhelming number of users, to the extent that there is currently a waiting list to join. Upon recognizing that this website is basically the “visual-Google-for-women,” I decided to do a little experiment to find out what nuclear-related images were on the site. Since every image has to be “pinned” from the web, I figured that whatever images I found on this site would be a pretty good visual representation of how women feel about nuclear power at this exact moment in time.

Well, what I found wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright bad:  Earless bunnies of Fukushima, atomic bomb explosion after atomic bomb explosion, and not a single image of a nuclear power plant. Not one. The closest thing I found that was even remotely positive regarding nuclear energy was this image:

For those who can’t read Spanish it says, “Nuclear Today, Solar Tomorrow.”  But hey, at least they are smiling and shaking hands.

So my next step, which I thought was going to bring up thousands of results, was to search for wind power. Surprisingly, only two images of wind turbines resulted, and I thought to myself, “Okay, maybe this just isn’t a forum where energy is a topic that people are thinking about.” But before I could rest assured, I did a quick search for “solar power” and stumbled into the archetypal female brain for all things solar energy. Put simply, women like solar energy. A lot. In fact, “solar power” yellow is a very popular color right now. You might even say that solar is en vogue with the ladies.

The common thread among all of the “solar power” search results is that they are small consumer items that you can use in your everyday life. They are all relatively inexpensive, cute, and easy to use. I get the distinct feeling that women’s experiences with “solar” products inform their broader beliefs about solar power. But what else are women thinking about energy issues?

According to the 2009 “Woman’s Survey on Energy and the Environment” by Women in Public Policy, the single largest concern among women is moving toward clean energy sources, trumping cost, reliability, and jobs. Women are the primary decision makers about household energy use, which is good, but they collectively have a lot of misconceptions about energy, which is not so good. Fifty-four percent of women think that nuclear energy releases CO2 and is a primary cause of climate change. Only 12 percent of women surveyed know that coal is the largest source of electrical generation in the United States. Basically, a lot of the ladies making decisions about energy at home do not have all the facts.

So, what can we do to solve this problem? First of all, we need to focus our outreach efforts specifically toward women. When we present information, we should take the time to gear it toward the specific concerns of our audience that we know to be reducing environmental impact. And we must make it visually appealing. Basically, make it pretty. Make it fun. If we can learn anything from, it’s that ladies really like resources that are pretty, user friendly, and interactive. The best way to increase public support and overall use of nuclear energy is to appeal to women.


Hobbs Baker

Suzy Hobbs Baker is the executive director of PopAtomic Studios, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of visual and liberal arts to enrich the discussion on nuclear energy. Hobbs Baker is an ANS member and a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe

Hall Talk Nov 1 – social media

Our intrepid reporter files another update from the ANS Winter Meeting.

By Dan Yurman

Social media session draws 55 nukes

Social media meet up poster

Getting the message out about nuclear energy using blogs, Twitter, and other forms of social media drew an enthusiastic crowd on Tuesday night, November 1. In a session co-sponsored by the American Nuclear Society, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and Areva, the group held a round table discussion about using social media tools to communicate with the public, thought and opinion leaders, and the news media.

It is not just the same online stuff you read about in USA Today. There are exciting new developments coming on tablets and real time interactive video on the web.

Curtis Roberts, who now leads the social media work for Areva in the United States, told the group, “We are committed to using social media to shape the conversation about nuclear energy.”

Jarrett Adams from Areva showed off a social media application for mobile devices that will be released soon and handed out a printed sheet of QR codes to help people access all forms of Areva’s social media online and sources of information via smart phones.

Eric McErlain, who is the senior manager at NEI for social media, said that the power of social media is in distributed networks of people who do not let anti-nuclear nonsense go unanswered.

“Use social media to get in there and make yourself heard,” McErlain said.

The round robin discussion that took place over the next 90 minutes covered a lot of topics. Here are a few highlights.

Lars Hanson, a member of the ANS social media listserv, raised the topic of commenting online when the mainstream media publishes articles that contain inaccurate information. Numerous suggestions were offered about how to use the comment fields effectively to get accurate information across about nuclear science and engineering topics.

Miriam Mazer, an intern at Fuel Cycle Week, said that as someone who is new to the industry, she sees a need for nukes to make the technical terminology accessible. Andrea Jennetta, the publisher at Fuel Cycle Week, said that “facts don’t always work because people are emotional about the risks of radiation exposure even when there is no risk.”

Margaret Harding, a former General Electric nuclear energy executive with more than three decades of experience in the area of nuclear fuels, suggested that people read the book Don’t Be Such a Scientist.

Here’s a clip from the book …

“In 1997, marine biologist Randy Olson recognized that scientists needed better communications skills to address a growing backlash against ‘rational data-based science.’ Inspired by the ‘power of video,’ Olson gave up a tenured professorship and went to Hollywood to reach a broader audience through filmmaking. The crucial lesson he learned was how to tell a good story, a largely absent concern for scientists, who focus on accuracy rather than audience engagement.”

Dave Pointer, the chairman of the ANS Public Information Committee, told the group that ANS plans to do more projects like the recent webinar with the NRC, which had an interactive component through the Internet.

Art Wharton, who is working on the new ANS Strategic Plan, said that the use of social media will continue to play a role in future society outreach to the public, the news media, and K-12 education.

This was the fourth social media meet up held at ANS national meetings.  The conversation continues online at the ANS social media listserv and the ANS Nuclear Cafe blog. For more information, contact Laura Scheele, ANS manager of Policy & Communication, via email:  lscheele [at]



Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.


Hall Talk – Monday Oct 31

Our intrepid reporter files another update from the ANS Winter Meeting.

By Dan Yurman

What does the news media want from nukes?

We spend a lot of time as nuclear professionals, especially since Fukushima, worrying about how to communicate with the press. We know from painful past experiences that sharing technical data with a general assignment reporter sometimes produces unintended results. But what about the reporter’s point of view? What does a journalist want from a nuke?

Matt Wald, New York Times reporter, at ANS Winter Meeting 2011

ANS Nuclear Cafe asked that question of Matt Wald, a reporter at the New York Times. Wald, who was a panel speaker in a forum on communications, took a few minutes afterward to ponder the issue.

He said that when there is an event at a reactor, he wants to go there, see it, and talk directly with plant staff. He cited two recent examples where that approach worked out well.

The first was a site visit to the Ft. Calhoun site, in Nebraska, while the Missouri River was at flood stage last July. The second was at the North Anna reactor, in Virginia, following the August 3 East Coast earthquake.

In both cases, Wald said, “It was helpful to see as much as possible and to talk to engineering staff, to ask them questions directly. It is best to be able to see things first hand.”

So there you have it. The utilities that own and operate these plants could have gone the usual route of having their public information staffs do the talking. Instead, they opted for transparency and earned excellent media coverage as a result. It’s food for thought for future interactions with the media.

What works in Vermont?

Howard Shaffer displays a pro-nuclear t-shirt at the ANS Green Bag lunch on Oct 31, 2011

Howard Shaffer, PE, and Meredith Angwin, who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee, shared some thoughts about pro-nuclear activism at an informal “Green Bag” lunch.  ANS Outreach has worked with them and the ANS New England Section for over a year providing nuclear information and educational materials to try to dispel myths about nuclear energy. The focus of all this attention is the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Shaffer and Angwin said that one one of the most important things they’ve learned is the power of positive demonstrations. On October 23, they and others held a pro-nuclear rally at the gates of the plant to show support for plant workers at shift change.

“The media covers rallies because they are visible,” Shaffer said.

His advice for others who want to pursue pro-nuclear activism in their communities is to build networks of volunteers, link to affinity groups including elected officials, and reach out to others who are pro-nuclear and are looking for a way to express those views.

Angwin pointed out that “people want a third party to explain nuclear issues without bringing along hysterical fear about it.”

She emphasized the need to use “home-grown material” rather than canned stuff from national groups, though she also said that getting correct technical information from them is an important first step.

“All politics are local,” Shaffer said, “and that’s why a focus on the community is so important.”

Coming up Tuesday November 1

Mark your calendars

  • ANS releases report of the Special Committee on Fukushima (early March 2012)

ANS 2011 Twitter Hashtag

  • Tweet #ans11 for conference news

# # #


Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.