Federal Affairs brainstorming session: Communicating the benefits of nuclear energy

How to communicate the benefits of nuclear energy more effectively

During the American Nuclear Society’s Winter Meeting on November  7-11 in Las Vegas, Nev., the Society’s Public Information (PI) Committee sponsored a workshop titled “Focus on Communications: How ANS Members Can Carry the Nuclear Energy Message to the New Congress.” This always-popular workshop was hosted by Mimi Limbach, ANS PI Committee member and partner, Potomac Communications Group, and  Craig Piercy, ANS Washington representative and senior vice president of Federal Relations, Bose Public Affairs Group.

Using an interactive, open-microphone format, the workshop included a brainstorming session on how nuclear professionals can better
communicate the advantages and benefits of nuclear energy to the U.S.
Congress and to the public at large.

Here is the list of ideas offered by participants during the workshop:

Communications & Outreach Opportunities

  • Talk to your communities, ally with universities.
  • Don’t be dismissive of the critics – they have challenged us and we’ve become better.
  • Make nuclear energy more accessible to the public – develop a nuclear “Did you know?”’
  • Point out medical applications.
  • Sell the benefits of nuclear energy, don’t trash the competition.
  • Humanize the technology.
  • Social media is a powerful medium – use it! Viral videos, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc.
  • Find a cute mascot.
  • Energy Education vans – bring them back.
  • Bust stereotypes.
  • Establish a positive message with a backbone.
  • Need to communicate best practices among ourselves – help others build on what ANS local chapters have accomplished.

Educational Outreach

  • Concentrate on education from kindergarten through college.
  • Tackle the inherently anti-nuclear textbooks.
  • Entergy integrates nuclear energy materials into state curriculum in partnership with Global Energy Solutions; NA-YGN is going to adopt nationwide.
  • Target teachers, pair with nuclear engineering faculty.
  • Educate current nuclear science & engineering students to be good communicators.
  • Investments in student sections & outreach yield high returns.

Environmental & Natural Resources Benefits of Nuclear Energy

  • Natural resources (gas, oil) are finite = depletion of resources.
  • Position nuclear  energy as inexhaustible.
  • Nuclear energy density is sexy!
  • Emphasize why nuclear energy is a solution to energy sprawl.
  • Build coalitions with local environmental organizations.
  • Solar is really nuclear.
  • Do not concede used nuclear fuel as waste; reposition the Yucca Moutain repository as the “Strategic Nuclear Fuel Reserve.”

Economic Competitiveness of Nuclear Energy

  • Use the French experience as a model – cost efficiency.
  • Invest in nuclear energy to address potential inflation – value for investment.
  • Utilities should provide percentage and cost of each generating source.
  • Energy costs affect our global competitiveness.
  • The issue is financing – Wall Street . Nuclear energy is the only industry that takes care of its waste cradle to grave. Wall St. doesn’t understand financing a 60-year project.

Government Role(s) in Nuclear Energy

  • Change NRC cost recovery formula for Small Modular Reactors.
  • Simplify export rules.
  • Provide more incentive for utilities to build new plants.
  • Public needs to know about importance of government role in energy policy.
  • Need to level the playing field, RE: subsidies, but be careful, it’s a double-edged sword.
  • Government funding has helped make advanced nuclear power plants economically competitive.
  • Convene a workshop with pro-nuclear state legislators to develop a model statute for” Construction Work In Progress” (which allows public utility commissions to give utilities permission to charge ratepayers for a portion of the cost of nuclear plant construction before the plant goes into operation). Take worksops on the road to public utility commissions for feedback. Pitch to Council of State Legislators for support.

Non-Proliferation & National Security

  • Swords into plowshares – we’re not making nuclear weapons, we’re destroying them!
  • 15 percent-18 percent of U.S. defense budget is spent to guard the Straits of Hormuz for energy transport – nuclear is a national energy security solution.

Safety

  • One of safest industries in the nation – more dangerous to work in an office building than a nuclear energy facility.

This article first appeared on the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

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