The Energy Collective Group

This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going. This group is part of the Energy Collective Network.

9,790 Subscribers

Article Post

DoE Wants Ideas to Educate the Public About Nuclear Energy

A senior official in the Office of Nuclear Energy has issued an invitation asking for ideas on how to educate the public about nuclear energy. 

A problem is going to be how to promote nuclear energy at a government agency. and in an administration, which denies that climate change is caused by human activities that release greenhouse gases.

climate_change_carbon_tax

Educating the public about nuclear energy is a positive action so your support, gratis, is solicited.  You will find below the request which appears to have been sent selectively to people who are actually in the business of educating the public about nuclear energy including at least one citizen activist.

Apparently, the concepts that the government has been using aren’t working as well as expected so it looks like the door is open for new ones. Given the terrifying pace at which rock solid nuclear plants are being closed prematurely for market reasons, any innovation that can make a difference in that regard would be welcome.

I did not get the email invitation nor did another blogger many of you know well who has been blogging about nuclear energy longer than anyone can remember.  Someone who did get it forwarded it to others and since there is no apparent restriction on circulating it, I offer it here (below) with a few comments.

I have no idea if DOE also contacted the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), American Nuclear Society (ANS), Third Way, or any of the other advocacy groups especially the ones promoting small modular reactors.  If DOE is interested in casting a wide net, it needs to step up its game in terms of email blasts to stakeholders.

That said here’s the email and a point of contact to send your ideas.

________________

From: “Jaworowski, Suzanne”
Subject: Input on the Most Interesting Facts about Nuclear
Date: February 8, 2018 at 4:13 PM EST

Hello, As you may know, the Office of Nuclear Energy is executing a strategic communications effort to educate people about today’s nuclear technology.  I’d like to ask you to weigh in on what you think are the MOST interesting and important facts to know about Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Technology.

  • What facts do you think are most important?
  • What facts do you tell people and they are surprised?

Could you please send me up to five favorite facts that you personally use in speaking about nuclear energy that you find to be convincing with the public? We’d like to collect these facts and then amplify them in our communications channels.

Please send me your top five most motivating facts about Nuclear by 2/14 end of day.   Thank you!

Suzanne Jaworowski, Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Office of Nuclear Energy
Suzanne.Jaworowski@hq.doe.gov

________________

What about Climate Change?

The  paradox DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy is going to face is that educating the public about nuclear energy requires acknowledging the challenge of dealing with climate change. The current administration, including DOE Secretary Rick Perry, have an official policy position that it’s not a phenomenon caused by human activities that release greenhouse gases.

Over at EPA Scott Pruitt, a tool of the fossil industry if there ever was one, has been hard at work wrecking the agency and its programs with hundreds of scientists and engineers quitting rather than work under the direction of his willful blindness on the issue.

Despite the Trump administration’s views on coal, and effort to secure votes in coal states, including WV, PA, OH, IN, and IL, there are changes afoot that could be significant in the 2018 elections.

Even some green groups, which have long on reflex opposed anything related to nuclear energy have started to change their tune.  As evidence, this recent article in Grist proves that point.  If DOE wants to look to Congress for leadership in this area, it can start with a recent OP ED in the New York Times by two U.S. Senators, one republican and one democrat.

Who DOE Could Talk to if the Agency is Serious

The agency ought to be talking to Michael Shellenberger at Environmental Progress or the folks at Generation Atomic if they want “grass roots” input. Also, I’m sure the people at NEI and ANS would be happy to give DOE the benefit of their thinking.

Recent efforts to talk to a Millennial Caucus on nuclear energy is a start, but mass communications strategies that reach tens of millions of people, which is how Nuclear Matters works, need a major commitment by the government to get its message on television and in social media channels.

More to the point DOE needs to be talking to state legislatures about keeping nuclear plants open starting with Ohio where Davis-Besse and Perry are on the brink of premature closure.

We’re in a major crisis in the U.S. where we are closing the power plants that don’t emit CO2 and building ones that do.  We will wind up with a another paradox of powering electric cars with energy generated at fossil plants with the accompanying CO2 emissions. For instance, C02 emissions from the electricity sector increased 24 percent after the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (2200 MW) in California closed.

A key idea DOE could pursue in communicating with the public is how a carbon tax would help keep nuclear plants open.  The idea is that since the benefits of not frying the planet accrue to everyone, then all tax payers need to help pay for the benefits they receive from this intervention.

Otherwise, with no price put on the release of greenhouse gases and other pollution into the air, you get a red hot case of the tragedy of the commons. Garrett Hardin’s classic article in Science still stands as relevant 50 years later

Can a Zebra Change its Stripes?

SJ headshotI  did a bit of Internet searching to see whether Ms. Jaworoski (right) has expertise in the nuclear energy industry. Prior to working of DOE/NE she was an election campaign activist and before that a PR manager for a coal mining firm.

Ms. Jaworowski, co-chaired GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s 2016 Indiana campaign.

Previously, she served as director of communications at Sunrise Coal, a company active in the Illinois basin that bills itself as the second-largest coal producer in Indiana.

It’s ironic, that a former PR chief for a coal company is now looking for ideas to promote nuclear energy. If it works, more power to her.

Original Post

Content Discussion

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on February 13, 2018

Great post, Dan. A few notes from my experience –

• A carbon tax would indeed help keep nuclear plants open. In the U.S., under the Trump administration, it’s a non-starter. A truly competitive energy landscape, a so-called “level playing field,” currently carries as much weight among Republican lawmakers as does a balanced budget (i.e., none) – leaving zero-emissions credits as the most productive focus of advocacy. If we can’t hold onto the plants we have, Generation 3 nuclear in the U.S. could literally be the last.

• Top management in environmental orgs is maintaining a conspicuous silence on the subject of nuclear. Surprisingly, it’s not because decisionmakers don’t believe in its potential, or even that it’s not the best way to address climate change. There are two reasons: 1) Irrational prejudices make discussion of the subject off-limits to much of their base; 2) Nuclear constitutes a direct challenge to renewable energy, now big business. Promoting nuclear would threaten charitable donations, which for prominent environmental orgs is their lifeblood. It may be a matter of time – and from an environmental standpoint we have little to spare.

• The lifeblood for NEI is their membership – utilities. Representing those interests, while promoting nuclear, can result in a contradiction: if utilities can presently make more money selling natural gas-fired electricity, why would they belong to an organization which promotes its competition? CEO Maria Korsnick has recognized ZECs as a viable middle ground, and is willing to show the door to energy companies which have a problem with them. Her bold and uncompromising position represents the kind of leadership nuclear has been desperately lacking.