This week I attended the Nuclear Energy Assembly, the US nuclear industry national conference organised by the Nuclear Energy Institute, in Miami, Florida.
I was invited to join a panel with fellow outsiders Rachel Pritzker of the Pritzker Innovation Fund and Matt Bennett of Washington D.C.-based think-tank Third Way, company I could not be more privileged to keep. We three have common foundations and perspectives. None of us were pro-nuclear 5-10 years ago, all of us have changed our position profoundly, all of us are supportive of the industry for what it offers in terms of clean energy and development and, critically, none of us are of the industry. We are the invited Shakespearean fools as it were, with the ability to speak truth to power or in more common parlance, to call matters as we see them. This week we were all more than willing to rise to the occasion.
There is a certain heavy malaise that seems to beset nuclear conferences which, as an outsider, perplexes me. I am in wonder of the potential of this technology which Matt remarked he considers to be “literally the technology which can save the world”. Yet come our session late on Tuesday afternoon you could say everyone was a little tired and certainly wearing “conference face”.
Thanks to the excellent moderation from Bill Mohr and the challenging and compelling introductions from Rachel, Matt and myself, the energy in the room rose quickly and built throughout the full hour session. We had some things to say to those people about the amazing work they do, the challenges they are facing, the mistakes they are making and the opportunities they are missing. This honesty seemed to do the job of fresh air, sunshine and a darn good cup of coffee. The room came alive.
Before the session had ended there seemed a palpable sense of engagement and fun. After receiving some genuinely effusive feedback about the session from literally dozens of people, I was thrilled to find my Twitter notifications had exploded and the fun kept coming.
I loved this from Areva US: the cheesy commercial tone is adorable.
NEI themselves were not to be outdone. I corrected their tweet: I don’t want nuclear to be the “pop rock” of environmentalism, I want it to be the punk rock. Response?
I LOVE this. This is the sort of humanising nuclear really, badly needs. There seems to have almost been the progressive creep of a notion that “safety culture” means “have no fun and feel bad about yourselves”. That’s nonsense. As we three stressed, and it seems to have been the stand-out message from the session, safety is an expectation, it is assumed, it is not a product and it is not a useful external message. Right now, with the extreme and urgent challenges besetting the US nuclear industry we don’t need a nuclear industry that is safer, we need the safe industry we have to be popular, cool, dynamic and full of fight for the future. Like, serious screw-you we are saving the world over here and we are done being stepped on, trash-talked, discriminated against, ground down and ignored. What we do is awesome and you are going to be hearing about it, a lot.
So, time to make some noise and make it so darn loud, fun and awesome that there is a queue to get in the door. It’s in there. Time to let it out.
Post script: Are you in the US and in the mood to make noise? Then you are needed RIGHT NOW in Illinois. You may not be from Illinois but we need to show up to this fight wherever it is across the USA. Here is a message from my friends at Environmental Progress:
Folks, now is the time to ramp up your social media engines and help make a huge statement supporting Illinois SB 1585. Even if you’re out of state you can still comment on articles that are out there. SB 1585 is the bill that, if passed, will save the Exelon Clinton and Quad Cities nukes. If it does not pass they will be closed.
Do a google news search on “illinois nuclear” and maybe set up an as-it-happens alert for yourself, to find articles that you can respond to.
And if you’re in Illinois, call your rep and senator, and the Governor, and Cullerton and Madigan, and his daughter. Many voices will make a difference!
This bill could come to the Senate floor as early as tomorrow, so act now! It must pass this session, which ends next week. We will NOT get another chance to save these plants.
Thanks from all of us at EP Illinois!