ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy was a recent guest on the Titans of Nuclear podcast, hosted by Bret Kugelmass. The podcasts feature interviews with experts throughout the nuclear community, covering advanced technology, economics, policy, industry, and more.
The wide-ranging discussion with Piercy tackled diverse subjects—from his Washington, D.C., policymaking background, to ANS’s role in addressing challenging nuclear issues, to waste management and climate change.
The details: Climate change and the public’s perception of nuclear power were two topics that weighed heavily throughout the 42-minute episode. Piercy explained that ANS members have changed their attitudes regarding climate change, saying there is an emerging understanding in the organization that nuclear must play a significant role in moving toward a decarbonized future.
He also said that changing the public’s perception about the safety of nuclear energy is essential but that it takes time to change those attitudes. He added that ANS is in a good position to educate the public and to facilitate the necessary conversations between the technical community and the public.
The ultimate key to nuclear’s future success, Piercy said, would be for experts to push back on the outdated notions that radiation and waste materials pose a threat to society.
He said it: “We cannot allow climate change efforts to fail because we’re worried about a threat that doesn’t bear out in science. We know nuclear is generally safe. We know it is the only baseload source of non-emitting energy that can be scaled up realistically without any technological showstoppers,” said Piercy. “Are we going to allow ourselves to cook the planet because we were afraid of something that science tells us we shouldn’t be worried about?”
Piercy added, “ANS has partnered with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to look at the social aspects of how to communicate risk to the general population. But it’s going to take time and it’s also going to take funding. ANS is the right organization to take that challenge on and we’re serious about it.”
The backdrop: Bret Kugelmass is the founder and managing director of the Energy Impact Center, a Washington, D.C.–based research institute focused on exploring the challenges and opportunities of nuclear power’s role in deep decarbonization. He began the Titans of Nuclear podcast in January 2018 and has produced 266 episodes and counting. Episode 265 featured Piercy.