Craig Piercy discusses ANS response to war in Ukraine

June 2, 2022, 12:01PMANS News


The Association Forum recently highlighted the American Nuclear Society’s rapid response to the unfolding events in Ukraine earlier this year. Kim Kelly of the group’s Forum Magazine conducted an interview with ANS Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy, who described the Society’s efforts to address public safety concerns and correct media reports regarding Ukraine’s nuclear power plants in the early days of the war. Piercy also discussed joint efforts between ANS and the European Nuclear Society (ENS) in setting up a relief fund to help workers in Ukraine’s nuclear energy industry.

Giving accurate information: Piercy noted that “existing international ties and bilateral ties we [ANS] have with other countries really came into play as the Ukraine invasion unfolded.” The Society had a team of nuclear experts in place, some with direct experience in Ukraine, to reach out to media outlets, answer media requests for information, and quickly correct inaccurate information that was reported.

For example, as the conflict spread to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in March, the ANS team followed the situation closely—studying radiation monitoring data that was available online, exchanging information on the Microsoft Teams platform, and communicating with contacts on the ground. When inaccurate media reports about a fire at Zaporizhzhia appeared, the ANS team was ready. “The fire turned out to be in a training facility that was on the grounds of the nuclear plant, but not at all related to the nuclear plant,” Piercy said. Between maps, ANS experts with experience at Zaphorizhzhia, and communication with people on-site, ANS was able to stitch the facts together. “I think we were really able to correct for the record what happened and what didn’t happen in that area,” Piercy said—efforts that quelled fears of worst-case scenarios and helped tamp down sensationalism.

The overall response was a success. ANS communications director Andrew Coffman Smith added that the message to the media was, “This is not another Chernobyl,” and soon, the response team stopped getting alarmist requests from journalists.

Raising funds for nuclear workers: Piercy explained how within 24 hours of the invasion, ANS President Steven Nesbit suggested setting up a fund to aid Ukraine’s nuclear workers. Piercy was on board; ANS immediately coordinated efforts with ENS to direct funds to the Ukrainian Nuclear Society for distribution. “This is where having partnerships with like-minded organizations in the region became a big plus,” Piercy said, “because the challenge in Ukraine right now is getting things into the country and to the right people.”

As of this writing, about $150,000 has been raised to purchase such needed items as personal protective equipment, battery banks, food, clothing, medicine, and first aid supplies. Piercy added that donations will continue to be accepted as long as there is a need for them.

To donate to the ANS-ENS Ukrainian Nuclear Workers Humanitarian Fund, visit the ANS website.

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