“Nuclear bros” take to social media to spread the word

October 10, 2022, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Shannon Osaka
(Photo: Neel Dhanesha)

A recent Washington Post article profiles an “increasingly loud Internet subculture”: “nuclear bros.” A network of online pronuclear activists whose nickname is often used derisively, the group consists mostly of men who are primarily driven by their confidence that nuclear energy is the best way to combat the dangers of climate change. This is according to the writer, Shannon Osaka, who calls herself a “climate zeitgeist reporter.”

Left and formerly antinuclear: Osaka writes that the nuclear bros usually exchange ideas and information on shared WhatsApp groups, Reddit (r/nuclear), or Twitter. She provides profiles of a few of these bros and suggests that most are on the political Left and used to be antinuclear, until their fears of climate change pushed them to the pronuclear side.

One such bro, 40-year-old Toronto physician Chris Keefer, says he was formerly “tribally antinuclear” just because “everyone else he knew was opposed to it.” Then, after his son was born in 2018, he became “horrified” by the idea of a “much hotter world” in the future. So, he read up on nuclear energy and concluded that “hydro and nuclear are basically the only two tools that have helped achieve deep decarbonization.” By 2019, Keefer was organizing pronuclear rallies with Canadians for Nuclear Power, a group he cofounded. He also hosts a podcast in which he voices his support for nuclear power.

Bro-pponents: Osaka crosses the aisle to describe the opponents of nuclear bros, those individuals and groups that bestowed the once-unflattering. They include vehemently antinuclear environments (such as Friends of the Earth), as well as pronuclear environmentalists who also support renewable sources like wind and solar. Social media users in the latter category often mock nuclear bros for their perceived hostility toward (what some bros call) “overhyped” renewables and almost all other forms of energy except nuclear. As is unfortunately typical with social media, such disagreements sometimes lead to “fights [that] are filled with profanity and name calling,” writes Osaka.

Perceptions: Whenever nuclear-related arguments and debates heat up the internet, Osaka notes that “long-held perceptions of nuclear power as dangerous and scary are unlikely to disappear anytime soon.” So, in other words, some people are driven to support nuclear power because they fear climate change, while others are driven to oppose nuclear power because they are afraid of the energy source itself.

This dilemma prompts a thought: Rather than rely on fear and emotion to drive energy preferences, wouldn’t it be nice if people could use clear and sober logic to guide their ideas about energy?

Civil society: Osaka ends her piece by quoting Alex Trembath, deputy director of the pronuclear Breakthrough Institute and a rejecter of the “nuclear bro” label. Trembath praises pronuclear activism for helping to create “a civil society around nuclear” that previously did not exist. However, he says, “We still have to prove that this nuclear renaissance won’t fizzle out.”

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