Hall Talk - Monday Oct 31

November 1, 2011, 7:01AMANS Nuclear CafeDan Yurman

Our intrepid reporter files another update from the ANS Winter Meeting.

What does the news media want from nukes?

We spend a lot of time as nuclear professionals, especially since Fukushima, worrying about how to communicate with the press. We know from painful past experiences that sharing technical data with a general assignment reporter sometimes produces unintended results. But what about the reporter's point of view? What does a journalist want from a nuke?

Matt Wald, New York Times reporter, at ANS Winter Meeting 2011

ANS Nuclear Cafe asked that question of Matt Wald, a reporter at the New York Times. Wald, who was a panel speaker in a forum on communications, took a few minutes afterward to ponder the issue.

He said that when there is an event at a reactor, he wants to go there, see it, and talk directly with plant staff. He cited two recent examples where that approach worked out well.

The first was a site visit to the Ft. Calhoun site, in Nebraska, while the Missouri River was at flood stage last July. The second was at the North Anna reactor, in Virginia, following the August 3 East Coast earthquake.

In both cases, Wald said, "It was helpful to see as much as possible and to talk to engineering staff, to ask them questions directly. It is best to be able to see things first hand."

So there you have it. The utilities that own and operate these plants could have gone the usual route of having their public information staffs do the talking. Instead, they opted for transparency and earned excellent media coverage as a result. It's food for thought for future interactions with the media.

What works in Vermont?

Howard Shaffer displays a pro-nuclear t-shirt at the ANS Green Bag lunch on Oct 31, 2011

Howard Shaffer, PE, and Meredith Angwin, who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee, shared some thoughts about pro-nuclear activism at an informal "Green Bag" lunch.  ANS Outreach has worked with them and the ANS New England Section for over a year providing nuclear information and educational materials to try to dispel myths about nuclear energy. The focus of all this attention is the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Shaffer and Angwin said that one one of the most important things they've learned is the power of positive demonstrations. On October 23, they and others held a pro-nuclear rally at the gates of the plant to show support for plant workers at shift change.

"The media covers rallies because they are visible," Shaffer said.

His advice for others who want to pursue pro-nuclear activism in their communities is to build networks of volunteers, link to affinity groups including elected officials, and reach out to others who are pro-nuclear and are looking for a way to express those views.

Angwin pointed out that "people want a third party to explain nuclear issues without bringing along hysterical fear about it."

She emphasized the need to use "home-grown material" rather than canned stuff from national groups, though she also said that getting correct technical information from them is an important first step.

"All politics are local," Shaffer said, "and that's why a focus on the community is so important."

Coming up Tuesday November 1

Mark your calendars

  • ANS releases report of the Special Committee on Fukushima (early March 2012)

ANS 2011 Twitter Hashtag

  • Tweet #ans11 for conference news

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Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

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