Nuclear Disinformation vs. Public Education

As a nuclear engineer, I consider it my unique duty to inform the public and communicate openly about the benefits and risks of nuclear power.  Each year, I anxiously anticipate The Columbus Community Festival because it gives me the opportunity to visit home to see and hear the sights and sounds of the town that raised me from a babe.  This year was especially memorable to me, as I was fortunate enough to reunite with many of my friends old and new (some I had not seen since my high school graduation).
 
My concern amidst all of the positive memories of 2011 ComFest was that participants in the event heard “environmental activists” on Bozo stage promulgate nuclear misinformation. This concerned me because I know one of the core principles of ComFest is working “for the collective good of all people.” I cannot justify how presenting false information as fact works for collective good.  These activists stated, “two plants in Nebraska are underwater”; regulators and corporations collude to “fatten their pockets”; and “without nuclear power… we would have all renewables like wind and solar” (as well as other claims). 
 
These statements are sensationalized anti-nuclear rhetoric!
 
To address some of the specifics, the following is some factual information that refutes the messages that were prominently presented as fact at ComFest: Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Nuclear Station and OmahaPublic Power District’s Fort Calhoun Station are not “underwater”.  Fort Calhoun has experienced flooding on their property; but, the reactor remains dry inside its watertight containment building.  This is due, in part, to recognition of deficiencies in Fort Calhoun’s flood response plan by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) resident inspector, and the subsequent implementation of improvements overseen by the NRC (reference letter LIC-10-0098 in ADAMS).  When the vessel head problems occurred at First Energy Nuclear Operating Company’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, the NRC fined the owners $5.5 million and kept the reactor shut down for years.  The NRC routinely inspects emergency readiness plans; and mandates owners design and operate their plants in accordance with strict safety standards.
 
The fact is nuclear power was developed for the collective good.  Nuclear power contributes to U.S. energy independence, and provides reliable, good-paying jobs across many trades and education levels. In 2010, nuclear power accounted for almost 20 percent of electricity generation and more than 68 percent of emission free electricity production in the United States.  The same year, electricity generation from nuclear avoided 1.6 million tons of Sulfur dioxide and 707 million tons of CO2 emissions.  Both Sulfur dioxide and CO2 are greenhouse gases and are detrimental to public health.
 
On the notion that nuclear can be replaced with renewable energy: with an average wind turbine of 1.5 megawatts – 830 wind turbines would be needed to replace the capacity of Perry Nuclear Power Plant (1,245 megawatts). I challenge these “activists” to explain, where in Ohio would we put 830 wind turbines?  Or in the case of small, residential wind turbines, what middle-class family can contribute roughly $40,000 in capital costs?
 
For me, ComFest used to symbolize friends and community.  This weekend left me wondering, when did ComFest come to symbolize deceptive activism?  I inquire of the ComFest organizers, whether they are aware that misinformation was spread and if they took any or plan to take any action to ensure that this kind of misleading information is not being spread at ComFest. If they are not planning an action, I respectfully request that they do. ComFest’s organizers, when addressing political issues affecting our community, should strive to present the facts and the opportunity to represent both sides of those issues.  Because isn’t promoting an informed public the best thing, in the end, for all of us?
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