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Report of the NRC public meeting for Clinton's ESP

The following was authored by Michael Stuart, a Senior Nuclear Instructor in Dominion, and an active member of North American Young Generation in Nuclear. It is an excellent summary of the events in and around Clinton Illinois on 4/19/05:

Trip Synopsis
Clinton Early Site Permit, Draft Environmental Impact Statement Hearing

On Monday, April 18, Delbert Horn, Kelly Taylor, and I left for Clinton, Illinois. To conserve gas (in true environmentalist fashion) Norris McDonald (President of the African-American Environmentalist Association) and his son, Sandy came down to Richmond from D.C. to car-pool with us.

We arrived in Clinton right about midnight and within minutes, we found out from a local paper that our anti friends were holding a press conference on Tuesday at the University of Illinois in Bloomington-Normal. We decided to attend.

The next day at around 11 a.m. we arrived at the press conference, about 45 minutes' drive north of Clinton Station, which drew a crowd of about 22 people. The 22 people were made up of about 12 anti-nuclear organizers and speakers, 4 pro-nuclear (us), 2 camera operators (affiliation unknown), and maybe 3 or 4 actual reporters, although I am not certain. The popularity of their conference may have been affected by the election of the Pope and President Bush's visit to Springfield.

Each person made a statement against nuclear energy, such as whether the power is needed, alternative forms of energy generation haven't been considered, waste issues, security, and health impacts. One person, Phil Huckleberry of the McLean County Green Party, had a brand new assertion: All that Illinois really needs to do is to legalize the growing of hemp. It is a crop with great economic benefits and can also supply energy. Brendan Hoffman also asserted that renewable energy could supply eight times the energy needs for all of Illinois.

At the end of the press conference a couple of the anti's asked a few "softball questions." The apparent reporters did not ask any questions. Delbert then asked the speakers to compare the dangers of nuclear power with something we could understand so that we could get a feel for relative risks. I asked if any of them were aware of studies involving actual workers who have worked in nuclear fields for nearly 50 years showing decreased risk of cancers. "If nuclear is so bad, why do the health effects on the actual workers who are exposed to the highest amounts of radiation not support their claim?" They could provide no answers, but one of the speakers suggested that people employed in the nuclear industry are healthier from the start.

After the press conference we were fortunate to be able to tour Clinton Station. Since it is a BWR, the RCA includes the turbine building. We were issued dosimetry and took a tour of the station, including a view of the fuel building, turbine building, and much to our surprise, we even entered containment (at power) where we could see the top of the reactor vessel covered with water! We were impressed with the people who worked there and cleanliness and aesthetic appeal of the site.

That evening, we arrived at the junior high school at around 5 p.m. and set up our tables, banners, signs, and information handouts. We then got to work greeting people and asking them if we could share any information. Most people were very nice and had a few questions. We were able to speak to them with a smile and an intelligent answer.

The attendees can be categorized as follows: locals made up the majority of the crowd (approximately 300 people), and the majority of them were in favor of Clinton's ESP. Non-locals, were mostly anti-nuclear, but also contained a strong pro-nuclear contingent of NA-YGN and ANS members, mostly from within 2 to 5 hours of Clinton. The NA-YGN and ANS members, many of whom were students, were excited and eager to help out.

The local NA-YGN and ANS members helped us speak to each person and encourage them to sign up to say just a few words in support of Clinton. We explained that making a statement, even if it's just a few words, has a huge impact, especially when it comes to media reports. Many of the young people who were not already part of NA-YGN were excited to learn more about how they could join and help out. We collected information from some, and pointed many of them to our web site.

One person, a local resident who was a Quaker, was looking at our materials with a concerned expression. I asked him if I could answer any questions, and he proceeded to tell me the concerns he had, which sounded like they were straight from the anti-nuclear material. We conversed about each one of his concerns. At first he seemed skeptical, but with every exchange, he became more and more interested. At the end of our conversation, he seemed genuinely thankful for having talked to us. He shook my hand and asked if he could contact me if he had more questions, to which I gladly assented. Later in the meeting, he spoke as a person who was concerned, but had "heard valid points on both sides" and had hopes that everyone would be able to set aside their emotional involvement and speak rationally and logically with each other. I considered our impact on him to be another great success.

Members of the media approached many of us and we were able to give them a simple and consistent message: Nuclear power is safe, clean, and reliable. One member of the media approached Brendan Hoffman and me thinking that we were both protesters. I told the reporter that "although we're standing beside each other, we're not on the same team." He then looked at our signs and with a surprised look said, "Oh!" He then proceeded to interview Brendan. Afterwards, the reporter interviewed me, and I was able to provide counter points to each one of Brendan's contentions. It was great!

Because of our high numbers we were able to actively engage a lot of people. By the time the meeting started, the majority of the crowd wore our pro-nuclear sticker ("Nuclear YES! Because we care about the air.") This made it very easy for us (and the media) to identify the pro-nuclear people in attendance. Unfortunately, these stickers went like hotcakes, so not everyone who wanted one was able to get one. The handouts were popular, as well. We distributed 153 of them (out of an original 200).

I counted 20 speakers opposed and 24 speakers in favor of Clinton's ESP. Each person was supposed to be limited to three minutes. Of the speakers in favor of the ESP, at least half of them were there (and over half of them spoke) as a direct result of our involvement. The NA-YGN and ANS students' fact-based enthusiasm provided an excellent balance to the often-emotional student environmentalists. Local speakers included the Sheriff, and a member of the local fire department. All of them seemed very calm and rational. An older gentleman said, "I don't appreciate these people driving down here to my town with their cars and polluting my air." He later jokingly said, "I've been living in this area for over 50 years, and I think this plant has caused me to get gray hair and wrinkles!"

The opposition was overwhelmingly emotional and irrational. They were also overwhelmingly from Chicago and Bloomington-Normal. One person said, "I know that these engineers will assure you that nuclear power is safe and clean, but I'm not an engineer, I'm a human being!" Another person said that the hydrogen economy was hype because those plans involve the use of "water, which is not renewable." Another person said that the plant had the explosive power of a thousand Hiroshima bombs. She had been to Hiroshima many times and witnessed the devastation herself. When the moderator tried to interrupt an older lady after six minutes of emotional words, she said something to the effect of, "D*mn it! Stop interrupting me, and let me finish!" Words cannot express our disap! pointment when Phil Huckleberry didn't promote in his statement his idea of hemp being the answer to the economic and energy needs to the citizens of Clinton.

Attendees were later reassured that water was, in fact, renewable and that engineers were, in fact, human beings.

On the whole, I believe that our participation at the Clinton DEIS hearing was an overwhelming success. By encouraging people to speak, we turned the numbers against the antis. By sharing information, we were able to help educate the locals on the difference between fact and fantasy. By connecting with other energetic and enthusiastic participants, we have new friends and partners in the education effort. By being visible and encouraging these enthusiastic participants, we were able to share our message with the media: There are other voices besides those of Exelon and the anti-nuclear environmentalists. We are professional, rational, and educated, and we want to give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

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Vern Cornell said…
What a marvelous report!
Now please advise me how I can get somthing going in San Onofre where we need a reactor or two to solve southern California's needs.
San Onofre has removed(!) one of its three reactors..!
Vern Cornell
Norris McDonald said…

Kelly is a lady.

I would like to tour San Onofre as soon as possible. We are in the process of establishing an AAEA ( chapter in Los Angeles this year and San Onofre is at the top of our list for support.

We want to get more celebrities involved as allies. Contact us.
Kelly L. Taylor said…

I may be a lady (generous of you, Norris) but Michael most definitely is not!

The best way to encourage the development of new nuclear power is by contacting your political representatives and touting the benefits of nuclear energy, and by encouraging them to pass the energy bill. Another good way is to support the construction of new reactors in Virginia, Illinois, the Carolinas, and Mississippi, because once a few new reactors are able to be built on time and on budget, it will lead the way for further development across the country.

For specific questions or information, you may also like to check out the websites or contact links at North American Young Generation in Nuclear, and the American Nuclear Society.

Kelly Taylor (on behalf of Michael Stuart)
Norris McDonald said…

Michael wrote the report and Kelly posted it.

Since you are on the left coast, you might also consider getting Hollywood involved. We need more big stars (or any big star) to come out in support of nuclear power. Do you know any celebrities that might be inclined to take the leap?
Atkins said…
Great blog. In case you care to know, I was searching for ga clean air act grants for truckers and your blog came up. I am glad I found it though.

Very nice.

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