What does it take for young nuclear professionals to get involved in campaigns to inform the public about the benefits of nuclear energy? Just hearing for themselves the kind of propaganda that is spread by anti-nuclear groups is enough to spur many to action.
Like their colleagues that attended events in Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia, North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NA-YGN) members in New Jersey were stunned by the rhetoric and misinformation presented at the “Clinic Symposium on Campaign to Close Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant” at Rutgers University last Friday, December 8. Nuclear Notes’ previous posts on this event are here, here, and here.
Prior to the event, NA-YGN contacted Richard Webster of Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic to request a seat on the panel. While they were not completely denied, Webster did put some restrictions on their participation that are questionable in light of the qualifications and actual remarks of the selected speakers.
Webster said he only wanted "experts" on specific issues at Oyster Creek, not someone to give general pro-nuclear information. For instance, he wouldn’t allow someone to just counter Dr. Mangano’s Tooth Fairy studies, he would require someone that has studied the issue as completely as Mangano—that, like him, have “done tests around Oyster Creek”--and could give a different explanation of the “spatial correlations” that he found. Similar expertise would be required for his other chosen issues of drywell corrosion, used fuel pools, local health effects and environmental concerns, and Exelon’s “incompetence.” Webster was asked if that meant NA-YGN would have to provide a speaker that was an expert on ALL of those issues. At first, he said "yes" but when it was pointed out that none of the invited six is an expert on every single issue, he conceded and said he may allow several experts. He also said that they were short on time and the additional people would have to be handled as a breakout session. In addition, if NA-YGN was able to round up experts in such a short period of time, he would want to see their résumés and personally converse with them to determine if they were truly knowledgeable and could contribute to the debate.
With such short notice NA-YGN was unable to secure a speaker that would meet Webster’s requirements but as mentioned in the article about the event, Webster did allow NA-YGN to setup a table outside the room. They were joined by representatives from Women in Nuclear (WIN) and one person from the IBEW. NA-YGN members that attended included:
Most passersby were surprised the nuclear supporters were there. One local gentleman, who came purely for the celebrity sighting but enjoyed talking to the young nuclear professionals, actually returned to his home and brought back a copy of a recent New York Post editorial in favor of Indian Point. NA-YGN members quickly made copies and attendees took every last one.
Before the event, Paul Gunter of Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) approached NA-YGN members and “loudly and aggressively” questioned their information. As is always important in this type of interaction, the nuclear supporters calmly and politely responded to the rhetoric. I’m told that Hibiscus Films, which is doing a documentary on Oyster Creek, caught the action on camera.
During the presentations, NA-YGN members did not interrupt the speakers but made several interesting notes.
As the moderator, Alec Baldwin’s remarks weren’t just anti-Oyster Creek, but entirely anti-nuclear industry (which makes me wonder why Webster insisted that any pro-nuclear speaker from NA-YGN must stick to Oyster Creek issues—he certainly did not require that of his invited speakers). Baldwin's message was clearly that the industry and the company were all about the money – but gave no actual facts to support his case.
Julia Huff of Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic spoke about marine impacts but apparently was difficult to follow. She focused on fish kill and sea turtle impingement but had no real evidence to back up her statements. She said “thousands" of turtles were killed last year. I highly doubt it given the industry’s remarkable protection of wildlife with things like traveling screens and programs to preserve habitats.
Joe Mangano gave his usual Tooth Fairy spiel, which we here at Nuclear Notes have debunked often.
During the Q&A portion each NA-YGN member asked a question to counter the statements of the speakers so that attendees heard a balanced point of view. Mangano received the most questions from the audience. Mark Dirado tells me:
[Mangano was asked] “Since the state of [New Jersey], the United Nations, the leading cancer researchers, and virtually all other credible institutions have debunked the tooth fairy project, why don't you just admit that your group is so far out on the fringe that you are irrelevant?” [The speakers] hated that term, fringe. I'm guessing "pseudoscience" would have sent them over the edge. [Baldwin] had to be physically restrained.After the symposium, many young people in the audience “made a beeline” for the information table and conversed with NA-YGN members for a “very positive, energetic exchange.” I think that’s terrific—it’s what outreach is all about.
NA-YGN member Lauren Lail said:
I thought it was unfortunate that members of the public, especially those who may be on the fence where nuclear is concerned, were not given the opportunity to get the opposing (pro-nuclear) side of the issue during the presentation part of the symposium. After the number of mediocre speeches given by the panel "experts" it would have been easy for someone familiar with the nuclear industry to debunk many of the unsupported claims made during the presentations. Although no pro-nuclear speakers were able to present on the panel, it was great to see the nuclear industry represented in the audience. The question and answer section of the symposium presented the opportunity to discuss some [of] these issues with the panel members. Regardless of how unfavorably panel members received them, the questions alerted the public to the presence of, and generated interest in, the pro-nuclear side. … In the future, I hope to see the nuclear industry given the opportunity to represent itself on the panel of one of these symposiums.Me too, Lauren.
Kudos to the NA-YGN members in New Jersey!
UPDATE: Here are two other takes on the Baldwin event from The Classless Society and Moonbattery.
Technorati tags: Nuclear Energy, Environment, Energy, Politics, Technology, Economics, Alec Baldwin, New Jersey, Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant