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Women of America Are Stepping Up As Nuclear Energy Advocates

Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources

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Nuclear Energy
Engineering manager Kristin Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear. VOA
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  • The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years
  • Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources
  • Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear

San Francisco, August 26, 2017: Kristin Zaitz is confident that her nuclear power plant is safe.

Zaitz, an engineering manager, was at Diablo Canyon Power Plant during both her pregnancies and has scuba dived to inspect the plant, which hugs the California coast. Zaitz wears a pendant with a tiny bit of uranium inside, an item that tends to invite questions.

“We all have our perceptions of nuclear,” Zaitz said.

In a few years, Diablo Canyon will close, part of a trend nationwide. The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years. Add to that ongoing concerns about public safety, such as those raised by memories of disasters at nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan, Chernobyl in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) and Three Mile Island in the United States.

Nuclear is ‘cleaner’ than fossil fuels

Supporters of nuclear energy say that when a reactor-based generating station closes, not enough wind and solar power is available to make up the difference. They lament that energy companies tend to turn instead to fossil fuels — coal and natural gas — which produce environmentally harmful emissions.

Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear, their effort to get the word out that nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources.

“I went into the plant very skeptical of nuclear and being scared of it,” said Matteson. “It took me six to seven years to really feel like this is something good for the environment. I don’t want people to take six to seven years to make that decision. We don’t have that long.”

Matteson, too, wears the uranium necklace as a conversation starter. “Nuclear is fun,” she said. Is there any radiation emitted by the pendant? “There’s slightly more than from a banana,” she conceded.

Also Read: Indian nuclear industry growing fast, says former Atomic Energy Commission chief

Women seen as powerful advocates

Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear. They can help change attitudes of other women who tend to be more skeptical than men about nuclear energy’s benefits.

At the recent U.S. Women in Nuclear conference in San Francisco, women working in the industry talked about how more should be done to make nuclear power’s case to the public, and how they may be the best suited to do it.

“As mothers, I think we also have an important role to play in letting the public know that we support nuclear for the future, for our children,” said Matteson. “And we don’t know other mothers supporting nuclear power in a vocal way. We thought there was a gap to fill.”

Young women say they look at careers in this industry because they are socially minded.

‘Do something good for the world’

“I went into this wanting to do something good for the world,” Lenka Kollar, business strategy director at NuScale, a firm in Oregon that designs and markets small modular reactors. “Wanting to bring power to people. There are still more than a billion people in the world who don’t have electricity.”

Critics of nuclear energy say it doesn’t matter who is promoting it.

“Using mothers’ voices to argue for a technology that is fundamentally dangerous and that has been demonstrated by disasters like Fukushima to be not safe for the communities that surround the power plants or even cities that are hundreds of miles away is disingenuous,” said Kendra Klein, a staff scientist with Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.

While the future of nuclear power in the United States may be uncertain, the women here say they have a positive story to tell. (VOA)

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Climate Change Not A Hoax: Trump

President Trump signed a declaration Sunday saying the federal government will, for now, pay for 100 percent of the cleanup in Florida

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Climate Change
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump is backing off his claim that climate change is a hoax.

In an interview broadcast Sunday, Trump told CBS-TV’s 60 Minutes “I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again…I’m not denying climate change, but it could very well go back. You know, we’re talking about over millions of years.”

Trump has over the years called global warming a hoax and had once called it a Chinese plot aimed at wrecking the U.S. economy.

climate change
People clean up their house that was destro. yed by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach. VOA

Trump told 60 Minutes he does not know if global waning is manmade, despite the scientific research showing that pollution and human activity is the major contributor. He said he does not want to give “trillions and trillions of dollars” and lose “millions and millions of jobs” to prevent it.

Most scientists link a warming planet with storms that are more intense. Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle last week as the strongest storm to strike the continental United States in nearly 50 years.

Trump said there have been hurricanes that were “far worse” than Michael and said scientists calling for action on climate change have a “very big political agenda.”

Meanwhile, the town of Mexico Beach, Florida was just about wiped off the face of the earth by Hurricane Michael.

“Mexico Beach is devastated,” Florida Governor Rick Scott says. “It’s like a war zone.”

Climate Change
Scenes of devastation in Mexico Beach, Florida in the aftermath for Hurricane Michael. VOA

Michael’s 250 kilometer per hour winds left only a handful of buildings standing. Concrete slabs are left where houses and stores thrived. Only a few trees are left. The main U.S. highway that goes through the town is not drivable.

Mexico Beach police chief Anthony Kelly told VOA’s Spanish Service, “When you come here and see the devastation, it’s hard, it’s emotionally hard.”

“We know each person in the majority of the houses. They know us,” Kelly said. “All these people are close to us. And now we’re going around the neighborhoods making sure that they’re not in any of these houses that are so extremely damaged.”

“Looking in the debris, seeing photos of grandkids, people that we know that have come back here year after year, that’s the emotional side,” he said. “I’ve got officers that this is their first catastrophic event, and it’s hard to explain to them, you know, it’s going to get better, because they’re seeing reality.”

The town’s medical manager, Patricia Cantwell, said, “It’s extremely sad that the devastation has been so rampant throughout the Panhandle” of the state.

“Having lived through Hurricane Andrew in south Florida (in 1992), it’s going to take a while,” she told VOA. “It’s one day at a time. It looks overwhelming to start, but, you know, one day at a time. It’s going to take years to get things back up and running.”

Climate Change
Scenes of devastation in Mexico Beach, Florida in the aftermath for Hurricane Michael.. VOA

Brock Long, the head Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the death toll in Mexico Beach could rise, as rescue workers continue to search the rubble left behind by the storm. It could take another 10 days to compile a damage estimate.

Some physical structures in the town were lifted off their moorings and moved hundreds of meters away by the winds and storm surge from the storm. Other buildings were left in masses of debris, demolished beyond recognition.

Also Read: US First Lady Melania Trump Starts The Final Leg of Her Africa Trip

President Trump signed a declaration Sunday saying the federal government will, for now, pay for 100 percent of the cleanup in Florida, temporarily easing the financial burden from the state. (VOA)