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[cdn-nucl-l] Re: [cdn-nucl-l] Why are we unwilling to make the point? League of Women Voters Forum-Commentary
I agree with you that the general population's perceptions about energy technologies are rather slippery things that are shaped in part by the words that are used to describe the technology.
You are also correct in stating that the knowledge of who benefits the most from any given decision or pattern of decisions should be well covered by independent media so that people have a basis for understanding why various positions are taken by various interest groups.
The piece that you left out - but I suspect that you may be thinking about it - is the relationship between the first two statements.
Choosing and using the right words to frame a message can be a very lucrative profession. The advertising industry does this millions of times per day and the term that they use is "marketing." When the activity is done by politicians the term that is used here in the US is "spin." When it is done with full government participation, the activity generally is known as "propaganda." In many cases, the biases that people have are PUT into their heads by the carefully chosen words of marketers, spinners and propagandists.
All three activities have been done for a number of decades in the energy industry. I am convinced that there is carefully directed money coming from coal, oil, and gas interests to support the people that choose the words that are often used to describe nuclear power in a negative light. As an industry, they stand to lose BILLIONS in weekly income if nuclear power is allowed to compete on anything close to a level playing field and they KNOW it. Though choosing the right words is not terribly expensive itself, getting those words repeated as often as possible takes significant resources.
Of course, there is no reason to allow only one side to have all of the fun. As is the case in marketing competitive products, spinning various events, and using propaganda in various forms, each side has the right to establish its own competitive message. Sometimes, of course, there are many sides involved, each with a slightly different perspective and/or motive.
Unlike most people in the nuclear business, I was a literature major as an undergraduate and took a number of communications (marketing) courses. I spent years studying just how important words are and try to choose my words just as carefully as I choose the formulas that I use to solve technical problems. I have also spent a number of years directly experiencing just how much cleaner and more capable nuclear power is than its closest competitors and I care very deeply about the need to share that knowledge.
Some on this forum might disagree with me, but I feel strongly that we nukes have a technology that can save the world and we MUST share our knowledge of that technology before it is too late. We must make the best of every chance that we have when people are paying attention to loudly proclaim our message of ZERO emissions - "Clean enough to run inside a submarine!" A storm season with thousands of deaths in the Gulf region and where the Weather Service is just about out of planned storm names is an opportunity that we should not allow to pass.
Also unlike most "nuclear" business people, I have no interest at all in supporting the sales of coal, oil or gas, or even equipment used in their manufacture or consumption. I also have no interest in selling windmills, solar panels or in propping up the price of various farm commodities. That helps me keep my messages focused and keeps me from the soft sell approach that refuses to compare or make decisions among the various energy alternatives.
Editor, Atomic Insights (www.atomicinsights.com, www.atomicinsights.blogspot.com)
In a message dated 10/8/05 12:07:47 PM, email@example.com writes:
Jerry Cuttler wrote:
>----- Original Message -----
>Sent: Friday, October 07, 2005 2:07 AM
>Subject: Re: [MbrExchange] League of Women Voters Forum-Commentary
>Ted makes a good point. How can we allow statements like Mr. Lyman's below
>to go unchallenged - I cannot imagine a scenario any worse than what
>occurred at Chernobyl - yet it caused about 47 deaths, not 44,000.
>Whenever anyone asks whether or not nuclear is safe, the only answer should
Perceptions of safety are slippery things. I just read a long article
about coal burning and the storing of CO2 in underground vaults. This
idea seemed to slip by as a very safe practice. The fact that CO2 is
CO2 for ever, that if it ever leaks out we cook, and that the problem
steadily gets worse as we try to store more of it, just does not seem to
ring any alarm bells. In the same article, the issues associated with
reusable slightly used fission fuel were portrayed as alarming, urgent,
and very dangerous. These differences could be seen in the positive
adjectives used for the coal process and the negative terminology used
for the fission process. That is just the way people talk about these
things, and the biases are constantly reinforced by the way that we
discuss the topic. It is going to take more than a rational list of
facts to change this situation.
One way to counter this kind of thinking is to use existing biases to
break down others. People in general think that others benefit from
various policies and so act to keep these policies in place. So a
question that I would like to see reported on is "Who Benefits From the
Delays of New Nuclear Plants". This study should also show who is hurt
by these delays. A clear picture of others benefiting at your expense
is one way of changing current prejudices.
Randal Leavitt ---------- gnupg public key: bbbad04d
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