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Public Acceptance of Nuclear Power What can we do to get it? Robert L. Long, PhD Nuclear Stewardship, LLC Albuquerque, NM May 31, 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "Public Acceptance of Nuclear Power What can we do to get it? Robert L. Long, PhD Nuclear Stewardship, LLC Albuquerque, NM May 31, 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 Public Acceptance of Nuclear Power What can we do to get it? Robert L. Long, PhD Nuclear Stewardship, LLC Albuquerque, NM May 31, 2006

2 2 Outline Introduction Planning effective public communications Some personal lessons learned Some Bisconti lessons learned U.S.A. Public Opinion Surveys Conclusion

3 3 How I Got Started A Conversation in Spring 1959 Preacher: “What are you studying at Purdue?” Long: “Nuclear Engineering.” Preacher: “So you are going to blow the world up, are you?” Long: “No, Sir. I’m studying the peaceful applications of nuclear energy.”

4 4 Planning effective communications What do we know about… Public perceptions and behaviors? The communications environment and communications channels? Principles of risk communication?

5 5 Public Fear of Radiation* 41% believe it is unsafe to be exposed to even tiny amounts of radiation 39% do not believe radiation is easily detected and monitored *National USA Public Opinion Survey 2001 Bisconti Research, Inc. for Nuclear Energy Institute

6 6 Radiation High Risk Perceptions Dread—catastrophic, doomsday images Uncontrollable—invisible and unstoppable, personal helplessness Unfamiliar and not understood—cannot be seen or detected, I don’t understand it, authorities don’t understand it High uncertainty—uncertain about impact, what to do, what will happen next Irreversible adverse effects

7 7 Conflicting Information Breeds Distrust and Fear Information vacuum encourages rumors, exaggerates conflicting information Different “experts” and even government agencies may have different messages “Media noise” -- –Focus on drama –Worse case scenarios –Talking heads selected to present “both sides”

8 8 Use Understandable Language Avoid technical jargon Language gap between experts and the public creates non-attention, distrust, and/or fear Establish credibility

9 9 Four Elements of Credibility 1)Caring and empathy 2)Dedication and commitment 3)Expertise 4)Honesty and openness

10 10 Some Personal Lessons Learned Find your style Target your audience Know your opponents Take time to relax

11 11 Find Your Style Build a fact base. Lesson: Good visuals and clear verbal descriptions are essential. Use a little humor.

12 12

13 13 Find Your Style Build a fact base. Lesson: Good visuals and clear verbal descriptions are essential. Use a little humor. Be prepared and allow lots of time to answer questions. Lesson: Don’t fear simple honest answers.

14 14 Target Your Audience Nuclear Energy for Humanities Students Elementary School Teacher Workshops Neighborhood Short Courses Use of the World Wide Web

15 15 “Nuclear Energy For Humanities Students” Three semester credit hours course Introduced in 1969 to six brave students Routinely taught next 9 years with about 75 students Lesson: Its important for students to understand the philosophy of science. Lesson: Finding ways to describe physical phenomenon w/o math can increase understanding.

16 16 Elementary School Teacher Workshops Offer workshops for elementary as well as high school teachers. In one school, a teacher’s 4 th to 6 th grade students developed a 2-hr lesson on energy taught to all 800 students in the school. Lesson: Elementary school children talk to each other and to their parents. Note: High school science teachers reach only a small fraction of students in HS.

17 17 Neighborhood Short Courses In ~1973, AEC sponsored development of “Neighborhood Short Courses” on Energy and the Environment and on Applications of Nuclear Energy. Courses 6-weeks long, once per week, two ½-hr TV lectures each session. NE graduate students presented tapes and led Q&A discussion sessions. Lesson: Delivery of good programs requires adequate resources and follow-up.

18 18 Use the World Wide Web Neighborhood short course concept could be developed for the WWW Apply KISS Principle: –Simple to use –Data and graphs understandable by audience at middle school level –Should have electronic Q&A capability Caution: Development of good Web sites an art requiring lots of talent and thought.

19 19 Know Your Opponents Understanding the opposition. Disarming the impossible

20 20 Understanding the Opposition-1 UNM Professor: “I have tried everything, without success, to get the state, the Federal Government, the Army to listen to me. Anything I say or do is justified.” CCNY Professor: “Dr. Long is mad. He volunteered to train for the first entry team into TMI-2.”

21 21 Understanding the Opposition-2 TMI-1 Restart Intervener: Dr. Long is to be shunned (in the “Amish” sense). PBS-1999: For the first time we want to tell the TMI-2 story from the operators’ perspective… DID NOT DO! Lesson: Recognize and accept as reality the opponents driving functions.

22 22 Disarming the Impossible It’s impossible to refute the number of factual errors opponents can state in their allotted time. Lesson: Refute the most outrageous statements and audience generally suspects accuracy of all the others. Lesson: Sometimes indignant, controlled anger may be the appropriate response.

23 23 Take Time to Relax My wife, Ann’s Rule: Don’t speak (and preferably even think) the word “nuclear” when we’re on vacation. Lesson: We have to be committed to the “long haul.”

24 24 Importance of Public Opinion Surveys Establish public opinion baselines Determine information/education needs Test messages to be delivered –Which ones work? –Which ones do not? Measure effectiveness of public education efforts

25 25 Some Bisconti Lessons Learned “Risk” has a negative connotation—not perceived as a neutral term The magic word is “Safe” Public avoids the term, “risk” –How can we say what is safe or can be made safe? Probabilities about fatalities and injuries are perceived to be uncaring –How can we communicate safety without numbers? “I am not a statistic”

26 26 Rule of 3 Identify 3 best top-line messages For Example (need to test): National guidelines and standards exist for how much radiation is safe and safety precautions required We can precisely detect and measure radiation. In the event of an accident we can take action and return to normal

27 27 Presenter Nonverbal Messages Reinforce words by demeanor that suggests: Controllability Understanding Certainty Reversibility

28 28 U.S.A. Public Opinion Surveys 22-year trends done by Dr. Ann Bisconti of Bisconti Research, Inc. National random samples of 1,000 U.S. adults age 18+ Interviewed by phone Margin of error plus or minus three percentage points

29 29 70% Favor Use of Nuclear Energy (Trend , Annual Averages) Oppose Favor

30 30 All Regions Favor Use of Nuclear Energy West 65% Midwest 73% Northeast 69% South 72%

31 31 80% in Some Areas Find New Reactor Acceptable 80% in Some Areas Find New Reactor Acceptable

32 32 First National Survey of Nuclear Power Plant Neighbors Residents within 10-mile radius of plants 18 adults at each of the 64 sites 1,152 total Electric company employees excluded

33 33 83% of Plant Neighbors Favor Nuclear Energy

34 34 Reasons for Support 1.Safe performance 2.Growing evidence of need 3.Growing awareness of nuclear energy’s benefits 4.Positive attitude of the industry 5.Familiarity (local community)

35 35 Replace Coal With Nuclear Power Editorial page headline Albuquerque Journal and Washington Post editorial piece by Patrick Moore, 22 Apr 06 Moore, cofounder of Greenpeace, is chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd.

36 36 Quote from Moore Editorial “Nuclear energy is the only large-scale cost-effective energy source that can reduce these [greenhouse gas] emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do it safely.”

37 37 Reasons for Support 1.Safe performance 2.Growing evidence of need 3.Growing awareness of nuclear energy’s benefits 4.Positive attitude of the industry 5.Familiarity (local community)

38 38 Use Available Resources International Atomic Energy Agency –www.iaea.org Environmentalists For Nuclear –www.ecolo.orgwww.ecolo.org –www.ecolo.org/base/basepl.htm Nuclear Energy Institute –www.nei.orgwww.nei.org American Nuclear Society –www.ans.org and

39 39 Conclusion Public outreach and education still vitally needed. Find out what works for you - and use it! Use public surveys to guide efforts Make use of resources and opportunities to learn from others (as well as your own mistakes and successes) Never, never, never give up!


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