Charlyne Smith

Electricity and clean water were not always accessible commodities growing up in rural St. Catherine, Jamaica. As it was, and still is today, families like mine would resort to means of drawing electrical lines from the homes of strangers to light up our small two-bedroom, one-story home on Old Harbour Road. It was both humbling and frightening to know that no matter how bad we thought we struggled, someone, somewhere was struggling more. This was home for the first 17 years of my life.

 Volunteering to plant trees on high school campus in Jamaica

Volunteering to plant trees on high school campus in Jamaica

 Me and my Grandfather

Me and my Grandfather

It was not uncommon for children to want to become scientists and politicians so that they could impact a positive change to improve our way of life and access to reliable infrastructure. For as long as I can remember, my Grandfather would always tell me that I would become the Prime Minister of Jamaica. “Yuh ave sense! yah go help wi and mek Jamaica betta!” he would say, which translates you’re smart, you’re going to help your people and make Jamaica a better place. He still holds this dream close.

I had dreams to become a scientist and an inventor to help solve problems of access to some basic necessities of life. I use to ask myself, how is it that I live on this beautiful tropical island surrounded by a body of water yet power and clean water is not something that all 2.8 million people living on the island have access to? At that point, it was only logical to choose which problem to address by dedicating my career to the goal of solving the world’s energy problem for my country and others like mine. Naturally, I thought the only way to contribute is to the problem is to explore renewable sources of energy, solar energy in particular.

 Aspiring scientist on a mission to learn about the secrets of nature in rural Jamaica

Aspiring scientist on a mission to learn about the secrets of nature in rural Jamaica

 Sweet, sweet Jamaica

Sweet, sweet Jamaica

I came to the United States (US) in search of opportunities to further my academic career and further explore the wonders of creation in its raw beauty. It was not until I moved to the US that I realized the severity of the living conditions in Jamaica. In addition to the expected challenges of unemployment and lack of healthcare, I was introduced to unfamiliar adversities associated with my gender, my skin color, and my national origin. Although these challenges caused personal distress and self-doubt, transitioning from inadequate energy sources to the comfort of life in the US gave me an appreciation of reliable infrastructure. The evident disparity between reliable energy in the US and Jamaica motivated me to ensure that children of the next generation will never know a day without access to clean water and reliable electricity.

I began my undergraduate career at Coppin State University (CSU) investigating different fruits with dark pigments to create dye sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), based on the hypothesis that fruit dye-based solar cells would absorb enough Ultraviolet (UV) radiation to power large devices. Although this technology had potential, it was not feasible towards my goal to help power power 3rd world countries in the immediate future.

 Just a month before I flew across the Atlantic to further my studies in science

Just a month before I flew across the Atlantic to further my studies in science

I support research in renewable technology that will benefit nations in the next 50-100 years, and believe that it should continue. However, I’m also driven by the philosophy that every moment spent pursing research opportunities that do not directly improve the lives of our families today, deepens holes in the ground with assigned names of our loves ones.

It was not until I attended an Alumni in Excellence at CSU led by Dr. Nicholas Eugene that I met a Nuclear Scientist for the first time. All it took was a 30 minute conversation with Dr. Nickie Peters to steer my career in the nuclear field because this was, and is a technology that has the potential to evoke a real change NOW on a large scale. Imagine the good that even just one small modular reactor could do for every 3rd world country!

Jamaica operates the Caribbean’s only nuclear reactor. Slowpoke research reactor is designed primarily for research, education and training, not for energy related applications. I believe that we should take it a step further and become an example for other islands in the Caribbean and around the world.

Nuclear energy was not a topic that I grew up hearing about frequently in Jamaica, and in any case the word ‘Nuclear’ invokes fear at first utter for people do not know the full truth of its potential. Knowing the full truth, can open your eyes to so many possibilities that can not only save lives but significantly improve them. Both nuclear and renewable sources of energy can solve problems relating to clean energy production, access to clean water and climate change.

 Enjoying the beauty of nature in Idaho

Enjoying the beauty of nature in Idaho

Every moment counts, our families are depending on us to make the world a better place. That is the reason why I’m pursuing a PhD in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Florida. For me, nuclear is the obvious immediate solution while renewable research takes some time reach its maximum potential. I do this for my Grandfather. I do this for the survival of countries like mine.

 Embracing my cultural roots

Embracing my cultural roots

Heather Kleb

Growing up, I spent a lot of time camping in the mixed wood forests of Manitoba, swimming in Lake Winnipeg and honing my nature skills with the Girl Guides of Canada.

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It was through the Girl Guides that I was introduced to the study of Ecology.  I learned the basics of environmental assessment while assessing the potential environmental effects of the access road to my parents’ off-the-grid cottage, in pursuit of my Ecology badge. 

Since that time, I have earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Ecology and participated in numerous environmental assessments in the logging, mining, oil and gas and nuclear industries.  Over the course of my career, I have assessed the environmental effects of radioactive waste cleanup projects and reviewed many of the environmental assessments completed in the nuclear energy industry.  

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Through those experiences, I have come to understand just how moderate the environmental effects of the nuclear industry really are.  With a small geographic footprint, minimal emissions to the air and water, environmental assessments in the nuclear industry make for relatively unexciting reading, when compared to other industries.  

In fact, the air emissions from nuclear are so minimal that I have come to believe that nuclear power is the source of clean energy with the greatest potential to mitigate climate change. 

And I share this opinion with the public through my involvement with Women in Nuclear (WiN), where I serve as President of WiN Canada and Vice-President of WiN Global.  WiN Canada is a nation-wide, not for profit organization with the goal of making the public, particularly women, aware of the many benefits of nuclear.  

 

“Nuclear power is the source of clean energy with the greatest potential to mitigate climate change.”

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I also continue to share my appreciation of the natural environment, particularly with my husband, young son and Labrador retriever.  Together we explore Canada’s parks and protected areas.  We also live on beautiful Lake Huron, near the largest operating nuclear power plant in the world, the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant where I work as a senior manager in regulatory affairs. 


This article represents Heather Kleb's opinion alone and not that of her employer.

Judy Ringle

I am a certified Mother: our town’s first La Leche League leader and first Bradley Natural Childbirth teacher. Our youngest daughter was born at home, and now our oldest daughter is a Certified Nurse Midwife. I am a proud grandmother to six beautiful grandchildren.

I have supported countless women in preparation for peaceful and supportive childbirth, and in creating a nurturing and nourishing bond with their babies through breastfeeding. We mothers cannot limit our support of humanity to only those first few years of life. We need to support people to lead healthy and prosperous lives, and to do that we absolutely need electricity. It saves countless lives and powers our well-being.

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I married a nuclear engineer, and I always believed nuclear energy to be the most environmental solution to provide power to a growing population. I remember back when the Sierra Club raved about nuclear because it meant no more hydroelectric dams. It was the wave of the future, a promising way to preserve the environment while supporting the needs of humanity. I continue to believe in the original environmental vision for nuclear energy, although our modern society has gotten tragically sidetracked.

I am passionate about our natural environment.  I am a defender of wildlife, wolf lover, tree hugger, and general environmental weirdo. This is why I was so captivated with the original environmental hope for nuclear energy – with nuclear energy we can leave nature alone! When I see coal trains, smog, or even wind farms along the hilltops, I cringe to think of the damage.

I continue to believe in the original environmental vision for nuclear energy
— Judy Ringle

Many mothers are already aware that coal, oil, and other fossil fuel sources pollute our air and harm our children. I heard an engineer at a meeting say that he believes that at least one of his grandchildren will die as a result of global warming. What a tragic, tragic, thought. Our kids and their kids and their kids deserve a lifestyle as rich as ours (yes to hot showers, heat, air conditioning, refrigeration, etc.) without threatening their very lives. Nuclear energy does not produce harmful emissions, and it can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

I’ve heard from many people who are concerned about nuclear waste. Of all the things in life we have to worry about, that is not one that makes my list. I’ve toured Yucca Mountain and I understand the waste to be a political problem, not a technical one. Unfortunately some people use their reservations about nuclear waste as a way to distract from progress on our world’s most critical issues.

I have dedicated my life to supporting women and children through my work in the birth and baby community. We need midwives, birth coaches, La Leche League leaders and nuclear energy to support and protect human lives on this beautiful planet.

Scott Cherf

I've been a lifelong outdoorsman, naturalist and ecologist, though I wouldn't classify myself as an "environmentalist". For 40 years I've lived in remote wilderness areas in California and Wyoming where I've raised and trained working horses, cattle and poultry. I'm a certified Wilderness First Responder and have bred and trained dogs for Wilderness Area and Avalanche Search and Rescue. I'm a mountain climber, former member of the US Ski Team, hang glider pilot and technical diver. For twenty years I was involved in endurance horse racing and have completed several 50, 70 and 100 mile races on horseback throughout the western United States.

I suppose I should admit I'm not a Mom, but I do keep one around the house for emergencies. My wife of 35 years and I are both retired engineers; her specialty is Quality Assurance, mine is Reliability, both of us are dedicated ecologists and students of nature. We've been considerate stewards of the property we manage in the coastal mountains of Santa Cruz county for over 30 years and we've introduced thousands of families and individuals to the beauty of Big Basin State Park while running an equestrian B&B there until we retired a few years ago. Together we operated an organic, free range turkey ranch we owned in Star Valley Wyoming for 15 years after we'd both retired from our professions at the turn of the century. We're the proud parents of two adult children and would like to leave them a better world.

I was raised with an aversion to commercial nuclear power, not because I thought it was unsafe or unhealthy, but because my father was involved in the Polaris, Poseidon and Trident Strategic Fleet Ballistic Weapons systems and died of plutonium poisoning after receiving a toxic dose at the Hanford/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 1957. My father's exposure didn't have anything to do with civilian nuclear power, but when I was 16 I wasn't able to understand that, only that my father had been killed as a result of being exposed to nuclear materials. I succumbed to the popular mantra of the day, which was that nuclear power (and nuclear weapons) were unsafe and bad respectively.

During the 90's and into the early 21st century I became an advocate of civilian nuclear after extensively researching the subject. My wife and I recently retired to Paso Robles CA, about 30 miles from the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant after researching the ecological benefits of that plant. It generates no atmospheric waste and has the ability to provide cheap fresh water to the local area.

Our home in Big Basin is powered by three solar arrays installed in 2008 and is completely self-sufficient, so we have practical experience with the advantages and disadvantages of commercial solar plant operations. We sell power through a grid-tie agreement with PG&E. Solar is an ideal technology in the right setting and we'll continue to promote it whenever it's appropriate, however we're both convinced solar should be used as an adjunct to nuclear power rather than a base load source of energy.

Civilian nuclear energy is still the safest and cleanest form of reliable power known to humans, with a safety record unmatched by any other energy technology. This is a remarkable claim considering very little work has been done to update or improve on the basic pressurized water reactor designs in use since the 1950's, but after even a cursory investigation it becomes obvious coal and gas power systems have much poorer safety records. Even solar is less safe than nuclear in terms of lives lost mining fuel, installing, maintaining and operating those plants. It became obvious to me nuclear power had been scapegoated by owners and operators of conventional fossil fuel based energy suppliers, and the Cold War fear of nuclear weapons had been used to demonize civilian use of nuclear energy to the great detriment of US citizens.

Civilian nuclear power is a technology whose time is come for the US.


This article reflects only the opinions of Scott Cherf.

Tari Marshall

Tari Marshall

When I was in high school, I got a job with the community park district with nothing more in mind than to save money for college. They assigned me to supervise activities for children at one of their facilities, and I fell in love with the kids. I also was witness to some difficult family dynamics. In college, I volunteered to tutor English to Laotian refugee children at a nearby elementary school. These were “boat children” displaced by the Vietnam war, and their families’ stories touched me deeply.  I knew that I wanted to do something that would positively impact the lives of children, but at that point I hadn’t figured out how, beyond my volunteer work. 

I got my degree in journalism, with a public relations major, and had the good fortune to land at a public relations agency with a number of nonprofit clients.  I spent most of my career working for cause-related nonprofits and professional societies. I worked with the American Library Association and enjoyed promoting reading and adult literacy, along with informing people about other ways they could use free library services to improve their lives. I later was Director of Communications for the National Parent Teacher Association, where I was on the front lines of the first AIDS and drug abuse prevention education programs. I had found my calling. I later worked for a drug abuse prevention nonprofit, and when they closed their Chicago office, I focused my job search exclusively on nonprofits. But not just any nonprofits – those that involved improving people’s lives, like the National PTA.

Susan von Borstel

Susan von Borstel

When my children were young, I worked against nuclear power. I used to go to schools and show films about the horrors of nuclear weapons. In the 1980s, nuclear energy was wrapped up together with nuclear weapons. If you against one, you had to be against the other.

At that time, my husband was installing solar panels. Solar was the great hope for the future. But even then some wondered whether solar power could scale up fast enough to make a difference. Here we are in 2016 and solar power is still about 1 percent of electricity generation.

Emma Redfoot

Emma Redfoot

I grew up in Montana, where the natural world  was not just a setting but an active character in the story of my life. My summers were filled with hiking with my parents, riding my bike around town with the neighborhood kids, and playing in the outdoors.  The constantly changing sky could swirl from an inviting carefree blue to an ominous gray in moments, pelting you with teardrops of rain or bullets of hail.

My home was in Billings but I spent many of my weekends at my grandparents’ house in Red Lodge.  There is a big spruce tree out back that I must have drawn dozens of times as a kid.  The tree is now a constant source of entertainment for my parents as a mother black bear frequently uses it to hide her three cubs.  From that base, we explored Yellowstone National Park, the Tetons, and the unique ecosystem around it.

As I grew into my adolescence, I did more backpacking and hiking. I joined an Explorer group that had some backpacking, rafting, or skiing trip planned practically every weekend. I also became more concerned with climate change.  In middle school, I went to the Teton Science School as well as a local outdoor science camp.  I became more aware of the human/nature relationship as not just one of recreation, but as a complicated relationship of resource use and stewardship.

Iida Ruishalme

Iida Ruishalme

I grew up in Finland, where I was never far from a forest. Nature and animals were my first love, and books the second. It was not an uncommon thing for me to go out in the forest with our dogs and climb up a tree to find a good place to read.

After finishing my high school, I went on to work and study in Sweden, where I met my Swedish husband, who went to the same University - I studied biology, he physics and math. After our studies we moved to Switzerland where we have worked and started a family. We have two girls, now 5 and almost 3 years old. While I feel most at home in the Finnish countryside of northern forests and little lakes, I also adore the majestic landscapes of the alps in the Swiss countryside where we live, outside Zürich, and we love hiking and snowboarding in the mountains. Our favorite pastime now with little kids is biking or walking to the parks at the lakeshore, feeding the birds, petting the goats, cows, and ponies on the nearby farm, wading in the water and, still, climbing trees.

Being Finnish, I grew up very aware of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. 

Emily Nichols

Emily Nichols

Having grown up in the wide-open spaces of Montana, I understand the beauty of a pristine environment as well as the toll fossil fuel can take on the land and our lives. I have always been a conservation-minded, green-energy gal. I wouldn’t have considered myself anti-nuclear before working in the energy industry, but I certainly wasn’t well informed about nuclear energy’s potential.

Christine Brook

Christine Brook

I was born in rural England and grew up surrounded by rivers, forests and bucolic vistas. I spent several years of my life in cities, studying and working but always felt I didn't belong in urban environments. As soon as we were able my family moved back to the country and the kids grew up in some amazing places including the Warrumbungle National Park in New South Wales.

I now live in Tasmania surrounded by beautiful forests, beaches, mountains and farmlands.
My family thrives in the natural world and both children also live in a rural situation with their families. We truly appreciate the beauty of our earth, and we feel a responsibility to protect it. 

As a young woman, in England in the 60s, I was anti-nuclear. I joined marches to ban the bomb and to prevent nuclear power plants from being built.