Why We Are Mothers For Nuclear
By Kristin Zaitz
Should I buy organic or conventional produce? Is it my turn to drive the carpool? Did the kids brush their teeth this morning? Do I have time for coffee before my next meeting? Should I get solar panels on my house? And nuclear power -- that sounds scary. Didn’t I just see something about that on my news feed?
Moms are busy, I get it. Each day we must make hundreds of decisions that affect ourselves and our families. In our fast-paced and information-hungry world, we sometimes feel forced into making snap decisions. All too often these decisions are based on headlines, memes, or 30-second video clips. We have an overload of information, and a shortage of time to sort through it.
When it comes to nuclear energy, few topics are more likely to be misunderstood. When anything involving the word “nuclear” becomes newsworthy, conflicting stories fill our newsfeeds. It becomes nearly impossible to differentiate the facts from the fear. That is one of the reasons why Heather Matteson and I founded Mothers For Nuclear – because we saw a gaping divide between the facts about nuclear energy and the story that many people believe.
I have read plenty of these sensational anti-nuclear articles, and I have the same thought each time a new one pops up: STOP IT. Stop preying on us.
Women, specifically mothers, are the demographic least likely to support nuclear energy. This has a lot to do with headlines. We read fear-mongering stories light on facts and peppered with ideology from anti-nuclear groups, and we add another “nuclear energy sounds scary” headline to our snap-decision making arsenal. The conversation has become so polarized, we can’t expect most people, especially moms, to dig through all of the propaganda.
Support for nuclear energy didn’t come easily to me. As a lifelong lover of the natural environment, I felt nuclear energy was a risk not worth taking. I only started to change my mind about nuclear after doing my own research about the pro’s and con’s of different energy sources. I discovered no energy source is perfect, and most of what I thought I knew about nuclear energy was based on misleading headlines instead of facts.
My good friend Heather, a notorious question-asker, spent many years as a nuclear plant operator trying to find problems or issues that would validate her long-held fears. After years of digging and learning the facts, her fear has been replaced by knowledge and a strong support for nuclear.
The truth about nuclear energy? It is quietly and reliably producing nearly two-thirds of America’s emission-free electricity. If you care about air pollution or climate change, this is a big deal. And those who care about land conservation will be happy to know that nuclear has by far the smallest footprint of any clean energy technology. This leaves more room for people and nature, and it restores my hope that one day our world will be able to power our modern societies AND protect the environment.
Many nuclear plants are under threat of premature closure. This threat comes in the form of anti-nuclear policies and markets that do not value their clean, reliable electricity. The unfortunate result is that fossil fuels – not renewables – are filling the gap. It happened in California, Vermont, Germany, and there may be many more examples in coming years since operating nuclear plants are at risk around the world.
In our home state of California, anti-nuclear policies are behind the planned closure of the Diablo Canyon power plant, where Heather and I work. Today Diablo Canyon provides 22% of the state’s clean electricity, but Diablo’s shutdown plan calls for energy efficiency and an (optional) increase in renewable energy to replace the loss. We believe efficiency and renewables should replace fossil fuels, not clean energy such as nuclear.
We chose the name Mothers for Nuclear with care, and the smallest of those three words is the most important one: “for.” We are tired of the anti-everything mentality. The thing about being against something is that you are, by default, in support of something else. The reality of our current energy landscape is that to oppose nuclear energy is to support the expansion of fossil fuels.
“Emissions rise when nuclear plant shuts down” doesn’t make for a great headline, so anti-nuclear groups avoid details like that. “Three-eyed fish found near Fukushima” will get way more clicks, facts be damned. The truth is that the health and environmental consequences of closing nuclear plants are tragic.
I want to give my children a world with abundant power, but without rampant pollution and carbon emissions. With nuclear energy as part of the mix, we can achieve a 100% low-carbon energy portfolio. To accomplish this, we must protect all existing clean energy sources while we innovate new technologies for the future. Our chances of success are far less likely if we fall prey to anti-nuclear ideology.
Mothers for Nuclear aims to protect and expand emission-free power across the globe. Amid each day’s sensational stories, we want to help separate clean energy fact from fiction. This project is our labor of love and service to others, so we all can focus on things of real concern: parenting our children and protecting the planet for them.