Fixing Atomic Energy’s Bad Reputation

By OLIVIA MILNE, THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

The Historical International Atomic Energy Agency (2011) is debating a subject that is of high relevance in the minds of many people around the globe: atomic energy. Delegates met tonight and began the discussion of how to improve public perception of nuclear programs in all nations.

Delegates from Sweden and the United Kingdom discuss the PUB Plan.

Delegates from Sweden and the United Kingdom discuss the PUB Plan.

Atomic energy has long been considered the “bad boy” among energy sources. Many question why fixing atomic energy’s reputation may even be a problem. The epic nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have made the public cautious on using nuclear energy. Shouldn’t something so dangerous be acted upon with caution and hesitation? According to the delegate of South Korea, “Risk frightens people.” However, many of the delegations in the current Atomic Energy Agency believe that increased public awareness of the reality of nuclear programs will make these programs easier to maintain, and therefore safer.

One of the problems many nations of the Agency are currently facing is the reparation of the world’s aging nuclear reactor fleets. The delegation of Belgium lamented this problem during the debate, stating that Belgium has already experienced a huge backlash to its attempt to repair nuclear reactors built in the 1990s. Public perception of atomic energy has been one of the nation’s largest obstacles in securing funds and support for repairing these crucial components of the country’s infrastructure.

This was met with agreement from the delegation of the United Republic of Tanzania. The delegates argued that some of the greatest problems with public perception surrounding atomic energy are access and misperception. They argued that because people from all nations, especially those from developing countries, have limited access to knowledge and understanding of atomic energy programs, what they have is often negative. It was argued that in order to change perception, developed nations must work with developing countries to increase worldwide knowledge.

Several delegations put forth plans of action to change public perception. Some argued for a more conservative approach to nuclear energy, asserting that the sharing of best practices among nations will help increase scientific knowledge around the globe, and therefore portray atomic energy as a safe resource in the eyes of the public. The delegation of South Korea advocated for an increase in research in the field, explaining that with research comes education, and therefore an increase in positive public perception. The United Kingdom, however, declared a more bold approach to fixing public perception, urging nations to join its PUB (Protection, Unity, Barter) plan. The first part of the plan advocates for more research to prevent nuclear disasters like the accident at Chernobyl. Secondly, the plan argued for unity, or sharing best practices and working together as nations, similar to what other delegations proposed. Lastly, the United Kingdom argued for an improved bartering system for nuclear materials, so that they may be exchanged in safer ways.

Debate over the merits of these plans are still ongoing, but the delegates will continue to attempt to formulate a plan to fix the negative public perception of atomic energy programs.

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