Leaning In to Difficult Discussions: Nuclear in Alaska

Leaning In to Difficult Discussions: Nuclear in Alaska

By Carolyn Kozak Loeffler

This is an excerpt of a story from ACEP’s blog, From the Grid and recently published as an opinion piece in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Late last month, Gwen Holdmann, Alaska Center for Energy and Power founder and associate vice chancellor for research, innovation and industry partnerships at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, held a town hall meeting on micronuclear reactor technologies and explored what potential role such technologies could play in Alaska’s energy future. The meeting, held in partnership with the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, was enthusiastically attended at the Noel Wien Library with standing room only by the time Holdmann began.

The crowd that gathered was not altogether friendly, however. Nuclear energy, after all, is a highly contentious and controversial technology developed initially as a weapon of war that defined the childhood of an entire generation. The utter devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, and fear of atomic fallout were all part of the everyday reality for baby boomers. Combine that with concerns regarding the storage of nuclear waste, the accident at Three-Mile Island and disasters at Chernobyl and later Fukushima, it’s little wonder that the technology faces such backlash.

Further, many Alaskans in the room also remembered the weapons testing at Amchitka and of course, the ill-conceived Project Chariot and the role UAF played in both promoting the federal project and punishing faculty members who criticized it. So, one might ask why Holdmann — or ACEP and NAEC more broadly — would hold a public event on such a controversial topic in a vocal community that knows how to show up?

Read the full piece at https://uaf.edu/acep-blog/leaning-in-to-difficult-discussions-nuclear-in-alaska.php


Audience members raise their hands to ask questions during the first small-scale nuclear town hall meeting held by ACEP and the Northern Alaska Environmental Center at the Noel Wien Library in Fairbanks. Photo by Jeff Fisher.