I used to think the word “nuclear” was “bad” word. I assumed anything nuclear was not good. I was a kid in the 1980’s and knew vaguely of the Cold War. I didn’t worry about getting ‘nuked’ by the Russian until the principal of my elementary school sent home a warning letter about the made for television movie The Day After was to be aired, then I was scared. I lived within a 10 mile radius of the Limerick Power Plant in PA. My family received a caution pamphlet very year about what to do if there was a nuclear meltdown. Nobody told me any facts just the potential destruction of nuclear science.
I went to a small liberal arts school where I was required to take a class in a subject that was not part of my major. I chose a class as far removed from my major (psychology) as I could. The class I picked was Nuclear Science: Fact and Fiction. The class focused on mainly the weapons side of nuclear science. I read books like Richard Rhodes’ Making of the Atomic Bomb and watched films like Dr. Strangelove I learned more about the dark side of nuclear science. I never really thought that nuclear science could be beneficial to society. While I was fascinated by the story of Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project, I was definitely anti-nuclear.
This attitude was directed mainly towards weapons but I was anti-nuclear power because I didn’t really know anything about power except what I thought I knew about the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. I assumed all nuclear power plants were destined to melt-down like Chernobyl. And you know what happens when you assume.
Then I started working at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. I was promptly schooled in the science of nuclear power. I learned about how very different the US nuclear power program is very different from the Russian, so a ‘Chernobyl’ couldn’t happen here. I also learned that the US has a lot to learn from the French nuclear power plant. Then I started to research nuclear power for the Museum’s social media and found people like Patrick Moore of Green Peace and Stewart Brand publisher of The Whole Earth Catalogue supported nuclear power. My tune was starting to change. I still don’t dig nuclear weapons and cringe when people sing their praises but I can talk to people about the pros of nuclear power. I can honestly say ‘I have learned to stop worrying and love nuclear power.’