NAYGN does advocacy. What’s advocacy? What’s NAYGN?
Rebecca Petrea, Nuclear Engineer at in Charlotte, N.C. and Communications officer for Duke Energy’s chapter of North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN), provides a personal perspective on advocating for nuclear energy.
Have you ever been passionate about something? Has something ever made you get so excited that you can't stop talking about it? Passion can come from all types of topics: sports teams, topics, hobbies, movies – the list can go on and on. I can remember one time I felt passionate about something (and as a Carolina Panthers fan it definitely didn't come from a sports team). It's how I felt at the Nuclear Energy Assembly and NAYGN National Conference in Washington, D.C., in 2019. NAYGN is an organization of young(er) people with 100 chapters across the continent. The comradery and mutual love for nuclear energy among hundreds of my peers was something I had never experienced before.
The conference used this passion and excitement and funneled it into advocacy. Because the conference was held in Washington, D.C., on the last day of the conference, hundreds of “NAYGNers” armed with "Ask Me About Nuclear Energy" buttons, went to Capitol Hill and spoke with their representatives about nuclear power. Congressmen and women, senators and their staffs asked us questions about nuclear and why it is good for their districts. I had never felt so … cool. While I may never know if anything came of those conversations, just being able to have them made me want to do it more.
While advocacy isn’t always that direct, physically talking to representatives in government about a topic, advocacy can be even more powerful when talking directly to members of your community.
In 2019, when a show about nuclear energy was riding high on the wave of public attention, the Charlotte NAYGN chapter jumped on the opportunity and set up a different type of advocacy event – one to the public. At a local venue, a panel made up of four nuclear employees fielded questions from more than a hundred attendees. The event was so popular with the community that it was standing room only. As a result, the website the panel used to collect questions received so many that it reached capacity, leaving time for only a fraction of the questions to be answered. For over an hour, the panel addressed things that were shown in the show, discussed them from the perspective of the modern nuclear industry, and advocated for the important benefits of nuclear energy. As a follow up to the success of the Charlotte event, some other chapters in the Duke Energy fleet held similar events. Across three events, hundreds of community members were able to hear the industry’s perspective on nuclear. Any time nuclear energy is brought to the forefront, it’s imperative that we, as professionals, go out and share the perspectives and information to help the public understand our industry including the benefits nuclear provides as a baseload, carbon-free energy source.
Nuclear is in a pivotal time right now. Nuclear is crucial to decarbonizing our electricity sources and providing reliable 24/7 power. As such, advocacy has never been more important. While COVID-19 has restricted NAYGN's ability to advocate for nuclear over the past few years, as restrictions ease, you can bet you'll see us back out there; whether it's on Capitol Hill or in your local community. So, who's with us?