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In September 2015, the American Nuclear Society (ANS) interviewed 9th grade students Svetloslav Dimitrov and Theo Gregersen from the International Community School in Kirkland, Washington to find out more about their climate solutions website project. We were joined by their classmate, Sanjay Raman, whose project was on designing a Hyper-Catalysis Radioactive Capture Module (HCRCM). Here is what they had to say:
What inspired you to look into nuclear energy?
We were really interested in physics and currently have an interest in quantum mechanics, which is how we learned about nuclear in the first place. As we learned more about nuclear, we realized the only downside that could be argued was finding a solution for the radioactive waste. We thought if that could be solved, then nuclear would be the best option for climate change. When we started searching for solutions for the waste, we learned about the Gen IV designs and Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs).
What drew us to nuclear was the controversy on the subject. It was almost mystical. There was plenty of information on the topic which was mostly negative. When we would find positive information, it seemed to always have a con attached to it (“Nuclear is good, but…”).
What was your perception about nuclear energy before you performed your research?
We all knew it was important, but we didn’t know much other than what the media covered or what we saw in movies. We heard negative stories about Chernobyl and Fukushima.
We knew that when atoms are stripped of all their electrons, they would decay billions of times faster. This made us question, how could you create something to decay faster?
What did the people you interviewed know or express about nuclear energy?
During our class presentation some students who learned that they lived near a nuclear plant were concerned about reactor meltdowns. We had to educate them about how safe modern reactors are, and that the older reactor designs were less reliable.
What was the most outstanding thing you learned or discovered regarding public perception?
We learned the less people know about something, the more they fear it, and that people’s ignorance is based on what they are exposed to.
Will you take your initiative any further to continue to educate the public and boost public perception?
We would like to continue this topic with future projects and are currently working on developing an app for the Future Business Leaders of America competition.
In December 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) will convene in Paris. Nations will be asked to agree to a number of solutions for reducing carbon emissions related to climate change. The American Nuclear Society and more than 140 organizations worldwide are working together as part of the Nuclear for Climate initiative, to ensure that nuclear energy is treated equally with other low-carbon energy sources in any resulting agreement. You may want to challenge your students come up with climate change solutions or host a debate on whether countries should be allowed to choose their energy options from all low-carbon sources, or whether they should be only choose from renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro.
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