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Leaning in to difficult discussions: Nuclear in Alaska

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 (NAEC), was enthusiastically attended at Noel Wein Library with standing room only by the time Holdmann began.

The crowd that gathered was not altogether friendly, however. Nuclear, 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.

Carolyn Kozak Loeffler is Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy Program Manager

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