September 23

The New Face of Nuclear Energy Is Miss America


ENB Pub Note: We are in the scheduling process with Grace to be a guest on the Energy News Beat Podcast. She had a fantastic interview with Rey Trevino on the Crude Truth this month. Will be released soon.

Does the U.S. need more nuclear power? Miss America thinks so.

So do Oliver Stone, Elon Musk and Sam Altman.

Atomic energy is elbowing its way back into the conversation about future energy supplies, with backers in the Biden administration and oil and gas industries alike.

It has also re-entered the American zeitgeist thanks to movies, billionaire backers and a pageant icon.

Supporters of splitting atoms to make electricity as a way to fight climate change include Stone, who just released a documentary about nuclear power; Musk, who frequently calls himself a “believer”; and Altman, the head of the artificial-intelligence startup OpenAI, who plans to take a nuclear power startup public.

Grace Stanke after she was crowned Miss America in December 2022. PHOTO: CLAIRE S. MARCHAND

Grace Stanke, the reigning Miss America, is on a charm offensive for the industry as part of a year-long publicity tour.

“Why isn’t this being shouted from the rooftops?” asked Stanke, a 21-year-old nuclear engineering student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is too Wisconsin-nice to shout, but in more than 20 states so far she has touted clean energy and nuclear medicine at schools, nursing homes, a state legislature and once on a water-skiing podcast.

“It’s the industry that saved my dad twice from cancer,” Stanke said, referring to radiation and other treatments. “It powers 20% of America.”

Stanke spoke at the World Nuclear Association’s symposium in London this month and aims to remain an industry voice even after she crowns the next Miss America. She is completing her last elective class online and has accepted a job with Constellation Energy  , which owns the nation’s largest collection of nuclear power plants. The job, which will start in 2024, will include a mix of technical work—as a nuclear fuels engineer—and public advocacy.

America’s nuclear power sector has for decades faced public-relations challenges, burdened by high costs, long construction timelines, plant closures and concern over disasters such as Fukushima and radioactive waste.

Its Hollywood image includes giant mutants, the HBO series “Chernobyl” and the atomic- weapons race in the summer blockbuster “Oppenheimer.” Springfield Nuclear Power Plant employee Homer Simpson dropped a doughnut into a reactor core to try to make the pastry bigger.

“It’s always playing the villain,” Stanke said. “It’s what created Godzilla.”

Godzilla appears in Stone’s new documentary, “Nuclear Now,” though it argues that nuclear power is an obvious way to reduce the impact of climate change. It is a similar message to Stanke’s with a crustier delivery.

“We have to build and build fast,” Stone said in an interview. “What’s wrong with nuclear energy was never wrong. It was a brilliant, brilliant gift that we turned our back on. Americans get bored. They want a new car. They want a new TV. They’ve got to have constant technological change, but we have to ask ourselves, what’s wrong with the original evidence of nuclear power?”

The post The New Face of Nuclear Energy Is Miss America appeared first on Energy News Beat.


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