Sep 15, 2020

Ep 278: John Lindberg - Public Affairs Manager, World Nuclear Association

Public Affairs Manager
World Nuclear Association
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Show notes

Introductions and background (1:15)
(1:15-10:40) Starting out in politics and specializing in nuclear communications.
Q: How did you get started in the Nuclear industry?
A: John Lindberg is from Sweden but has spent the last 8 years living in various parts of the UK.
John is currently a PhD Candidate focusing on Radiological and Nuclear Risk Communication at
King's College London and Imperial College. He is also a Public Affairs Manager at the World
Nuclear Association.
Before arriving in the UK John wanted to become a doctor, but after discovering he couldn’t
stand working with blood, he transitioned to a career in politics. His first professional role in
nuclear energy was as a political advisor to a member of the Scottish parliament on matters
related to energy, environment, and foreing affairs.
John grew up in southern Sweden, close to an abandoned uranium mine, having grown up with
stories of Chernobyl his perception of nuclear was largely negative so he never really
considered a career in nuclear. After completing his time at the Scottish parliament, John
decided to look more closely at nuclear and pursued a master’s degree in climate change and
risk communication at King’s College London.

Since then he has worked with various Think Tanks on nuclear energy in the UK and USA, now
with the World Nuclear Association.
(11:56-18:46) Addressing the root causes of radiophobia
Q: Do ideologies and emotions drive people away from nuclear energy?
A: John believes that world views play a huge part, no one is born being afraid of nuclear
energy and radiation, but we are instead socialized in fears of both. Going over the years there’s
always being some form of social aversions towards nuclear and radiation, in pop culture and
political debates.
Since not everyone has the access or willingness to go through the facts of every pressing
issue, in this case nuclear, John highlights this as a reason why people primarily fall back on
popular opinions or world views on radiation.
John conducted a study examining how popular culture had changed over time, starting from
the late 50s, negative public opinions started from the nuclear bombs that hit Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, and the resulting radiations from that event became closely related to the nuclear
reactors that were operational at that time.
Add a few disaster/apocalypse movies, then Three Mile Island which reinforced in the minds of
many the fears they had of what nuclear accidents can be. When events like these happen,
people fall back to their social environments, which in most parts of the world is already
radiophobic. Considering all these, John thinks it isn’t strange that we find many people are still
(19:22-30:39) Building trust between the public and the nuclear industry
Q: How can we effectively communicate about nuclear energy?
A: John asserts that building trust is the first step in tackling sour public opinion but this in no
way takes away from the importance of having the facts on your side, looking back the nuclear
industry has done a good job in getting accurate facts out into the public but that hasn’t been a
successful strategy but a lot of bodies in the nuclear sphere still continue with this approach. As
John puts it: ‘Most people are not driven by facts, they are driven by emotions’.
The nuclear community needs to start talking about nuclear in a different way then it is currently,
the current tone seems almost apologetic in practice. John believes this is something that must
change especially as criticism grows without facts or justification.
Harnessing the power of stories is another important piece that John highlighted, explaining that
employers need to empower their employees to feel confident about sharing what they do with
their communities and to feel proud for contributing to a sector that generates reliable energy
and doesn't emit CO2.

(31:25-37:44) Engaging on nuclear energy with multiple demographics
Q: How do you continue to refine your messaging around nuclear issues?
A: John spends a lot of time testing his approach to nuclear communications with his 79
grandmother who is deeply anti-nuclear and frequently suggests he consider an industry
John’s grandmother belongs to the generation that remembers Chernobyl and the dangers of
nuclear weapons well, so speaking with her helps him find out which frames work and which
doesn’t. Adapting this to the current generation that only knows of nuclear weapons as a
concept and have their perception of nuclear accidents formed by movies and popular culture,
this creates a need for a different type of approach.
John also spends a lot of time speaking to environmentalists who are deeply passionate about
their work but remain agnostic about nuclear energy. Another group are politicians who require
a more target brand of messaging to reach their constituents and align closely to their next
election campaign.
Recently John started a new project to write a children’s book explaining what nuclear is and the
role it plays not just in the energy transition but in our everyday lives. An important part of this
project is highlighting the climate message of nuclear, as the awareness of climate change
continues to grow among young people worldwide, nuclear must also position itself properly to
make people understand the role it plays in reversing the effects of climate change and securing
the future of the next generation and generations to come.
Conclusion (38:00)
(38:00-40:40) Looking to the future of nuclear technology
Q: What are you most excited about in the future of nuclear energy?
A: John is looking forward to the new technologies being developed in the nuclear industry and
points to this as the main driver for growth in the sector over the next year. Seeing young
entrepreneurs with interesting ideas that challenge conventional ways of thinking and inefficient
practices currently in the nuclear sector.
In the communication space, John hopes to one day be able to move on from talking about and
working around radiophobia and focus on something else. Although the work he does is
important, it can be depressing constantly researching harmful societal effects brought about a
misunderstanding of radiation, pointing to how survivors of Chernobyl and Fukisima were bullied
and ostracized by their communities which led to many suicides.
John hopes the next stage of his career will involve bringing nuclear technology to places
around the world that still struggle with energy access.

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