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The Nuclear Industry PR Offensive

Ever since I read Wendell Potter’s latest book Deadly Spin I’ve had a renewed interest in keeping tabs on the PR industry. I signed up for the rss feeds for Adweek and Advertising Age. I’ve also been reading the Center for Media and Democracy’s – The Spin email newsletter and website for years now.

What the PR industry is capable of doing is dangerous and everyone should learn how to interpret the spin that is put forth daily. It is with this in mind that I read this article on the spin the nuclear industry is putting forward with interest.

The criticism, amplified by the extensive TV coverage of the unfolding events overseas, is posing perhaps the industry’s greatest public-relations challenge since the Three Mile Island nuclear incident some three decades ago. The nuclear industry has "spent 25 years-plus trying to define nuclear energy as a safe alternative to fossil fuel and the impact of an incident like this could literally eradicate all those years of hard work," said Adam Mendelsohn, a partner with Mercury, a political- and corporate-public-relations firm whose practices include crisis management and communications. "The nuclear renaissance was in pretty high gear," said Lake Barrett, a nuclear engineer and former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official. This is a "setback, that’s for sure."

Ah yes, eradicate the years of hard work of spinning! It is also telling that a major energy corporation in Entergy is using Burson-Marsteller as its PR firm. I’m not going to get into whether their nuclear plant in New York is safe or not. I’ll leave that up to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission—who has said it’s safe in the recent past but will now conduct a new seismic risk study—but the need to use Burson shows me how the industry operates.