Tunnel collapse puts PR pressure on nuclear energy

2017-05-15 by Ronn Torossian

As the debate about fossil-fuel energy continues to rage, a small but dedicated and growing chorus is calling for a renewal of nuclear energy. Once considered to be the fuel of the future, nuclear has ardent fans and equally dedicated opponents. And, after a recent tunnel collapse at a nuclear weapons complex, score a point for those worried about potential fallout of a more nuclear energy grid.

The tunnel collapse took place at the Hanford nuclear weapons complex in Washington State, a place where toxic waste created during the Manhattan Project has been stored. Critics have been complaining for years that the Cold War era facility was unsafe, that equipment and waste were being stored in problematic conditions. Now, those complaints have been realized.

Local residents and workers were warned to stay out of the area. Some kids didn’t go to school, and some people were told to stay home from jobs even miles away from the site. Cleanup and mitigation have begun, but crews are not even certain of the extent of the problem quite yet.

Potentially worse, some of the tanks are still leaking radioactive waste, and there doesn’t seem to be a permanent solution for the problem. Safe removal of the waste from the contaminated and compromised site is difficult and expensive, and problematic, in that there may not be anyplace currently available to transport the waste to. Currently, the country’s only underground nuclear waste storage facility, located in New Mexico, is not taking any new deposits, because a previous shipment ruptured, contaminating that site.

No one quite knows the current ramifications or even the timeline of the cleanup for this disaster, because some people are saying they’re not even sure how to complete the job … or if they have the equipment to do it. So, of course, anti-nuke groups are using this as a major Public Relations push to stop any move toward nuclear power really before it starts. These groups are saying this kind of “disaster” is not any kind of isolated incident, implying that this incident could happen again and again, especially if the US decides to bring other nuclear sites back online to produce energy.

On the flip side are nuclear apologists who say these kinds of incidents are abundantly rare, and that, comparatively, nuclear is safe, efficient, and cheap. Fear, they say, is misplaced, merely the result of overzealous news headlines and fear mongering by those who over-exaggerate the supposed dangers of nuclear power.

So, whom do consumers trust? That’s a good question, and it will likely be answered by another: “who put out the best, most compelling and stickiest narrative?”

About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.

Ronn Torossian CEO

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 200 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities