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Embrace the Waste

Madi Hilly

Monday, July 10, 2023

Chris Keefer  0:00  

Welcome back everybody to decouple not just decoupled but a decoupled short. We've attempted these in the past. And we're going to try again, this is where we bring you some exciting breaking news or in this case, breaking tweet, although it's tweet that has turned into news.

Chris Keefer  0:17  

And I'm happy to welcome back Maddie hilly to the podcast and Maddie, welcome back for I think your very first decouple short.

Madison Hilly  0:25  

Yep, very first, and not the first one waste, but it's a hot topic right now.

Chris Keefer  0:31  

Absolutely. Absolutely. You're dialing up the heat. But absolutely, folks, you know, check out the archives pretty recent episode with Maddie, what about the waste, how to communicate about the waste. And Maddie took a pretty bold step.

Chris Keefer  0:45  

With her unique style of communications around waste. Did you did you like design some novel engineering containment mechanism to make storing nuclear waste even safer than it already is? Maddie, or did you take a different tack? Wait,

Madison Hilly  1:00  

did I design something new? I'm, I'm I love how people on Twitter who defend me are like she's a nuclear engineer. She knows I'm like, I am not. So no, I could not possibly have designed something better. And plus, nothing better exists. I mean, the waste storage that we have right now has a perfect safety record zero injuries, zero harm, zero environmental releases anywhere in the world from dry casts. So yeah, basically, I had the chance to visit Idaho National Laboratory and Idaho Falls where they have on site, the melted react or waste from Three Mile Island. And I thought, you know, I'm going to try to get as close to this as they'll let me and so I like really was kind of like, you know, Isabelle Boemeke Key isotope, and I were like, Hey, would it be possible like, Okay, can we just get a little closer, a little closer, and there were all these security precautions? So finally, we were right up against the waist? And yeah, I knew that it would be no problem because there would be absolutely no dose coming to me. But it was more of a Will they lead us and will they not freak out about the public's perception when these inevitably go online? Yeah, I've been to three wastes storage facilities to an Ontario one ad down at Indian Point, actually. And, you know, it's always seemed to raise blood pressures. And you know, some sweat has broken on some brows as we get closer, you know, and occasionally, okay, you can put the hand on it, we've not been allowed to cask hug. That is a unique kind of sporting activity amongst nuclear advocates. But yeah, the pressing the pregnant belly up against the cask definitely took it to a whole new level, I was very heartened to see the IML. I'm not sure if this was a tweet or a LinkedIn post, but really leaning into this thing that we're honored to have had you. So it was kind of a comms gamble, potentially for them. I mean, tell me about your instincts as a communicator. I mean, this is not your first rodeo, you've been talking about nuclear for I think six years now.

Chris Keefer  3:13  

You know, I think in terms of I promoted your posts have had a little bit of pushback here and there. What made you think this was a good idea, and that this would further the cause? Well, like I said, I knew it would be completely safe to me and my unborn baby. So it wasn't like a calculation I had to do. But I think, you know, a lot of times are especially historically, um, anti nuclear groups have used mothers and children to fear monger about radiation, and about spent nuclear waste. And so I thought this would be a really unique opportunity to show, you know, I'm a future mom. And I love nuclear waste. And those things are completely coherent, because of what that means for waste management for clean energy. So I figured, I mean, I didn't know that it was going to cause probably a strong reaction online. But for people who don't know about nuclear waste, it just exists in their imagination, and likely, it's just the green liquid goo from The Simpsons. So seeing physical waste and seeing that a pregnant mom would feel comfortable enough, like pressing directly up against it might shock them enough to open them selves up to the possibility they could be wrong about nuclear waste, and what else might they be wrong about? And it's been really heartening to see that response to get messages to see people in real time say, hmm, I'm gonna have to learn more because I didn't know that or expect that. I mean, you're not new to major news Club.

Speaker 1  5:00  

Bridge and participating in news media had a story in The New York Times not too long ago, which referenced your status as a pregnant young woman. But tell me tell me a little bit about your reaction of sort of being covered in the media in this way. I think you've, you've written a lot. I'm sure you've had coverage as well. But I mean, this was certainly something that caused a big reaction. So just tell me about the spectrum of the reactions. And particular I'm interested in sort of the media outlet type reactions, but you can tell me about social media as well. That's that's pretty real out there, too.

Chris Keefer  5:32  

Yeah, no, I mean, it started on social media, right. And, you know, ranged from people calling me absurd and grotesque all the way to cheering me on and defending me and getting a whole new army of reply, guys. But like I said, there were a lot of people in the middle who were kind of confused, maybe curious, open to like, if this is true, this is really good news for our future generations, which was I mean, my favorite response by far. And then yeah, this got picked up by the media. I mean, I was telling you a talk radio show in Montreal, was like, this is very weird. And we cover this because we're having this nuclear debate right now in Canada. Newsweek reached down stuff like we would love to share these photos there. We think they're going to be big. And can we do this interview alongside of it? So I think it Yeah, it was sort of this hook to talk about nuclear waste. And even like, the reporters and the hosts, everyone I've talked to, has seemed to just kind of be a little stunned, like, Oh, that's really it. But yeah, a wide range of wide range of reactions, not as much outrage as I'm might have expected. So I guess that's always a good thing.

Speaker 1  6:58  

Right. I mean, I think there's ways to be very, what I'm trying to say here, subtle, nuanced, careful, cautious, and I think those words all sort of describe typical nuclear communications. And, you know, you throw a big, big boulder into a pond, and there's some ripples that are that are coming out. We were just talking before we were recording about some of the haters, perhaps, but without sort of needing to go into names or anything, just maybe tell me about that interaction, because I thought that was interesting and actually quite hopeful. So yeah, break break that little interaction down for us if you can,

Chris Keefer  7:29  

yeah, um, so someone whose host a very popular YouTube channel tweeted, and was like really upset by the photoshoot called it deranged, and not because of the risk posed to the my unborn baby, but because I was being flippant or glossing over the failure of the US to build Yucca Mountain and be intentional with waste management. And I was gonna reply thoughtfully about how I've actually been on the record, saying yucca is an anti nuclear or anti scientific dumpster fire, but agreeing with him that we should be more intentional about waste management and outlining what that might look like. But before I could even do that, he had taken the tweet down and said, something like, look, I deleted my last tweet, I was being a bit of a prick. And clearly, I needed to learn more about interim nuclear storage, which is a huge, I mean, like, it's really hard to admit when you might be wrong about something, and to do it, especially with an audience and admit that you are kind of being a jerk. It made me really hopeful. And I reached out to him and just said, Hey, if you're serious about learning more about this, I would love to be a resource, you can call me text me, you know, here's a link to my op ed, that might give you a fuller picture of my maybe a more serious, you know, thoughtful case for nuclear waste than a pregnancy photo shoot. So even then, it's like the tide definitely feels like it's turning where there are enough people educating and advocating or I don't even get the chance to respond before people have jumped in and encourage them to change their minds.

Speaker 1  9:30  

I think we're merging into a new level of maturity around the nuclear debate. And it used to just be so hyper polarized and just so full of I think caricatures. And, you know, social media makes us available in terms of our image or avatar that we put forward. And you might be interacting with just this, this little segment this this flash of pixels of a person and filling in this enormous story about who they are based upon a single picture and I think I'm really struck by that and I've seen a few cons Can creators really not eat humble pie, but just have a second thought or respond really well to criticism. And then once we get to know each other and have these communications, the caricature of the grotesque the, I mean, I think we both lean in pretty deeply into adjectives that have been used about you like deeply weird and absurd, but, you know, protest monsters, that's a fades away as you get to know us because we are a bit weird, but I think you know, where people you and I are, I mean, you're soon to be apparent or human beings that are grounded to the world and profoundly human ways. And I think, you know, it comes off that our motivations are good, when people actually get a chance to sit down with us. And I think your critics, particularly on the pronuclear side, were maybe a little more cautious. Maybe you're failing to see what's the follow up to this, what's the engagement that comes afterwards? And I'm certainly going to be pitching humanity to some other Canadian news channels that I have some relations with producers for because I do think it's a great story and a great avenue to start talking about one of the great bogeyman, or bogey figures of of nuclear. So,

Madison Hilly  11:07  

yeah, just to your point about social media, it's such a powerful tool, because, you know, even when you're writing op eds, or doing interviews, that's really like you're under the thumb of an editor or someone who's choosing your words. And with social media, you can really put your personality out there you know, someone said that I was yeah grotesque and deeply weird and I just said I don't know about like absurd maybe I don't know about the rest I'm consistently in the point 1% top point 1% of Taylor Swift listeners on Spotify were when people see I'm just kind of like, the you know, get to know me this normal person this like, basic Swifty, and it's it's hard to like paint any of us or most of us is nuclear shells when that's most clearly what we're not so I think it's a tool that people are recognizing the power of but it's still under utilized both for getting you know wider audiences but also just engaging more personally with people.

Speaker 1  12:18  

Well, Maddie, we promised to make it a short and I want to stick to that promise. And we are going to do another short soon on the the Indian Point legislation which bans tritium releases from the decommissioned Indian Point, power plant. Looking forward to that and I'd like to make this kind of a regular segment because you have a lot of hot takes viral tweets and I just want to amplify those and get your good voice out there.

Madison Hilly  12:45  

I was gonna say maybe this is a MADI spicy waste takes and I just continue to do increasingly absurd things to get you to bring me back on to do you're only feeding me

Unknown Speaker  13:00  

All right, no base jumping. Okay. All right. Take care of it.

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