President of Jóvenes Nucleares: "There are many opportunities for young people in the nuclear sector"
Pablo García is the current president of Jóvenes Nucleares, (Nuclear Young Generation), a commission of the Spanish Nuclear Society (SNE) composed of young professionals that dedicate part of their free time to the dissemination of information on the benefits of nuclear energy. In his opinion, "people's perception on nuclear energy is gradually changing". He considers that nuclear energy is of strategic importance for the energy transition and firmly believes that this sector has a promising future.
"The goal for these two years is to position ourselves as a clear reference in scientific dissemination"
How did you arrive at Jóvenes Nucleares?
I studied physics at the University of Oviedo. In 2011 I started studying nuclear physics, and since then I knew I wanted to specialize in it. Also, one of our activities in this subject was a debate on nuclear energy. While searching for information to participate in it, I found the Jóvenes Nucleares Twitter account and requested their help. I remained in contact with them and decided to join the sector.
For how many years have you been President of this organization?
I have been here since February 2019 and will continue until February 2021. As per the Jóvenes Nucleares policy I was Vicepresident for two years and then I automatically became President for two more years.
What are the main goals you have set for yourself?
The goal for these two years is to position ourselves as a clear reference in scientific dissemination, while still doing all our planned activities. At Jóvenes Nucleares we are lucky to be very passionate and have the trust of SNE, who often allows us to go ahead and do something and inform them afterwards. Every year we incorporate a new activity apart from all our usual ones.
You are young and nuclear, and you spread information in your free time. What moves you to do this?
I believe that one of the characteristics of our sector is that you need to like it. We are more or less critical, each of us in our own way, but generally speaking we are all aware that what we do is necessary and positive. When you are positive that what you do is good and you see that all the information you receive from the outside is demonizing you, wanting to defend yourself comes naturally. Our way of defending ourselves is to provide information. That would not be possible without the support from SNE, the schools, universities and companies that allow us to give talks and organize conferences, participate in events, etc.
"We must be aware of the fact that the contribution of nuclear energy to the energy mix helps to reduce the thermal gap"
What types of activities do you carry out to eradicate myths and prejudices?
I believe that the perception of nuclear energy is slowly changing. There are several facts that highly exceed prejudices. The more information we offer the more people will see it that way. We have no choice but to put forth all the information we have and all we can.
You also communicate via social networks. How relevant are these platforms to your work?
Very relevant. The sector's communication strategy has always been within a controlled environment, but things are changing for the better. Right now we understand that the new communication media go in one direction and, without disregard to traditional media, we should focus on the new platforms. We need to catch people's attention and get the support of young people who are currently entering the sector and want to change things. You can only do that via social networks.
In fact, you use these platforms to respond to false information
I consider that responding to false news, while at the same time spreading information, is a completely valid and positive mechanism. We have had problems trying to debunk published information, and for this reason we now carefully analyze when we can do it and when we cannot. After analyzing our networks, what we find most interesting is direct dissemination, and thus we have reconfigured our strategy to focus on spreading information on events and our own contents created by us. This strategy seems to work, because in the past year we doubled our numbers in social networks. Right now we are the Nuclear Young Generation account with most followers in the world, even above the North Americans.
"The reality is that there are many opportunities and it is up to the sector to make young people see that there is a future"
What three aspects must society know about nuclear energy?
In my opinion, we must be aware of the fact that the contribution of nuclear energy to the energy mix helps to reduce the thermal gap; that is, it helps to reduce both the price and the CO2 emissions. No one wants a 100% renewable mix that costs 200 Euros per MWh because it is not sustainable. Another important message is that safety in the nuclear industry is inherent. The third one is that there is already a technical solution for waste management, yet experts are working on finding an even better solution.
How do you envision the nuclear future in our country?
Every time you talk about energy transition, nuclear power plants appear as a key element in this process. The National Energy and Climate Plan suggests what some wanted to call a "closure agenda", but to me it is a life extension. All the nuclear power plants in Spain will live beyond their 40-year life span. Apart from the operation of nuclear power plants, nuclear energy in Spain is internationally renowned. We will have to see how things go, because the message is not going to change: as long as we are necessary, we will continue to be indispensable.
What would you say to young people who are considering developing their career in this sector?
The problem with young people and this industry is that when they start their energy degree they are 18 years old and the first thing they tell them is that the future is in renewables, so they do not even consider nuclear. The reality is that there are many opportunities and it is up to the sector to make young people see that there is a future. An industry that invests 70 million Euro a year in R+D believes in its future, otherwise it would not invest.
What was it like to attend the Climate Summit for the Nuclear Young Generation?
The opportunity afforded to us by the celebration of COP25 in Madrid was incredible. For one thing, we were able to cooperate with our colleagues at SNE (ENS-YGN) to have a stand in the Blue Area of the event or coordinate a panel on the role of nuclear energy in decarbonization and the energy transition. Also, for the first time we were able to jump right into actively participating in a demonstration against climate change where, although we did not fully agree with the manifesto presented, we did have the opportunity to spread our message to an audience that would have never listened to it. All the young people considered it a highly positive experience. In this sense, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all the work done by the entire team of the Nuclear Young Generation Management Board. Organizing all the COP work in two weeks would have been impossible without them.