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Week includes activity for Scouts at historic reactor

June 11, 2020

By Paul Menser

As part of Nuclear Science Week, eastern Idaho Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will have the opportunity on Oct. 14 to earn badges and patches at a nuclear science workshop being held at the birthplace of nuclear power generation, Experimental Breeder Reactor-I. The National Historic Landmark made history on Dec. 20, 1951, when it produced usable amounts of electricity from nuclear power for the very first time.

Although only the Girl Scout “Get to Know Nuclear” patch requires candidates to interview professionals, experts will be on hand all day to share their knowledge, said Emma Redfoot of the University of Idaho American Nuclear Society student section, which is organizing the event.

The Boy Scouts’ part will be from 9 a.m. to noon and the Girl Scouts’ workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. EBR-I has two spaces that can be used as classrooms, and each can accommodate 25 people.

A former Brownie and Explorer Scout herself, Redfoot said the event should be a great opportunity to learn more about nuclear energy. “We want the discussion to move toward what possibilities there are for nuclear power,” she said. “What matters most to younger people are environmental concerns. Our message is that nuclear energy is a noncarbon-emitting source of energy that can be relied on without interruption.”

Now studying for a doctorate in nuclear science from UI, Redfoot earned her bachelor’s in environmental studies from Lewis and Clark State College. During college, she spent six months on an organic permaculture farm in Ecuador. Seeing first-hand the lack of opportunity there, she concluded that these conditions were due to lack of access to energy. Looking into possible sources of energy that are reliable and nonpolluting, she gravitated to nuclear.

“I don’t think it’s a totally bizarre transition,” she said. Given some of the rhetoric of the past 40 years, it’s easy to overlook the notion that the nuclear community and the environmental community have a lot of shared values. “The big question is how do we talk about this? How do we get over our emotional biases?”

Although there is hope within industry and government that young people might respond to a message about nuclear energy as a safe source of reliable energy that does not produce any greenhouse gases, Redfoot would like to concentrate during Nuclear Science Week on things she thinks are exciting. The program includes educational sections on atoms and radiation, chain reactions and half-life demonstrations. As far as hands-on activities, participants will build cloud chambers to see how radiation works and get to use radiation detectors.

“I don’t want to indoctrinate anybody, I just want to show them some cool stuff,” she said.

Parents of Scouts who may be interested in participating should RVSP to Redfoot at [email protected]. EBR-I will also be opened on Oct. 14 for public tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.



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Posted June 11, 2020

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