• Sannah van Balen


Knowledge comes from everyone and combining our knowledge makes us strong.

Scientific knowledge comes from scientists, political knowledge comes from politicians, historical knowledge comes from historians and so on. Traditionally, these pockets of knowledge are separate and knowledge is transferred predominantly within the pocket- think of conferences, societies, and even cultures. Each pocket has its own world or infrastructure in which it functions.

This set-up can be very useful as it is effective when everything runs smoothly. Most problems can be solved within the pocket however, when a problem arises that hits several pockets at the same time – such as climate change – the set-up fails. Both my pocket, the scientists, as well as the politicians and historians cannot solve climate change within our own pockets. We are required to connect and to some extend merge – a common challenge.

Connecting to others happens when the communication is effective, building trust. Many books have been written about communication that is effective, connecting and non-aggressive. The reason being that it is not easy and requires practice. Our first test starts at the moment we are born: connecting to our families. From that moment on, each of us builds up our unique perception of the world and we start finding our appropriate pocket .

Climate change challenges the perceptions we already have and requires us to re-evaluate them. Sources of energy we have always been using and thought were great (e.g. coal) may not be great anymore. In the same way sources we may have ruled out previously may be useful to us in the future.

In this context nuclear energy is a source of energy that fits the second category. It is commonly labelled as a “controversial topic” as opinions on nuclear energy range from it being a great technology that offers solutions to it representing the end of the world. In reality, most topics are controversial until people can connect over it; then the topic becomes just a general topic, accepted and usually quite boring.

On March 23rd, I gave a TEDx talk on Nuclear: Facts, Feelings and Fantasy. I explored common perceptions in the industry versus those in the rest of society, in an attempt to take nuclear energy out of the taboo zone and into the talking-circle. The responses I received motivated me to keep bridging the technical world to the rest of society. It represented the start of the Empowered Atom.

  • Facebook
  • Instagram