Strategic Awareness

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Nuclear spin.png This article is part of the Nuclear Spin project of Spinwatch.

Strategic Awareness is a PR company set up in 2001 by Simone Emmett and Tony Emmett.

Communicating nuclear energy

Both Simone Emmett and Philip Dewhurst, from BNFL and chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association spoke at the same session at the fifth joint Nuclear Industry Association/BNES one day "Energy Choices" Conference in December 2005. The session was called "Beyond the Surface - Communicating nuclear energy." [1]

Spreading the message via third parties

So how are Strategic Awareness and BNFL communicating nuclear energy? Interviewed by PR Week in February 2006, Dewhurst, admitted they were using the classic PR technique of using a third party to push the nuclear message. "Now we use a company called Strategic Awareness, which uses in-depth research to help us develop our message. We spread that via third-party opinion because the public would be suspicious if we started ramming pro-nuclear messages down their throats". [2]

The Spin Doctors' Messages on Nuclear

Documents released under Freedom of Information show what kind of messages Strategic Awareness has been developing for BNFL. Including:

The Nuclear Energy Racecards

Strategic Awareness and BNFL worked up a series of "racecards" - key messages to promote nuclear. These included:


  • Make it personal, make it real
  • Simple, straightforward language
  • Use of Metaphors, examples
  • Emphasize how nuclear protects values
  • Eg 'We, in the UK, are facing a shortfall in our supply of energy versus our demand for energy. We must take action now if we're to avoid this situation'.
  • CO2 Emissions = Climate change = Irreversible damage to our environment
  • If we don't act now we will not have enough energy to meet our needs.

This will impact on our homes, our work lives and our economy.

Later the document goes on to:

'Provide readers with an understanding of the threats


>The world has changed..

  • Climate change is threatening our environment
  • Global oil and gas demand is increasing
  • Fossil fuel supplies are depleting
  • There is uncertainty over middle east stability

>The UK has changed too

  • We are now a net importer of gas
  • Carbon emission levels continue to increase
  • Electricity prices have increased
  • Some nuclear stations are reaching the end of their lives
  • To date, the contribution of renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydro have failed to meet expectations

In the face of these changes, the role for nuclear needs to be reconsidered

Without nuclear

  • At least Xbn tonnes more CO2 emissions will be pumped into our environment every year;
  • We will be vulnerable to the risk of significant energy price rises due to increased global competition for gas, oil and coal supplies;
  • We will be reliant on other countries for our energy supplies
  • We are likely to face supply interruptions and shortages resulting in power cuts


The British nuclear industry's safety record is excellent. Rigorous safety and security measures are in place. Modern reactor designs have state of the art safety features and in light of the evolving climate of global security procedures are even more stringent.

The nuclear industry takes the management of nuclear waste very seriously. Technological breakthroughs means that modern reactors produce less waste than older ones and make-up of that waste means that it is comparatively simple to manage

There are several options being considered for the ultimate disposal of the waste legacy and government needs to decide which of these options will be pursued" [3]

Can We Learn From the Atkins Diet?

Strategic Awareness has also been brainstorming other ideas for BNFL. One is drawing parallels between the highly controversial Aktins Diet and nuclear. The Atkins Diet was seen as one of the diet fads of the 21st Century, but its critics called it dangerous. So could the nuclear industry learn anything from Atkins?

Notes sent from the PR company to BNFL in August 2005, examined how Atkins 'got experts on his side' and received 'celebrity endorsements' which 'Appealed to men'. Challenges to the diet included 'disbelief' as well as 'went against everything we'd been told to believe'. Was there 'a positive medical spin off from nuclear we can use?' the document asks. [4]

Clearing the Air

Notes from a brainstorming session between BNFL and Strategic Awareness show some other key issues that needed to be debated and counter-acted:

How Is Nuclear 'Clean'?:

  • 'Unlike other fuels - the air remains clean (Clean Air)
  • No smoke / fumes / smog/ fog
  • There is a lot of bio-diversity around the stations -industry actively fostering them.
  • Wildlife haven
  • Flush with fish'

How is Nuclear 'Unclean'?

  • Radioactive emissions in the air and water (not actually ' unclean&#39);

Everyday emissions into the air are safe. More in a bottled of mineral water example - excellent.

Radiation is natural - it's in our bodies and food naturally

% of radioactivity added to water - miniscule - we're not disturbing the equilibrium of air and water'

  • Wastes produced - remain highly radioactive for a long time
  • Uranium mining
  • Aging reactors - look dirty

Nuclear Newbuild

Allows renewables to make a difference

Without nuclear newbuild renewables will not make a difference

Possible Challenges

  • But we can't build them fast enough!
  • So we need to make the decision now!
  • We need to speed up planning

- Are we diverting money from renewables to new build? Is this wise?

  • Absolutely. Nuclear provides 'always on' electricity. Renewable energy is, by its nature, intermittent
  • Now is the time to invest to secure the future

What about clean coal?

  • We need a portfolio - it would be irresponsible not to".

The last item examined how 'Nuclear protects of [sic] Quality of Life'

Q. 'Are we prepared to sacrifice Quality of Life for fear of the miniscule risk [of a nuclear accident]? [5]

Ready to Deliver

A document prepared for a website on Nuclear Waste by BNFL and Strategic Awareness shows the key messages that they are using to push nuclear:

  • Nuclear energy produces hardly any harmful greenhouse gases;
  • It is a safe source of energy. The UK Nuclear Industry has an excellent safety track record;
  • It is reliable source of energy unlike many 'renewables' which are weather dependent;
  • It offers security of supply. With the UK now becoming a net importer of gas, UK-produced nuclear energy reduces our exposure to the risks associated with dependency on supplier countries;
  • It is economically competitive with other energy sources;

The document finishes by saying 'The UK Nuclear Industry is ready to deliver'. [6]

Don't Forget Global Warming and Don't Use the Word 'Power'

One email from Strategic Awareness to BNFL regarding the 'Waste Management Document' says:

'Mentioning the words 'global warming' in the context of carbon-emissions will remind readers of the consequences of carbon-emissions - this is important'. [7]

Another document from Strategic Awareness argues that 'new nuclear power stations' should be replaced by 'new generation nuclear energy stations.' [8]

Let's Celebrate

When a poll was published in The Times newspaper that showed that "public opinion" had swung in favour of nuclear, Strategic Awareness wrote to BNFL. 'great news It's such a novelty for people in the nuclear business to get good news from public review that one would be tempted to say celebrate, except that that would probably be considered to be bad form, and pre-empt a massive backlash. Early days, I know but I still think it really positive!" [9]

We Would be Pilloried if we Rebranded

Strategic Awareness provided input for a Director's speech that included the draft text:

'So how can we evolve the image of nuclear power? Well you might imagine that we could rebrand it, find a new name, can you imagine how we'd be pilloried if we tried to rebrand it". [10]

Ironically this is exactly what Nirex has been thinking of doing.




  1. Nuclear Industry Association and British Nuclear Energy Society Energy Choices Conference, 1 December, 2005.
  2. Alex Black, "Issues Management: How Nuclear Power got its Groove Back", PR Week, 2 March, 2006.
  3. Nuclear Energy Racecards
  4. Strategic Awareness Email 20 October, 2005.
  5. Attachments to Email, 21 October, 2005.
  6. Attachment to Email, 14 June, 2005.
  7. Strategic Awareness Email, 22 November, 2005.
  8. Strategic Awareness Email, 22 April, 2005.
  9. Strategic Awareness Email, 18 January, 2005.
  10. Strategic Awareness Email, 11 May, 2005.