Nuclear technology needs a more positive image, according to the reigning Miss America from Wisconsin.
Grace Stanke, from Wausau, Wis., has trained for a career in nuclear science, and her platform as Miss America is “clean energy.”
Speaking at the Dairyland Power Cooperative annual meeting in La Crosse on Wednesday, Stanke said science fiction and comic books have helped portray nuclear energy and radioactivity as harmful.
She says that perception led to the rebranding of technology such as MRI scanners, which originally had the word “nuclear” in its name.
“People wouldn’t use it because of the word nuclear, so they just got rid of it, and now an MRI machine is a commonly used thing,” Stanke told an audience at the La Crosse Center.
Stanke also says the general public may not know that most nuclear waste can be reprocessed, with only about 5 percent dangerous enough to be stored in isolation.
Stanke has studied nuclear engineering at UW-Madison. She hopes to get other young people interested in joining nuclear-related fields.
“My biggest mission is to promote people finding their passions, and find them a role within the field then,” Stanke said, “because if they find their passion, if they love communicating…if they love engineering,” they could find a role in the nuclear industry or another field.
Stanke said Madison was low on the list of colleges she wanted to attend, but now thinks she might not have trained for nuclear engineering if she hadn’t studied there.
This was Stanke’s second featured visit to the La Crosse area since winning the Miss America title last December. In January, she served as a judge at the Onalaska Show Choir festival.