Grist is an official media partner of the SXSW Eco conference, featuring interviews with some of the headliners who will be speaking Oct. 10–12 in Austin. 

When Rachel Slaybaugh speaks at the SXSW Eco conference next week, she’ll be pushing an idea that makes many environmentalists uncomfortable: that nuclear power is a good climate solution.

Slaybaugh came to nuclear research by chance. When she was a freshman at Penn State in 2002, she got a scholarship for women in the sciences that included working at the school’s 1950s-era nuclear reactor. Today she’s a nuclear engineer, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley, and a firm believer that, despite the risks, nuclear energy can be safe and manageable — safer than climate change, anyway.