Gail Jennes
December 19, 1977 12:00 PM

On a recent radio talk show in Newport, R.I. Ann Pauley was holding her own as she defended the safety and efficiency of nuclear power plants. But she was relieved when a caller finally asked, “Are you Jane Pauley’s sister?” “That question,” Ann said, “I can answer easily.”

The Today Show co-host is in fact Ann’s kid sibling (Ann is 29, Jane 27), and in addition to a last name they share the same bright smile, expansive gestures and flat Midwestern voice. The difference, Ann says, is that “Jane’s not interested in science and math and I’m not at ease at public speaking.”

Ann is learning, though. In October she joined a touring campaign to promote nuclear power for Westinghouse, where she’s employed as a fuels engineer. In her meetings with college students, citizens’ groups and businessmen, the reception from people who believe nuclear plants to be unsafe is sometimes hostile.

“Each alternative for power—coal, oil, nuclear—has problems,” Ann answers. “Nuclear is not perfect, but nuclear plants are designed to withstand the worst possible earthquake, the crash of the largest plane.” For those who suggest that she is giving less than a two-sided presentation, she counters: “I insist the discussion not center around my integrity. That skirts the basic issue: information.”

Nuclear power was a distant concern in Indianapolis, where the Pauley sisters grew up with a minimum of sibling friction. “I was a tomboy,” Ann says, “and Jane played more with dolls.” They agreed on TV shows (“Our parents liked Lawrence Welk but we didn’t”) and on opposing the Vietnam war, which their conservative Republican father, a food products salesman, supported. (“Jane and I weren’t sure we’d go through with a demonstration once because we thought he’d see us on TV,” she recalls painfully. “He did, and hurting him was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”)

While Jane majored in political science at Indiana University, Ann preceded her as a Phi Beta Kappa math graduate. She taught junior high and worked as a statistician before being hired in 1973 by Westinghouse for its Pittsburgh nuclear energy systems division. After three years analyzing simulated nuclear accidents on a computer, she made her first speaking tour in New York State this fall.

Ann was married for seven years to a physics professor but now lives alone in Pittsburgh in a two-story red-brick house with a golden retriever, Jody, and a cat named Willoughby. “Being single is a real novelty,” she says. Is there a man in her life? “Several.”

Jane hasn’t taken a public stand on nuclear power yet, Ann admits, but she approves of big sister “going out and speaking because it develops confidence.”

For her part, Ann doesn’t watch much TV (at least since The Mary Tyler Moore Show went off the air), but admits to flicking on the tube when she’s traveling. “It’s nice to see my sister in the morning and not feel so far away from home.”

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