In a national conference anticipating the Bush administration’s push for more nuclear power plants, grassroots environmental leaders gathered in Washington, DC on January 30-31 to map out new strategies for moving the U.S. towards energy independence without the construction of new nuclear power plants. The conference was sponsored by Friends of the Earth, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and Public Citizen.
"President Bush is misleading us once again--nuclear power is not an energy solution." said Dr. Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "Nuclear power is a fatally flawed technology. It’s not economically viable. There’s no place to put the highly radioactive wastes from normal plant operation. And every new plant that we build is a target for terrorists. We can get all the energy we need from renewable, safe, and truly clean alternatives."
Congressman Ed Markey, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, provided a Congressional perspective on Bush’s proposals, while other experts on utility economics, plant safety, and radioactive wastes exposed the unreliability of the nuclear industry’s claims to be cheap, clean, and safe.
Nuclear power is not ‘cheap.’ "For the last 50 years, U.S. taxpayers have thrown tens of billions of dollars of subsidies to the nuclear industry," said John Runkle of the Conservation Council of North Carolina. "But as we saw in last year’s energy bill, the nuclear industry demanded, and got, hundreds of millions of dollars more in subsidies, tax breaks, and loan guarantees. And even with all these subsidies, the last round of nuclear plants had huge construction cost overruns, and it was us ratepayers who got stuck with the bill."
Calling nuclear power ‘clean’ is another misleading claim. " There’s nothing clean about a technology that creates radioactive wastes that are dangerous to human beings for hundreds of centuries," said Michele Boyd of Public Citizen . "High-level radioactive wastes are piling up around every reactor in the country, with no viable permanent management site."
"Using the word ‘safe’ to discuss nuclear power is an insult to the word ‘safe,’ said Louis Zeller from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. "We all remember Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. And in 2002, we came within a fraction of an inch of steel of a terrible accident at the Davis-Bessie plant. If nuclear power plants are so safe, why has Congress kept renewing the legislation that limits the nuclear industry ’s accident liability?"
Participants also discussed the misleading argument that more nuclear plants are necessary to reduce our dependence on imported oil. "Even if we build hundreds of nuclear plants, we won’t make a dent in our dependence on imported oil, because we just don’t use much oil to make electricity," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of NIRS. "Less than 2 percent of the nation’s electricity is generated by oil plants. "
The conference focused especially in the surge of reactors that utilities are planning in the southeastern U.S. Nine of the eleven states where utilities may build new plants
are in the southeast, starting with Maryland and every coastal state all the way around to Louisiana. "The southeast is being targeted for more nuclear plants through the nuclear industry’s siting strategy," said Hope Taylor of Clean Water for North Carolina. "Every one of these new plants will use and pollute billions of gallons of water every year. What they’re really doing is mining the water our communities need to feed these plants."
Other conferees discussed how nuclear plants were connected with the proliferation of nuclear weapons. "With talk growing about bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, we need to connect the dots between nuclear power and nuclear weapons," said Alice Slater of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment. "When we tell the rest of the world that nuclear is the answer, we are sending the wrong message. We should stop encouraging the development of bomb factories across the planet."
"George Bush is in for a big surprise if he thinks the people of this country are going to roll over for a bunch of new nuclear plants," said Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth. "The most important thing we learned at this conference is that in state after state, people are getting ready to challenge new nuclear power plants. Nuclear power will lead us to a dead end. We’re going to fight for the safe, clean, economical road to energy independence based on wind and solar."
Dick Bell, Friends of the Earth, 202-669-4125 (cell)
Michele Boyd, Public Citizen, 202-494-0785 (cell)
Stephen Smith, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 865-567-7429 (cell)
Alice Slater, GRACE, 1/31 646-238-9000, 2/1 212-404-2100
Hope Taylor, Clean Water for NC, 2/1 919-401-9600
Louis Zeller, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, 336-977-0852