Nuclear reactors

For 40 years, Friends of the Earth has been a leading voice in the U.S. in opposing nuclear reactors. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, it is clear that there can and must be a thorough debate on our energy future and the need to move beyond this dangerous and dirty technology to the clean renewable energy and efficiency technologies of the 21st century.

Friends of the Earth's nuclear campaign works to reduce risks for people and the environment by supporting efforts to close existing nuclear reactors and fighting proposals to design and build new reactors that use federal funds to underwrite such initiatives. Years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, our campaign is engaging key battles against old and new reactors and on loan bailout guarantees and other federal policies that subsidize the nuclear industry.

Shutting down existing reactors

In January of this year, new equipment critical to the operation of the San Onofre reactors in southern California failed key safety tests -- and even leaked radiation. These reactors are shut down -- for now.  Friends of the Earth is working with community groups and activists in California to keep the aging reactors shut down permanently. We are up against the reactors’ operator, Southern California Edison, which is maneuvering to restart them as soon as possible, even though the root causes of the malfunction and the scope of the damage are unknown.

Through TV ads, targeted media outreach, and local organizing, our nuclear team is keeping the pressure on the NRC and Edison to keep the reactors closed -- which could significantly reduce the threat that this plant poses to the 8 million California residents living within a 50 mile radius.

Check out our new campaign website!

Stopping legislation to raise electricity rates to fund new nuclear reactors

In 2011 and 2012, Friends of the Earth and our activists successfully fought and prevented passage of a bill in the Iowa state legislature that would allow the local utility company to raise customers' electric rates to pay in advance for the construction of new nuclear reactors. We worked tirelessly to move senators in the right direction, working with local and national groups to shift the debate about the cost recovery bill, taking out radio and TV ads, phoning thousands of Iowans, and mobilizing thousands of activists who called and wrote their elected officials. In the end, despite extensive lobbying by the nuclear industry, the measure was blocked two years in a row -- a huge victory for Iowa consumers and the environment.

The fight to stop financing schemes for new reactors that would leave the public on the hook to pay multi-billion dollar bills is far from finished. We are now looking to spread this success to other states, as Construction Work in Progress legislation is considered a critical re-entry point for the nuclear industry. Without the necessary funds to construct new nuclear reactors and with Wall Street investors running scared, the industry needs the public to foot the bill. CWIP bills have already passed in Florida and are being considered in other states like Missouri and North Carolina.

Protecting public health and taxpayer money from new nuclear reactor projects

Friends of the Earth and a coalition of 11 other groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday, February 16 to reverse the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s misguided approval of risky new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia. The suit asserts that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission violated federal environmental law in approving the reactors without accounting for the public safety and environmental implications of the ongoing nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. Even Gregory B. Jazcko, chairman of the NRC, seemed to agree with our legal challenge to Vogtle when, in his dissent against the approval decision of the rest of the commission, he said: "I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened." 

Alongside this important challenge in court, we've worked to elevate public awareness of the Vogtle site's significant safety vulnerabilities and astronomic cost overruns since its inception. We've placed pressure on the Obama administration to reverse course on an $8.3 billion pre-emptive bailout promise that puts taxpayer money on the line to guarantee private loans to the project.

By working with grassroots activists against nuclear reactor construction and holding nuclear regulators accountable in court, we've elevated the economic and public health risks posed by new reactor projects -- and continued to fight for environmentally sustainable, increasingly cost-competitive clean and safe renewable energy alternatives.

Fighting a massive nuclear bailout

Nuclear reactor construction is so expensive and subject to cost overruns and loan defaults that Wall Street won't finance it. For this reason, reactor construction in the United States came to a halt in the late 1970s. Industry executives have admitted that without taxpayer-backed loan guarantees, they cannot build new reactors. That's why the nuclear industry is so eager to stick you -- the taxpayer -- with the bill.

Loan guarantees are the principal means by which the nuclear industry is trying to put taxpayers on the hook. Each nuclear reactor costs as much as $10 billion to build, and the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the industry will default on more than half of its loans. Through loan guarantees, taxpayers will be forced to repay Wall Street if -- and when -- nuclear companies default on their loans. And President Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget proposed $55 billion in nuclear loan guarantees. In February 2010, the president announced the first taxpayer-backed loan guarantee to build two reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia, which would be the first built in the U.S. in 30 years.

Friends of the Earth is fighting to stop loan guarantee bailouts for the nuclear industry, to protect the public and prevent taxpayer money from being wasted on this dirty, unsafe, and old technology. Safe, clean, and responsible alternatives exist, such as solar, wind, and energy efficiency, and these should be the focus of government investment.

Read our new fact sheet on the dangers of nuclear reactors.

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