in the Energy Bill?
Nuclear Power Plants
the guise of protecting the American public from more blackouts, the Republican
leadership is promoting a disastrous Energy Bill that promotes nuclear
we'd beat back the idea of nukes? Think
again. With no fanfare and certainly no
media reports, last year the US Congress handed big energy giants like Exelon,
Entergy and Dominion $1 million a piece to go out an evaluate sites in Ohio,
Virginia and Mississippi for new reactors.
as a Senate and House conference committee members tackle the Energy Bill the
push to revive this almost dead industry is in high gear. The two bills from the House and Senate that
are the subject of negotiation endorse the concept of something called the 2010
program. This antediluvian program would build 50 new nukes by the year
it sink in: Fifty nukes! That's about a
50% increase of the number of nukes currently on line in the US, 103 nukes.
add insult to injury, the program to build a whole new generation of nukes
would depend on the US taxpayer to finance huge amounts of the staggering
we go to press the exact provisions of the new Energy Bill are unclear. Yet Republican pro-nuke enthusiasts and, in
particular, Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico are talking of inserting
wording that would support massive subsidies with possibly up to 50% of
construction costs of new nuclear power plants to be paid for by
taxpayers. Also under discussion are
substantial taxpayer subsidies to decommissioning costs.
this year Senator Domenici pushed a bill that advocated $271 million dollars
for construction of new nuclear power plants, research and development on
"advanced" reactor designs, development of "fast track"
licensing procedures (these might ban legal interventions by citizens) and
other goodies for the dead-in-the-water nuclear industry. In addition, his bill gave the nod to
taxpayers splitting the costs with industry.
Although that particular bill bit the dust, now the Senator is
threatening to re-insert many of the same provisions in the new bill.
hard to believe that these guys are serious.
Somehow the history of nuclear power over the last 25 years has escaped
matter that the last nuke to come on line in the US, the Tennessee Watts Bar
nuclear power plant, cost $8 billion and took 23 years to build.
matter that in 1986 the burning reactors at Chernobyl in Russia forced the
evacuation of 100,000 people within a 30-kilometer radius, permanently
contaminated significant areas in the Ukraine and Belarus, and spewed
radioactive poisons as far as Sweden, Norway, and the US.
matter that the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident came within a
hair's breadth of suffering a meltdown and making huge sections of Pennsylvania
matter that nobody knows what to do with the approximately 45,000 tons of
long-lived nuclear waste that is currently sitting in irradiated fuel pools at
matter that safe, benign sources of energy derived from energy efficiency
programs, conservation, wind and solar power, and fuel-efficient automobiles
would all cost billions less, could be implemented on a much faster schedule,
would generate many more jobs and make Americans less dependent upon foreign
the Republican leadership, taking advantage of American's sense of
vulnerability after the blackout of August 14, is ready to hand the nuclear
utilities a giant windfall.
being promoted in Washington is so out-of-touch with reality, so 1950's
regressive, so dim-witted it's hard to grasp.
foolish and dangerous nuclear revival is being promoted in 2003 despite the
devastating attack on the World Trade Center, despite the clear warning from
Osama bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan that nukes might be targets
(remember how US intelligence found crude maps of nuclear power plants?),
despite the total failure of Homeland Security, the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, the utilities or anybody else to take concrete steps to protect
Americans from the potentially disastrous threat posed by terrorists to
existing nuclear power plants.
still have the shred of a democracy in the US.
There is something outraged citizens can do.
you feel strongly about this matter, go to www.publiccitizen.org. In thirty seconds you can send a fax to your
Senator opposing any Energy Bill that supports the construction of new nuclear
power plants. In addition, at this
crucial time while the Republican Conference Committee is deliberating, letters
and faxes to possible swing votes on the committee are needed. These would include Senator Ben Nighthorse
Campbell of Colorado, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Bob Graham of
Florida. Graham is particularly key
since he is a Presidential candidate.
For additional information go to www.nirs.org.
Mina Hamilton is a writer
based in New York City. For many years
she was co-director and then director of the Radioactive Waste Campaign, a
program to educate the public on the hazards of nuclear power. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.