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Harvey Wasserman

Harvey Wasserman

Posted January 8, 2009 | 12:23 PM (EST)

Obama's Stimulus Money Must Not Be Wasted on Nuke Reactors


A nuke power bailout must not be part of the hundreds of billions of federal dollars about to pour out of Washington to revive our Bush-whacked economy.

If the huge Obama stimulus package we all know is coming includes money to build new reactors, the whole venture could turn to radioactive dust.

This is the last gasp both for American prosperity and atomic energy. Nuke promoters are lobbying frantically to get some of that cash for a dying business in which Wall Street would not invest even before the last crash.

In 2007 a national grassroots campaign, led in part by Nukefree.org, helped get a proposed $50 billion loan guarantee boondoggle removed from the Energy Bill. In 2008 a blank check was on its way just as Wall Street tanked.

Now, with renewables booming ahead, this may be the last gasp for a desperate industry. Cut off from Wall Street, hordes of nuke lobbyists will descend like radioactive locusts on this gargantuan stimulus package. They must be stopped.

Here are some basic realities:

No reactors put into construction in the next few years could produce usable power for at least a decade, probably more;

By contrast, large wind farms can be installed in less than a year, as can many other renewable and efficiency installations;

Every dollar spent on efficiency can save seven times the energy one spent on an atomic reactor can produce;

The numbers of jobs new reactor construction might create is a bare fraction of the number that could come with comparable Solartopian investments in renewables, efficiency and restored mass transit;

Atomic energy is now fifty-two years of proven economic failure. From the 1957 opening of the first commercial reactor at Shippingport, Pennsylvania, to the hugely over-budget fiasco of a French reactor now being built in Finland, the "Peaceful Atom" has never turned the corner to true social profitability;

The true cost of nuke-generated electricity is obscured by massive "stranded cost" write-offs provided at tax-payer and rate-payer expense during the de-regulation fiasco of the turn of the century that allowed utilities to scam away up to a $100 billion in hidden construction costs;

The French nuclear power industry is almost entirely subsidized by the French government, and generates electricity that is expensive, unreliable, unsafe, polluting, has no radioactive waste solution, and cannot compete in the open marketplace;
By terror or error, every atomic reactor is an unguardable, uninsurable agent of a potential apocalypse; the human and financial toll from a possible melt-down is incalculable... which is why, after a half-century, only the government is willing to insure them;

Through the mining, milling, enrichment, transportation and waste management demands of the nuclear fuel cycle, atomic power is a significant contributor to global warming;

Water has become a major issue in the reactor calculus, to the point that shortages and overheating threaten their continued operation. Reactors in France and Alabama, among other places, have been forced to shut when rivers used to cool them have exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit;

Funds set aside to decommission aging plants such as Vermont Yankee and Indian Point, near New York City, have been decimated by the Wall Street crash, raising serious question about how they will be disposed of when they shut, which may be soon;

Aging US reactors are plagued with the embrittlement of key interior metal components which threaten their continued safety;

After a half-century, no real solution has been found for managing the high-level radioactive wastes that come from nuke reactors. The proposed Yucca Mountain dump, now approaching $100 billion, is a non-starter, with sworn opposition from the President-elect and Senate Majority Leader, and with no real alternative in sight.

A wide range of studies dating back to the late 1960s and findings by Dr. John Gofman, former Health Director of the Atomic Energy Commission, link "routine" radioactive emissions from America's nuclear plants to serious impacts on human health.

For these and many more reasons, any stimulus money spent on nuclear plants would be a major negative to our economy, ecology and public health.

Recent talk of a "fourth generation" of atomic reactors is pure pie-in-the-sky speculation. There are no proven nuclear technologies that can compete with wind, solar, increased efficiencies or other Solartopian sources.

It is critical that any proposed funding for new reactor construction that might be slipped into the stimulus package be entirely eliminated.

This massive new investment about to be made in the future of our economy must not be corrupted to bail out the very worst of the 20th Century's failed technologies.

Renewables and efficiency work. If we fund them now, the payback will be exponential.

Various petitions are circulating from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR.org), the Sustainable Energy Network and others. Or just call and write the White House, Senate, Congress and local officials where reactors are proposed and demand a halt to this suicidal madness.

Let's kill this so-called nuclear revival once and for all, so we can finally win a world powered by truly green technologies that actually work.


Harvey Wasserman's SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at http://www.harveywasserman.com. He edits http://NukeFree.org. This article was originally published by http://freepress.org.