Beyond Nuclear has been busy, attending both the recent Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as the current Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Republican National Convention (RNC), Cleveland, Ohio
The RNC in the "Radioactive Rust Belt" (a.k.a. the Great Lakes, the drinking water supply for 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations), took place between FirstEnergy Nuclear's Perry atomic reactor to the Northeast, and Davis-Besse atomic reactor to the west. Both are located on the Lake Erie shore.
On Saturday, July 16th*, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps presented a workshop at the People's Justice and Peace Convention (PJPC). The workshop was entitled "Shutting Atomic Reactors, Installing Solar Panels: From No Nukes, to Solartopia." He did so at the invitation of Harvey Wasserman of Columbus, Ohio, author of Solartopia: Our Green Powered Earth, and host of the radio show Solartopia: Green Power & Wellness Hour.
(*July 16th was the anniversary of the world's first atomic blast, at the Trinity site at Alamogordo, New Mexico, as part of the Manhattan Project in 1945; as well as the anniversary of the single worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history, in Church Rock, New Mexico -- the 1979 deluge of radioactive uranium mill tailings, through a dam breach, into the Puerco River, contaminating drinking, livestock, and irrigation water for Diné (Navajo) shepherds, ranchers, farmers, and residents downstream; listen to a NIRS telebriefing about the Church Rock disaster.)
Here's the description of the workshop, from the PJPC program:
America’s atomic reactor fleet can no longer compete with fracked gas, or with solar and wind power, whose price is plummeting while its efficiency soars. Deteriorating reactors are shutting rapidly, including three just announced in Illinois, one more in Pennsylvania and many on the brink. We discuss the vital, accelerating transition to a world based on clean, green, renewable energy and the millions of jobs it is creating, which MUST be unionized.
Working with environmental, environmental justice, ratepayer advocacy, peace, and other progressive colleagues assembled at the PJPC, Kevin also helped shepherd a plank opposing nuclear power through the multi-day platform process. The PJPC planned to deliver its platform to both the Republican Party, as well as the Democratic Party, at the major parties' respective national conventions.
The anti-nuclear platform plank, adopted by the full People's Justice and Peace Convention, stated that nuclear power cannot solve the climate crisis. It is a non-starter, because it is too astronomically expensive, and too glacially slow to deploy. But on top of that, nuclear power has a long list of "insurmountable risks," all its own, including: nuclear weapons proliferation; reactor disasters, as at Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island; the unsolved (unsolvable?!) radioactive waste dilemma; and hazardous releases of radioactivity at every stage of the uranium (or thorium, for that matter) fuel chain. The plank cited, and depended heavily on, the pioneering work of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), including its books Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change (2006, by Dr. Brice Smith), and Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (2007, by Dr. Arjun Makhijani). (Dr. Makhijani spoke at the Summit for a Clean Energy Revolution, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philly. See below.)
The People's Justice and Peace Convention had a strong environmental justice and climate crisis component. For example, the Sierra Club's "Ready for 100%" renewable power was in the house. In fact, Cleveland has been chosen as the national flagship city for this campaign, and its local organizers (Jocelyn Travis Ready for 100% coordinator, and Steve McPhee, chapter chair, both of the Northeast Ohio Sierra Club Chapter) led the associated workshop discussion at the People's Justice and Peace Convention. In addition, a keynote speaker was Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, which has played a cutting edge role in addressing the impending climate catastrophe.
On Sunday, July 17th, Kamps also took part in an anti-poverty march, which included representatives and activists from a diversity of progressive movements, including those concerned about police violence against people of color, community organizers fighting for social services and a living wage for workers, environmental justice and anti-war activists, etc. The march began with a rally and concert, then marched for miles to the public square in downtown Cleveland.
One especially powerful unifying voice at the rally was an advocate for the homeless who spoke from stage, who addressed the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site nuclear weapons and radioactive waste complex in South Carolina. He has been arrested there numerous times for non-violent civil disobedience actions, and has served long jail sentences as a result.
A number of reporters, as well as curious colleagues from a variety of groups takig part, were lured in by Kamps' colorful "Don't Nuke the Climate!" signage. This led to interviews and discussions about nuclear power, radioactive waste, and radioactivity's threat to human health and the environment.
A key current issue in the "Radioactive Rust Belt" (a.k.a. the Great Lakes, 21% of the world's, and 84% of North America's, surface fresh water, lifeblood of one of the world's single biggest regional economies, a.k.a. bio-regions) is FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) attempt to saddle Ohio ratepayers with a nuclear tax on their electricity bills, in order to prop up the problem-plagued, financially failing, literall crumbling Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo. Beyond Nuclear has helped lead an environmental coalition campaign to block Davis-Besse's 2017 to 2037 license extension, focusing for several years on the severely cracked, and worsening, concrete containment Shield Building. FENOC is still out to rob ratepayers, but the resistance to this money grab has also stayed strong. Davis-Besse must be retired, as planned, on Earth Day, 2017, the end date of its initial 40-year license. The reactor must be shutdown, before it melts down.
Democratic National Convention (DNC), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps took part in the Summit for a Clean Energy Revolution on Saturday, July 23rd held at Friends Center. (And, as it has done on numerous previous occassions, Power Shifts, Beyond Nuclear lent its support to Power Shift Northeast, held the same weekend in Philly.) On Sunday, July 24th, he took part in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution. The events took place on the eve of the DNC, which began on Monday, July 25th.
The Summit and the March, although focused largely on fracking and other dirty, dangerous, and expensive fossil fuels (the extraction and burning of which causes global warming and other health and environmental harms), nonetheless still had a strong nuclear-free component.
At the Summit, a featured speaker was Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Makhijani is author of the highly influential 2007 book, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy.
IEER's long-standing Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free Project has focused on the Renewable Maryland Project for the past few years. Dr. Makhijani spoke at the Summit about a major publication soon to come out looking at the tremendous carbon-free, nuclear-free potential for Maryland.
Other nuclear-free speakers at the Summit included: Tim Judson, Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), who addressed proposed ratepayers bailouts in multiple states, intended to prop up old, financially failing reactors; Diane D'Arrigo, Director of NIRS's Radioactive Waste Project, who addressed radioactivity's human health risks; and Leona Morgan of Diné No Nukes, who spoke about her Navajo people and their fight against uranium mining (and more recently fracking) on indigenous lands in the Southwest U.S.
Beyond Nuclear was part of the Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free contingent -- spearheaded by Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and joined by representatives of allied groups from all across the country -- in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution. The triple-digit heat and high humidity did not deter 10,000 marchers, who first assembled and rallied at Philadelphia City Hall, then proceeded en masse to Independence Mall (where the Liberty Bell is housed, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the Constitution was hammered out.)
Before the March began, D'Arrigo, Morgan, Judson, and Kamps spoke at a rally, educating the gathering crowd of assembling marchers about the dangers of uranium mining, milling, and processing; atomic reactors; radioactive waste; nuclear subsidies; and radioactivity.
Kamps' talk at the rally focused on the risks of Mobile Chernobyls, Fukushima Freeways, Floating Fukushimas, and Dirty Bombs on Wheels, due to the nuclear establishment push for de facto permanent parking lot dumps (a.k.a. centralized or consolidated interim storage), as at Waste Control Specalists, LLC in Andrews County, West Texas, as well as in Eddy and Lea Counties, just across the border in New Mexico, near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
Nuclear-Free, Carbon-Free contingent organizers handed out yellow smiling sun "Nuclear Power? No Thanks!" flags (in English, Japanese, and Spanish; see photo, above left), as well as "Don't Nuke the Climate" banners (see photo, further above), to interested onlookers. These flags and banners were highly visible throughout the march, and appeared in national media coverage (including a front page above the fold New York Times photo).
Catherine Skopic from Shut Down Indian Point Now! in New York City deserves special recognition, for making a dozen beautiful, large-scale anti-nuclear banners for the March. The one that Kamps helped carry, alongside Catherine, highlighted NIRS's new #NuclearIsDirty campaign, which focuses on such oft ignored issues as the harmful impacts from uranium mining and milling on indigenous peoples' lands, such as the Diné and Pueblo peoples of the Four Corners of the U.S. Southwest.
For a great summary of the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, see a message from Wenonah Hauter of Food and Water Watch, the lead national organizer of the Summit and March, linked here. It includes links to major news coverage from the March, as well as links to additional photos.
Nuclear in the Republican and Democratic Party Platforms?
The nuclear power industry is one of the biggest players in town, the town being Washington, D.C. (D.C. being short for "Den of Corruption"!), in terms of federal campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, as reported by American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop in 2010.
The nuclear power industry's lobbying prowess even extends to state legislatures and governor mansions, as recently seen in Wisconsin, where a 33-year old ban on new atomic reactors in the state was repealed, due to lobbyists influencing enough Democratic legislators to join a united Republican push for the repeal.
The major parties' national conventions are not immune from such nuclear power industry lobbying pressure. So, what influence have the nuclear industry's lobbyists had on the final major party platforms?
As reported by the L.A. Times on July 27th regarding the two major parties' platforms on the key related issue of the climate crisis:
Democrats describe climate change as a “real and urgent threat,” and they call for setting a price on greenhouse gas emissions. “Climate change is too important to wait for climate deniers and defeatists in Congress to start listening to science,” and government officials must take any steps they can to reduce pollution, the platform says. It calls for the country to generate half of its electricity from clean sources in the next decade and for cleaner transportation fuels, more public transit and a tax code that creates incentives for renewable energy.
The platform also beats back suggestions that protecting the environment would be bad for business. “Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs,” it says.
Republicans say “climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue,” as Democrats have labeled it. They oppose international accords like the agreement crafted in Paris last year that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow the climb in global temperatures.
The platform also blasts President Obama’s “clean power plan,” which would cut emissions by shifting away from coal-powered power plants. The initiative has been put on hold by the Supreme Court; Republicans vow to do away with it entirely. They also pointedly describe coal as a “clean” energy resource, a description environmentalists have roundly rejected.
Environmental problems are best solved with “incentives for human ingenuity … not through top-down, command-and-control regulations,” the platform says.
How odd, then, that Republican Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill -- members of the party which denies that the climate crisis is a very big deal, or that humans can do anything about it -- also promote nuclear power as a solution to that problem they think doesn't exist! The Republican Party, almost to a member in Congress, votes in favor of the nuclear power industry at every opportunity.
(Exceptions to that rule include Nevada Republicans, such as U.S. Senator Dean Heller, and Governor (formerly Attorney General) Brian Sandoval, who adamantly oppose the nuclear power industry's coveted Yucca Mountain dump for high-level radioactive waste, long targeted at the Silver State. Another exception is U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who played a key role in stopping the commercial nuclear power industry's Private Fuel Storage, LLC de facto permanent parking lot dump for irradiated nuclear fuel, targeted at the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation west of Salt Lake City, and rubber-stamped by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Yet another exception is Florida Tea Party and other conservative Republicans, who have joined the opposition to massive "Construction Work in Progress" surcharges on ratepayers' electricity bills, to pay for proposed new nuclear power plants in the Sunshine State.)
But even some Democrats include nuclear power in their concept of "clean" energy. Perhaps a sign of the progressive influence of Bernie Sanders' successful campaign on the Democratic Party's platform, nuclear power is not mentioned explicitly by name.
(For his part, U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the politically powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee, came close, in 2009, to defining, under U.S. law, nuclear power not just as "clean" energy, but as a renewable" energy; if he had succeeded, nuclear power would have then qualified for even more taxpayer-funded subsidies, robbing that money from long-neglected, genuinely renewable energy development, such as wind and solar power.)
Robert Bryce of the conservative Manhattan Institute wrote a pro-nuclear column on July 19th, published in the National Review, decrying this lack of explicit mention of nuclear power in the Democratic Party platform.
But "clean energy" -- which is mentioned often in the Democratic Party platform -- is all too often used as a code word to include nuclear power, even by too many Democrats. For example, Democratic Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is leading the effort to bailout atomic reactors, to the tune of $10 billion, at ratepayer expense, under his administration's so-called "Clean Energy Standard." Two-thirds or even more of a supposed "Clean Energy" fund would go to propping up age-degraded nuclear power plants, instead of expanding renewables and efficiency. Orwell and Adam Smith must be spinning so fast in their graves, they should be hooked up to turbo-generators and the electric grid!
But of course, as described above, the 10,000 who marched for a Clean Energy Revolution do not include nuclear power in their notion of "clean energy."
So it remains to be seen what influence the nuclear lobbyists have had on the Democratic Party platform. Hillary Clinton's assignment of Carol Browner to the Democratic Party platform committee was not a good sign. Browner, the Obama administration's former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, as well as White House climate czar, has since gone to work as a paid lobbyist for Exelon Nuclear and the Nuclear Energy Institute's "Nuclear Matters" PR front group. "Nuclear Matters" advocates for massive ratepayer bailouts, to prop up dirty, dangerous and expensive old reactors.
But then again, Obama's Clean Power Plan did few to no favors for the nuclear power industry. And despite COP21 (Council of Parties #21) being held in Paris -- home to Electricite de France and Areva -- the nuclear lobbyists didn't get much or even any of what they wanted, in terms of incentives under international climate agreements.
"No Nukes!" -- A Founding Principle of the Green Party
Of course, another party's platform plank on nuclear power is most clear. The Green Party has opposed nuclear power from its founding in Australia in the early to mid-1970s. The Australian Green Party grew out of a river protection group in Tasmania, founded by Robert Brown. Brown, dubbed "St. Bob" decades ago for his environmental advocacy, marched beside Beyond Nuclear's Kamps at a anti-nuclear parade in Melbourne, Australia in spring, 2007.
Now a federal Senator in the Australian Parliament, Brown told Kamps the history of the Green Party, including its present day balance of power status in the Australian federal Parliament. The Labor Party must often work with the Green Party, in order to get things done. A top priority of the Green Party these days is to rollback the expansion of uranium mining, very narrowly endorsed by the Labor Party in 2007. Australia is overtaking Canada as the world's biggest exporter of uranium.
Brown also told Kamps that Petra Kelly, founder of the German Green Party, came to learn from the Australians in the mid-1970s, before returning home to make it happen there. The German Green Party has since played a lead role in the German nuclear power phase out, now due to be completed by 2022.
When Kamps asked Brown about his inspiration to live the life he has, "St. Bob" explained that as a young boy, he saw a documentary film about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This left a deep impression, and set him on his path, including his anti-nuclear activism.
Dr. Jill Stein is the Green Party U.S.A.'s candidate for president.
By the way, Beyond Nuclear, as a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax exempt organization, cannot endorse candidates for office. However, Beyond Nuclear can get the word out about candidates' and parties' positions on the issues, as we have strived to do above.