Even if nothing goes wrong, the best we can do with the byproducts of our nuclear industry is dump it in containers - most only guaranteed to endure for fifty years - and then dig a hole in the ground, erect a fence and instruct people not to go there, while time breaks down what we cannot. This is not green. Justmeans.com.
Nuclear power is counterproductive to efforts to address climate change effectively and in time. Funding diverted to new nuclear power plants deprives real climate change solutions like solar, wind and geothermal energy of essential resources.
Even at 91, Pete Seeger is in full voice - and passion - singing for a Solartopia. He co-wrote the song with Solartopia author, Harvey Wasserman. Singer-songwriters, Dar Williams and David Bernz, accompany him on the video along with a small children's choir. The film was created by award-winning filmmaker, Dan Keller. The song also appears on a Pete's new CD, Tomorrow's Children At the end of the piece, Seeger, with his customary and unflagging optimism, proclaims these the most exciting times to be living in.
The International District Energy Association (IDEA) makes the point that heat waste throughout the U.S. economy could be put to productive use by way of "district energy and cogeneration" (also called combined heat and power), if sensible policies and incentives were in place. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has pointed out that such "micro-power" as combined heat and power -- as well as efficiency ("negawatts") and renewables like wind and solar -- has been beating new nuclear power economically in the free market for a very long time, as in his report "The Nuclear Illusion."
Democratic Party leaders have indefinitely postponed the Kerry-Lieberman “American Power Act” climate-energy bill, due to lock-step Republican opposition to carbon cap “energy taxation,” but nuclear power subsidies must still be vigilantly guarded against in other legislation.
The Kerry-Lieberman "American Power Act" would have subsidized new atomic reactors in various ways, including raising nuclear power loan guarantee funding levels to $54.5 billion, as called for by the Obama administration. In addition, Kerry-Lieberman would have introduced a number of significant rollbacks on nuclear safety regulations. Analyses by NRDC, PSR, FOE, and UCS have highlighted numerous environmental and taxpayer concerns with the bill. NIRS has reported on how the nuclear loan guarantees would actually benefit foreign firms and workers, not American firms and workers, despite the financial risks being borne by American taxpayers. Despite Kerry-Lieberman's postponement, attachment of such provisions to other bills that are moving must still be guarded against.
However, the Senate has not recessed for its annual summer getaway from Washington D.C.'s blistering heat and humidity yet, and won't till August 7th. Thus, we must remain vigilant against any attempts by the politically savvy and powerful nuclear power industry to attach its mile-long-wish-list to another package of energy legislation that might reach the Senate floor, including by amendments offered by pro-nuclear Senators.
One bill to continue to watch out for is Sen. Bingaman's "American Clean Energy Leadership Act" (ACELA), which passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June 2009. It contains unlimited nuclear power loan guarantees, without congressional appropriations oversight.
Appropriations bills in both houses of Congress must also be watched out for. The House of Representatives passed $9 billion in nuclear loan guarantees on the emergency supplemental war and disaster relief funding bill on July 1st. The House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee also recently passed $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees on its Fiscal Year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. If ultimately enacted into law, this would add up to the $34 billion in expanded nuclear loan guarantees called for by the Obama administration for FY2011.
Although final Senate action on such provisions is still pending, the Senate Appropriations Committee today did approve another $10 billion in nuclear loan guarantees.
It's ironic that the House and Senate continue to lard radioactive pork, in the form of nuclear loan guarantees, onto appropriations, climate and energy bills, given the U.S. Government Accountability Office's scathing report on the failing state of the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program. This includes the finding that DOE has given significant and undue advantage to nuclear power applicants, over other applicants. Nuclear power subsidies even seem to be given priority over such basic societal needs as teachers' salaries, as pointed out by FOE.
As these appropriations bills continue to make their way through each house of Congress, and eventually merge in conference committee, we must continue to express our opposition to nuclear power subsidies at every turn.
Call both your U.S. Senators and Representative via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. At the Library of Congress website, you can also look up your Members' fax numbers and postal addresses for submitting hand written letters, as well as their webform for submitting electronic mail: click on "Senate" and "House of Representatives" on the left hand side, to look up your own Members of Congress.
Urge them to block any nuclear power subsidies, or nuclear safety regulation rollbacks, from being added to any energy or appropriations legislation. Gather together a group of concerned citizens, or representatives of environmental and taxpayer groups in your area, and request a meeting with both of your Senators, as well as your U.S. Representative, during their visit home during the August congressional recess. If your Members of Congress say they are too busy to meet with you, request to meet with their staff instead. Contact Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear, (301) 270-2209 ext. 1 or email@example.com, if you have any questions about how to set up a meeting with congressional home-district offices.
U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee passes good solar roofs bill, two bad nuclear bills
On July 22, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, passed a flurry of bills, including one good renewable energy bill, and two bad nuclear power bills.
The first bad nuclear bill is S. 2052, a "nuclear energy research initiative," which would authorize $50 million annually from fiscal 2011 through 2015 for the Energy Department to conduct research for lowering the cost of nuclear reactor systems. It would include the research of modular reactors, small-scale reactors, balance-of-plant issues, cost-efficient manufacturing and construction, licensing issues and enhanced proliferation controls. In carrying out the research, the department would be required to consult with the departments of Commerce and Treasury, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The bill would require the department, within 180 days of the bill's enactment, to publish on its website a five-year strategy to lower the costs of nuclear reactors and to hold a public workshop for comment. What's not mentioned is the fact that if $50 million per year could significantly lower the cost for new atomic reactors, the nuclear power industry would have already done this. After all, the twin-reactor Indian Point nuclear power plant made $1.2 million in before-tax net profit in 2009, so $50 million isn't that much money for such a filthy rich industry. But than again, if the nuclear industry can get taxpayers to cover such costs, why not just pocket that much more as profit?
The second bad nuclear bill, S. 2812, entitled "Nuclear Power 2021, with an amendment," would require the Energy Department to work with private sector partners in a program to develop a standard design for two small modular nuclear reactors and to get the two designs certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by 2018. At least one of the reactors would be required to have a capacity of 50 megawatts or less. Requiring a date certain reactor design certification from NRC increases safety risks, by pressuring NRC to approve an unsafe design before safety flaws are corrected. This bill smacks of the same pitfalls as "Nuclear Power 2010," a Bush administration program launched on Feb. 14, 2002 -- the very same day the dangerously flawed Yucca Mountain dump got the official thumbs up. "Nuclear Power 2010" aimed to not only certify, but even construct and begin operations at two full-scale atomic reactors by 2010. The reactors chosen for the program, the AP1000 and the ESBWR, have been plagued with design defects. The AP1000's shield building is vulnerable to earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes, and is not even structurally sound enough to hold up an emergency cooling water tank on its upper roof. The ESBWR was so flawed, NRC staff had to ask 6,000 Requests for Additional Information on its design -- of the 6 ESBWRs proposed across the U.S., all but one has been cancelled.
The good renewable bill is the "10 Million Solar Roofs & 10 Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act," S. 3460, which, if "fully implemented, this legislation would lead to 30,000 MW of new PV, tripling our total current U.S. solar energy capacity. It would increase by almost 20 times our current energy output from PV panels. The legislation would rapidly increase production of solar panels, driving down the price of PV systems and it would mean the creation of over a million new jobs."
Not only is Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent of Vermont) the sponsor of S. 3460, he was the only Senator on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to oppose the two bad nuclear bills described above. No matter where you live, call Sen. Sanders' office at (202) 224-5141, fax him at (202) 228-0776, or fill out his webform at http://sanders.senate.gov/contact/contact.cfm, to thank him for opposing nuclear power and supporting solar power!
Check the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee member list to see if you're Senator is on there, and contact them to express your disappointment in their support for the bad nuclear power bills.