ACTION ALERT: Beating the Blank Check Pre-Bailout for New Nuclear Reactors
October 14, 2007
Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash & Harvey Wasserman
A single sentence slipped into the Energy Bill without debate would use taxpayers' dollars to subsidize construction of 28 nuclear reactors in the US. Congress is about to vote on whether to give the atomic energy industry at least $50 billion in loan guarantees for a "new generation" of reactors. Wall Street won't advance the loans because existing reators are underperforning, breaking down, and leaking radioactive pollution. Contact congress. See the Petition below.
• ACTION: This call was accompanied by a link to the Nuke Free Petition at: http://www.nukefree.org/petition
One of America's most critical financial and ecological decisions is now before Congress
WASHINTON (October 13, 2007) — The atomic energy industry wants at least $50 billion in loan guarantees for a "new generation" of reactors that have already begun to fail, and that Wall Street won't finance.
If these subsidies pass, scores of new radioactive terror targets, thousands of tons of radioactive waste, and untold billions in bad debt could haunt us and our children for a long time to come.
Yet the sentence allowing all this to happen was slipped into the Senate version of the 2007 Energy Bill without serious public debate. Without strong public opposition, it could become part of the new Energy Bill. And with the millions the nuke lobby is spending, defeating this huge taxpayer rip-off will require a maximum effort from everyone committed to a safe energy future.
The push for new nuclear plants is full of irony. The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 made it clear no reactor can be protected from a jet crash. The first plane that hit the World Trade Center flew directly over the Indian Point reactors, 45 miles north of New York City.
Had it hit the nuke complex, the death toll would by now be in the hundreds of thousands, the property damage in the trillions. Federal inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently found significant leaks at Indian Point.
According to US Representative John Hall (D-NY), a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, when they did, the reactor's owner — Entergy — forced the NRC to stop its tour.
Meanwhile, a major earthquake has hit world's largest reactor facility, at Kashiwazaki, Japan. The quake exceeded the reactors' design safeguards by a factor of three, and caused significant radiation releases. Experts predict much stronger quakes there in the near future.
At least one US reactor — at Perry, Ohio — has also been damaged by an earthquake. The nukes at Indian Point, at Seabrook, New Hampshire, and at Diablo Canyon and San Luis Obispo, California, are also on or near major fault lines.
Meanwhile, a cooling tower at the Vermont Yankee reactor has simply collapsed, spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of hot water into the Earth. The reactor was recently allowed to upgrade its power level, and the collapse may have been caused by the installation of a heavier fan.
Twenty-one other towers there are at similar risk. Reactors like Vermont Yankee are being sold as an answer to global warming. But atomic plants in France and Alabama have been forced to shut because their waste heat has helped drive nearby rivers to 90 degrees and hotter.
This "new generation" of reactors that wants your tax money is also being touted as safer, cleaner and cheaper. But the first European model, being built in Finland, is already eighteen months behind schedule and $900 million over budget.
The official cost estimates for these new reactors are in the $4-5 billion range. But if past history is any indicator, they will come in far, far higher. Their construction time is almost certain to exceed the 4-5 year window being advertised.
All this comes as the renewable energy industry is soaring to new heights of power and profitability. Wind farming has boomed to a $10-15 billion per year industry. Worldwide growth rates are exceeding 25%. New forms of amorphous silicon solar cells are taking rooftop photovoltaics (PV) to vastly increased levels of efficiency and profitability. Bio-fuels, tidal, geo and ocean thermal, wave energy and many more rapidly developing forms of green power are soaring ahead, regularly coming in ahead of schedule and under budget.
In 1979, we helped organize five nights of concerts at Madison Square Garden, and an anti-nuke rally that drew 200,000 people. These efforts and the ongoing work of many grassroots and national safe energy groups have helped to hold off the building of any new nuclear reactors ever since.
At the time, many of these green technologies were just beginning to take off. But in the nearly thirty years that have followed, green power has become one of the world's great growth industries. It has brought us to the brink of a technological revolution that could hold the key to stopping global warming while bringing us long-term prosperity based on safe, secure energy supplies.
With renewables, conservation and efficiency, we can end our dependence on polluting fossil and nuclear fuels and create true energy independence.
But these nuclear industry loan guarantees could make that all but impossible. These "new" reactors are same as the old ones, with a few bells and whistles, and a proven 50-year track record of catastrophic failure. On the brink of winning a green-powered planet, we intend to do all we can to avoid another radioactive dead-end.
We hope you will join us. Please go to the following website and sign the position: http://www.nukefree.org/petition
Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and Harvey Wasserman are among the co-founders of Musicians United for Safe Energy.
"It is worth noting that, in the USA alone, there are an estimated 45,000 sites which are polluted or potentially polluted by radioactive poisons, according to a report commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992. Worldwide, there is radioactive pollution from above-ground bomb tests.
There is also the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl accident in Europe and the former USSR. The fact that humans have already created large amounts of nuclear pollution, adds to the moral argument for allowing no more."
Petition to Stop the Nuclear Bailout
To: The 110th United States Congress
We ask that all members of Congress join us in working to remove from the pending Energy Bill massively expensive loan guarantees — potentially a virtual blank check from taxpayers — for the building of many more nuclear power plants.
We strongly support those parts of this Energy Bill that advance Renewable Portfolio Standards, increased fuel efficiency for automobiles, and other safe, clean solutions to global warming.
The tragedies of September 11th, 2001, underscore how vulnerable atomic reactors are to terror attacks by airplanes and missiles. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island remind us that major nuclear accidents can also be caused by human error.
The problem of radioactive waste remains unsolved. All reactors create deadly by-products that must be isolated for centuries. These wastes will have to be moved throughout the nation on trucks and trains, which could themselves have accidents and become terror and proliferation targets.
There is no storage site even planned for the wastes that would come from new reactors. The controversial dump under construction at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which may never open, cannot handle even the waste from reactors already in existence.
Huge quantities of energy are used for nuclear fuel enrichment, transportation, construction and waste storage. This is no solution to global warming. Reactors in Alabama and France have already shut because they are super-heating nearby rivers and streams.
The "new generation" nuclear plant now being built in Finland is already 18 months behind schedule and $900 million over budget. This is a design planned for our country. If construction begins here, tax and ratepayers will be stuck with the bill.
The Senate version of the Energy Bill could authorize the Department of Energy to provide virtually unlimited guarantees for backers of new reactors. The industry indicates it wants $25 billion in guarantees for 2008, and another $25 billion for 2009, with untold billions more to come after that.
The industry wants these subsidies because after fifty years, atomic power has been rejected by the marketplace. The first commercial nuclear reactor opened in 1957. But after fifty years of proven failure, Wall Street will not independently invest in more of them, and still no private insurance company will underwrite the possibility of a major reactor disaster.
In fact, nuclear power has been left behind by a profitable revolution in safe, clean, renewable energy sources, and in energy efficiency. Wind, solar, bio-fuels, geothermal, ocean thermal and more are shaping a green-powered Earth that produces jobs and sustainability. This is the true solution to global warming.
These wasteful reactor loan guarantees would siphon away resources better spent on truly competitive sources of power.
So we ask that they be removed from the Energy Bill. Higher auto mileage standards, biofuels, energy efficiency and requirements for renewable energy are what we need to survive and prosper, not more taxpayer bailouts for the proven failure that is atomic energy.