Nuclear no solution for greenhouse dangers!

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) The Kyoto meeting has just ended. Although many media have been reporting on the outcomes there has been less attention to the efforts made by nuclear indusry present in Japan to put forward the 'nuclear solution'.

(483/4.4805) Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project -For China the far-to-high emissions of greenhouse gasses has been an offcial reason to plan to build more NPP's but there are more dangers. Like in the United States where the nuclear industry, for the fist time in years, sees some opportunities to bring forward the so-called advantages of nuclear. Of course there is strong opposition as well within the States but they sure can use some international support. You may send your letter to the following adress:

President William J. Clinton The White House Washington DC 20500 USA

The following letter has been sent to the President of the United States by many US-based NGO's. Use it, at least as an example. Sending in letters is useful as the US Congress begins to debate the issue of nuclear power and climate change.

Dear President Clinton,

We write you to express our concerns on the Administrations' global warming strategy. We strongly urge that you will propose meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but we strongly oppose proposals to use nuclear power as an approach for lessening emissions. The research agenda prepared by the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) called Federal Energy Research and Development for the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century is misguided in recommending that more U. S. taxpayer money be wasted on additional research for nuclear energy. Nuclear power creates more problems than it solves including contributions to greenhouse gas emissions when considering the complete fuel cycle of nuclear power.

We were alarmed to learn that the Department of Energy (DOE) is requesting US$30 million for commercial nuclear power research & development in the FY 1999 budget request. Along with taxpayer groups and fiscal conservative members of Congress, the environmental community has successfully helped eliminate commercial nuclear research and development subsidies from the DOE's budget. This fiscal and environmental victory would be seriously undermined by such a budget request from the Administration. We oppose any attempts by the Administration to spend taxpayers' money on commercial R&D for nuclear power for the following reasons.

1) The Poor Economics of Nuclear Power.
Fossil energy and related industries have falsely characterized any real emission reduction strategy as too costly for the economy. While their effort to scare Americans with inaccurate cost estimates is a sham, using nuclear power as even a partial option will be decidedly too expensive. No reactors ordered since 1973 have been completed. Yet, the federal government has spent US$47 billion of taxpayer money in direct R&D subsidies since 1950, and billions more in indirect subsidies. With the coming restructuring of the electric utility industry, many reactors are expected to shut down, primarily due to the high cost of operating them. Additionally, the nuclear utilities are asking for a bailout of their expensive nuclear plants that could cost US$150 billion or more.

2) An Unacceptable Trade Off.
Replacing one serious environmental problem with another one is no solution to global climate change. The thousands of tons of highly irradiated nuclear waste from commercial reactors are toxic for more than a million years. Three minutes of exposure to high level waste, at a yard's distance, inflicts a lethal dose of radiation. Currently, this waste is stored on-site at nuclear plants and it will take 100,000 shipments over a period of 30 years to transport this waste to a central facility which has not yet been decided upon. No solution exists for the disposition of waste. It is irresponsible to promote the continued production of a radioactive poison which will be deadly for thousands of years in the future. Proposing to exchange global warming for global glowing is inconceivable to us.

3) Better Economic and Environmental Choices Exist.
An analysis by Keepin and Kats, Greenhouse Warming: Comparative Analysis of Two Abatement Strategies, demonstrates that energy efficiency is a better choice. "In the United States - the largest carbon emitter in the world - it is found that under current conditions, efficiency displaces nearly seven times more carbon (per dollar invested in abatement) than does new nuclear power. One consequence is that nuclear power as a strategy for reducing greenhouse warming carries an opportunity cost: for every US$100 invested in nuclear CO2abatement, one ton of CO2 is released into the earth's atmosphere that could have been avoided, had that US$100 been put into efficiency. Even under the most optimistic cost projections for future nuclear electricity, efficiency is found to be 2.5 to 10 times more cost-effective for CO2-abatement. Thus, to the extent that investments in nuclear power divert funds away from efficiency, the pursuit of a nuclear response to greenhouse warming would effectively exacerbate the problem." The Administration should be applauded for efforts to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy, but any effort to direct money to nuclear power is a waste of taxpayer resources.

4) Subsidizing Existing Reactors.
The nuclear industry has claimed that efforts to subsidize today's failing nuclear reactors must be included in the effort to reduce greenhouse emissions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today's current nuclear power plants are encountering significant safety issues related to the age of the reactors. To date, no reactor has survived its 40-year license period. Moreover, attempts to subsidize repairs to address current reactor safety problems can be compared to making patchwork repairs on a dangerously damaged junk car. At some point, repairs cost too much, and the old car goes to the junk yard. As we have explained above, energy efficiency is the cheapest and most environmentally sound way to replace these old and dangerous reactors. Since in this case the new car is unaffordable (or a nuclear reactor), eliminating the need for the car (energy efficiency) is a far cheaper alternative.

We hope you will reconsider the dangerous, expensive, and an irresponsible course toward license extension of current nuclear reactors or construction of new reactors. Nuclear power is not a solution for climate change, instead, it is a misguided attempt to save the struggling nuclear power industry.

Sincerely, ....

Source and contact: Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project, 215 Penn Ave., SE, Washington DC 20003, USA
Tel: +1-202 546-4996; Fax: +1-202 547-7392