tagged w/ Exelon
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
Faced with the nuclear crisis in Japan, governments around the world are confronting the vulnerabilities of their nuclear energy programs. Some European countries, such as Germany and France, are considering more stringent safety measures or backing off of nuclear development altogether, but in the United States, the Obama administration is pushing forward with plans for increased nuclear energy production.
Ultimately, these questions are the same that the country faced after last summer’s Gulf Coast oil spill. As we search for more and more clever ways to fill our energy needs, can we write off the risk of disaster? Or are these large-scale catastrophes so inevitable that the only option is to stop pursuing the policies that lead to them?
The risks of nuclear
As Inter Press Service’s Andrea Lund reports, anti-nuclear groups are using the Japanese disaster as just one example of the disadvantages of nuclear power. Linda Gunter, of the group Beyond Nuclear, told Lund:
Even if you get away from the safety issue, which is obviously front and centre right now because of what’s happening in Japan, and you look at solutions to climate change, then nuclear energy takes way too long to build, reactors take years to come online, they’re wildly expensive. Most of the burden of the cost will fall on the U.S. taxpayer in this country, so why go there?…The possibility of it going radically wrong, the outcome is so awful that morally you can’t justify it. The reliability of nuclear power is practically zero in an emergency when you have this confluence of natural disasters.
And, as Maureen Nandini Mitra writes at Earth Island Journal, there are plenty of nuclear plants that are at risk. “More than 100 of the world’s reactors are already sited in areas of high seismic activity,” she reports. “And what’s happening in Japan makes one thing clear – we have absolutely no idea if any of these plants are actually capable of withstanding unprecedented natural disasters.”
The irony of nuclear energy is that the world started relying on it in part to mitigate the perceived threat of nuclear weapons. Jonathan Schell writes in The Nation about nuclear power’s transition from warheads to reactors:
A key turning point was President Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace proposal in 1953, which required nuclear-armed nations to sell nuclear power technology to other nations in exchange for following certain nonproliferation rules. This bargain is now enshrined in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which promotes nuclear power even as it discourages nuclear weapons….
Eisenhower needed some proposal to temper his growing reputation as a reckless nuclear hawk. Atoms for Peace met this need. The solution to nuclear danger, he said, was “to take this weapon out of the hands of the soldiers” and put it “into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace”—chiefly, those who would use it to build nuclear power plants.
While the threat of nuclear war still looms, since World War II, the nuclear materials that have caused the most damage have been those in the energy industry. And, as Schell reminds us, soldiers still have nuclear weapons in hand, as well.
The nuclear era
The Obama administration has always been gung-ho about nuclear energy: The president is from Illinois, after all, where Exelon Corp., one of the countries’ biggest nuclear providers, is based. Even in the face of Japan’s disaster, the administration is not backing off of its push for nuclear, as Kate Sheppard reports at Mother Jones:
Nuclear power is part of the “clean energy standard” that Obama outlined in his State of the Union speech in January. And in the 2011 budget, the administration called for a three-fold increase in federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants, from the $18.5 billion that Congress has already approved to $54.5 billion. “We are aggressively pursuing nuclear energy,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu in February 2010 as he unveiled the budget….In Monday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney said that nuclear energy “remains a part of the president’s overall energy plan.”
The state of safety in the U.S. nuclear industry isn’t particularly reassuring, though. As Arnie Gunderson told Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, almost a quarter of American nuclear plants rely on the same design as the one currently faltering in Japan. Even worse, experts have known for decades that the design of this reactor is not safe. Gunderson explained:
This reactor design, this containment design, has been questioned since 1972. The NRC in 1972 said we never should have licensed this containment. And in 1985, the NRC said they thought it was about a 90 percent chance that in a severe accident this containment would fail. So, that we’re seeing it at Fukushima is an indication that this is a weak link. It’s this Mark I, General Electric Mark I, containment. And we have—essentially one-quarter of all of the nuclear reactors in the United States, 23 out of 104, are of this identical design.
It’d be reassuring if the U.S. government could promise that our superior safety standards would overcome these dangers. But, as Mother Jones‘ Sheppard writes, the day before the earthquake in Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended the life a Vermont plant using this very design, over the objections of the state’s legislature.
Stumbling with stellar fire
Whatever the attractions of nuclear energy, it’s a dangerous business. The Nation’s Schell puts it best when he argues that the fallibility of humankind is the biggest risk factor. He writes:
The problem is not that another backup generator is needed, or that the safety rules aren’t tight enough, or that the pit for the nuclear waste is in the wrong geological location, or that controls on proliferation are lax. It is that a stumbling, imperfect, probably imperfectable creature like ourselves is unfit to wield the stellar fire released by the split or fused atom.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
Faced with the nuclear crisis in Japan,... more
Según el analista de Sala de Inversión América, los papeles de la compañía energética de los Estados Unidos podrían seguir subiendo hasta los 50 dólares.Según el analista de Sala de Inversión América, los papeles de la... more
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is beginning to bleed members over its staunch opposition to climate legislation intended to reduce the nation's global warming emissions.
John Rowe, CEO of one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, announced the group's latest loss today: Exelon, a $19 billion company with 5.4 million electricity customers, will not renew its membership in the once-essential business group.
It was the third utility in a week to announce it was leaving the Chamber, and one of a growing number of companies urging the business group's executives to change their tune on climate action. Another member, Nike, is under pressure from shareholders, who will be urging the company in a letter tomorrow to also dump the Chamber. ...The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is beginning to bleed members over its staunch opposition... more
"Exelon Corp. said Tuesday that it plans to slash its greenhouse gas emissions and those of its customers within 12 years to levels below what one of the nation's largest power generators currently emits every year.
The Chicago-based company, already on track to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent from 2001 levels, said its $10 billion plan to cut 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually will be the equivalent of removing nearly 3 million cars from American roads. Greenhouse gases are cited for rising world temperatures.
"The science is overwhelming - climate change is happening now and human activity is the primary cause," John Rowe, Exelon's chairman, president and chief executive, said in a statement."
"Exelon Corp. said Tuesday that it plans to slash its greenhouse gas emissions... more
It is beginning to take hold. Honesty. On Good Morning America Thursday, ABC News' Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos reported "the Democratic National Committee will no longer accept contributions from federal lobbyists, will no longer take contributions from PACs" in keeping with Obama's well-publicized policy. It is beginning to take hold. Honesty. On Good Morning America Thursday, ABC... more
John McCain embraces it. Barack Obama wants to address its flaws. Hillary Clinton is cautious but not opposed.
Nuclear power -- controversial in the United States and throughout much of the world -- is on the agenda of all three US presidential candidates as they seek to diversify the country's energy mix and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Interviews with top policy advisers to the three White House hopefuls reveal a varied approach to the technology that some observers see as a necessary answer to fighting climate change and others view as expensive and dangerous.
McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona who has wrapped up his party's nomination, is by far the most enthusiastic about the carbon-free fuel source, regularly calling for more nuclear power plants at campaign stops throughout the nation.
"I believe we are not going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become energy independent ... unless we use nuclear power and use it in great abundance," he said in North Carolina on Monday.
McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said nuclear power faced an "uneven playing field" from years of political opposition.
"Sen. McCain would eliminate the political obstacles that hinder nuclear power, allow it to compete more effectively, and likely increase its share of the US energy portfolio," he said.
Nuclear energy accounts for about 20 percent of US electricity supply, a figure that could rise if regulations on carbon dioxide emissions are imposed, making greenhouse gas emission-free nuclear plants more attractive.
There are 104 operating nuclear reactors nationwide.
Obama, an Illinois senator and the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, shares McCain's belief that nuclear energy is part of the solution to climate change.
But he opposes new federal subsidies and would work to address concerns about safety and waste storage, senior adviser Jason Grumet said.
"Because of the fact that climate change is a species-challenging dilemma, we don't have the luxury to do anything but try to solve those real problems," associated with nuclear technology, he said.
Clinton, a New York senator, prefers using renewable fuels to fight climate change because of nuclear energy's risks.
"Hillary has real concerns about nuclear power because of the issues around safety, waste disposal and proliferation," policy director Neera Tandem said.
"She opposes new subsidies for nuclear power, but would continue research focused on lowering costs and improving safety."
John McCain embraces it. Barack Obama wants to address its flaws. Hillary Clinton is... more
At the N.C. Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Raleigh (NC) on May 2nd, the immense hall exploded with energy when Obama presented a speech about his patriotism and values. This article includes photographs and three videos (Barack Obama's Jefferson-Jackson speech, the acclaimed actor Tom Hanks' endorsement of Obama, and Obama playing hoops with the UNC basketball team).At the N.C. Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Raleigh (NC) on May 2nd, the... more
After a hiatus of nearly three decades, nuclear energy is booming. Seventeen power companies in the U.S. are making plans to build more than 30 nuclear plants.
One important factor in the resurgence: new federal and state laws that help utilities pay for nuclear plants that, if completed, would be among the most expensive projects ever built in the country.
One state where nuclear power is making a comeback is Florida. At a meeting last week in Tallahassee, Florida's Public Service Commission voted to approve the state's first new nuclear plants in decades.
Commission member Nathan Skop hailed the decision. "Simply put, nuclear power is a strategic investment for the state of Florida and our national security—to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to protect our environment," he said.
After a hiatus of nearly three decades, nuclear energy is booming. Seventeen power... more
I'm surprised any network even dared to touch this. But it does prove to me that Barack Obama is no more anti-lobbyist than Hillary Clinton is. However, more importantly, I am not convinced that he would not use nukes in a military strike. Even at the debates, he has made it clear that he would not hesitate to attack Pakistan (and like Bush has stated that terrorists are planning to hit us again) and just to remind you, Pakistan has nukes. For me it is hard to look credible for you to say you are against nuclear proliferation yet for nuclear power. And as this wound up, the bill he stated he passed was watered down and never became law. Is this then really change or just more of the same wrapped in a different package? And this issue is important to me and one I think should be important to more people. Nuclear power is not the "clean green" energy source everyone has been led to believe it is, and Obama's ties to lobbyists along with Clinton regarding this make me very wary of just how much they will be for truly eliminating nukes while allowing subsidies for gigantic nuclear power plants to be built. And one other thing, how would the residents of any town know that any "voluntary" policing was working? In the beginning of this Obama stated that the bill regarded notification of what the power plant "believed to be radioactive." That is just an open invitation for them to lie about what they are still emitting and simply saying it isn't radioactive enough to warrant notification. Why are they allowed to leak at all? So as long as they "notify" residents they don't have any other accountability? Again, like the Bush administration we get "voluntary" policing of a potentially deadly hazard to humans, marine life, air, and water. And frankly, that isn't good enough for me.I'm surprised any network even dared to touch this. But it does prove to me that... more
And yet, we are to believe they are candidates of change? That they care about the environment? Nuclear energy is not "green." It is an antiquated dangerous form of energy that has seen its day. It is only because of the rise of concern over the climate crisis that certain lobbies have been trying to push it into the green column in order to make a profit from it. And Obama and Clinton are helping them in their quest to do so at the expense of this planet. Subsidies to the nuclear industry could be used to bring innovative and truly visionary alternate energies to the fore that would reduce our dependence on oil in much cleaner and safer ways. This is very discouraging to see and tells me that Obama, who talks about change in his glossy abstract speeches means only changing the person living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It doesn't mean changing the way business is done. Any candidate who truly believes in addressing climate change and in fighting terrorism is not for nuclear power, period. It is bad enough that Republicans push for nuclear energy and antiquated methods proven to be unproductive in progressing us towards the future. I expected better from Democrats, or at least, those who call themselves Democrats.And yet, we are to believe they are candidates of change? That they care about the... more