Rejecting nuclear power

Suffolk Closeup

By Karl Grossman July 20, 2011

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has caused several nations to say no to nuclear power, mainly through elections, referenda and protests. But the position of the U.S. government, including the federal officials who represent Long Island, is different. Despite Fukushima, as U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer says, “I’m still willing to look at nuclear.”

Germany is closing its nuclear plants after huge, indeed historic election victories by the anti-nuclear Greens and major demonstrations. Italy is rejecting nuclear power after a referendum in which an awesome 94 percent of voters balloted “no” to atomic energy. Switzerland, after referenda and protests, will phase out nuclear energy.

Even the prime minister of Japan, a country that has been heavily committed to nuclear, declared last week: “Japan should aim for a society that does not depend on nuclear energy.” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that, with Fukushima, “I came to realize the risk of nuclear energy is too intense.”

Importantly, he called for the use of safe, clean, renewable energy technologies led by solar and wind to replace nuclear, as have officials in Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Major studies in recent years, including by the UN, have determined that these now advanced technologies, the costs of which have plummeted, have the potential to provide the world’s energy.

Since Fukushima, the stance of the U.S. government has been in “sharp contrast” to the direction taken by these other nations, notes Kevin Kamps of the organization Beyond Nuclear (beyondnuclear.org). Officials in Washington are “living in a bubble,” he says. This has much to do with the continued intense lobbying by the nuclear industry and the massive campaign contributions it provides.

President Barack Obama has not only continued his support of nuclear power, a reversal of the critical position he took during his election campaign, but since Fukushima has renewed his call for $36 billion in taxpayer-based loan guarantees to construct new nuclear plants.

Among officials in Washington who represent Long Island, Congressman Tim Bishop of Southampton told us last week, “The Fukushima disaster reinforces my view that nuclear facilities should be sited in locations that take into account major population centers, the potential effects of natural disasters, and evacuation strategies. I have consistently opposed siting a nuclear facility on Long Island because a speedy evacuation is impossible.” But, he said, he still believes “nuclear power can play a role in a balanced energy portfolio.”

Congressman Steve Israel of Huntington said, “We must ensure that our permitting standards, our safety standards and our technology are strong enough and robust enough so that nuclear power doesn’t result in the kinds of dangers they experienced in Japan.”

And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said: “I want to ensure that all of our nuclear facilities everywhere in America are safe. We need to have the best oversight and accountability possible.”

The positions of federal representatives are disappointing to Suffolk officials opposed to nuclear power. Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk said, “I don’t think the U.S. is acting correctly after what happened in Japan.” Legislator Ed Romaine of Center Moriches, whose district includes Shelter Island, said, “Germany showed tremendous courage as a nation when they determined they would move away from nuclear power completely. There are much safer, less expensive sources of energy.” Having federal representatives of Long Island backing nuclear power — while here local officials have been against it — isn’t new. During much of the construction of the now shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant, Congressman William Carney of Hauppauge advocated it and nuclear power in general. Since his departure from Congress, he has made millions as a lobbyist in Washington for the nuclear industry, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Polls show that, since Fukushima, a growing number of people in the U.S. — more than a majority — are against nuclear power. How can this be translated politically?

Meanwhile, on Long Island, Priscilla Star of Montauk, through the Coalition Against Nukes (CAN), is organizing coordinated protests throughout the nation, including in Manhattan on October 1. “We have to show Washington where the people stand on deadly nuclear power and what we have learned from the Fukushima catastrophe. Time’s up, Washington!” said Ms. Star last week. She can be reached at priscillaastar @ hotmail.com

Pro-nuclear Green could be deselected

[From From The Oxford Times]

By Andrew Ffrench »

The Green Party has refused to rule out deselecting its parliamentary hopeful for Oxford West and Abingdon after the candidate backed new nuclear power stations as a way of cutting carbon emissions.

Chris Goodall was one of four leading environmentalists to back the nuclear option as a means of getting rid of coal-fired power stations like Didcot.

And Mr Goodall refused to back down.

The other three converters to the nuclear option are Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith of Finsbury, former Greenpeace executive director Stephen Tindale and Mark Lynas, the author of Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.
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The Nuclear Industry’s Golden Child: That Obama Glow

[From CounterPunch]

By JOSHUA FRANK

Barack Obama, hoping to shore up major victories in the delegate rich states of Texas and Ohio early next month, is going after Hillary Clinton’s ever-dwindling base of working class voters. The Illinois Senator is hoping to stimulate their passion for his campaign by proposing to stimulate the weak economy by spending $210 billion on new jobs. Obama says his government sponsored employment program would allocate $150 billion over 10 years to create 5 million jobs in environmental industries.

Sounds Keynesian enough. Obama would couple his lavish government spending with investments from the private sector to produce work for many of America’s underemployed. The number of jobs he seeks to create is significant to be sure, but the real question is in what “environmental” capacity would these so-called “green collar” jobs be created? Many critics argue that Obama’s plan doesn’t exactly create jobs, but only redistributes money from one part of the economy to another. Even so, there may be far more sinister tenets to Obama’s economic plan.

Unfortunately the Obama campaign is light on the details of his stimulus program, only referring to these government gigs as working to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources. At face value this may all sound like a noble venture — one greens and others concerned with the environment might consider getting behind. But given Obama’s track record, voters can’t be too certain his plan is all that “green”. In fact it may be just the opposite, for the senator’s ties to the nuclear industry are stronger than any other candidate in the hunt for the White House this year.

In 2006 Obama took up the cause of Illinois residents who were angry with Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power plant operator, for not having disclosed a leak at one of their nuclear plants in the state. Obama responded by quickly introducing a bill that would require nuclear facilities to immediately notify state and federal agencies of all leaks, large or small.

At first it seemed Obama was intent on making a change in the reporting protocol, even demonizing Exelon’s inaction in the press. But Obama could only go so far, as Exelon executives, including Chairman John W. Rowe who serves as a key lobbyist for the Nuclear Energy Lobby, have long been campaign backers, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars dating back to Obama’s days in the Illinois State Legislature.

Despite his initial push to advance the legislation, Obama’s office eventually rewrote the bill, producing a version that was palatable to Exelon and the rest of the nuclear industry. “Senator Obama’s staff was sending us copies of the bill to review, we could see it weakening with each successive draft,” said Joe Cosgrove, a park district director in Will County, Illinois, where the nuclear leaks had polluted local ground water. “The teeth were just taken out of it.”

Inevitably the bill died a slow death in the Senate. And like an experienced political operative, Obama came out of the battle as a martyr for both sides of the cause. His constituents back in Illinois thought he fought a good fight while industry insiders knew the Obama machine was worth investing in.

Continue reading That Obama Glow at CounterPunch