Can Obama Stop the Nuclear Bomb in the Senate Stimulus Plan?

Please read article, cited after the quote. Articles open in a new window.

A radioactive dirty bomb has been dropped on the Senate stimulus package.

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to add $50 billion in nuclear loan guarantees to the economic recovery package (S. 336). This “would more than double the current loan guarantee cap of $38 billion” for “clean energy” technology.
Yet this provision would not create a single job for many, many years, but would saddle the public with tens of millions of dollars more in toxic loans. As I noted in my 2008 report, “The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power“:

Dry Utah isn’t the place for nuclear power

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State lawmakers Mike Noel and Aaron Tilton are moving forward with their plans for a nuclear power plant in the desert of Eastern Utah, believing that only “extreme environmental groups” and those with “a no-growth agenda” object to nuclear power in Utah.

I don’t belong to either group, but I do believe they are not in touch with their constituents or the majority of Utahns. I think these men will find that the people of Utah will fight long and hard to block their proposal.

Utah does not need a nuclear power plant. It wouldn’t be good for the state, it’s not healthy for people, the waste is eternally toxic, none of the resulting power would stay in Utah, and it’s a terrible use of our water resources

Nuclear power is not the answer

Please read article, cited after the quote. Articles open in a new window.

A few comments regarding Mickey Garcia’s letter published Nov. 18:

One more person pushing France as an example of how nuclear power can save the world.

No mention of France having to temporarily shut down 25 percent of its nuclear power plants due to impending overheating (possible meltdown) during the very hot European summer of 2003.

A Condemnation of Nuclear Power & the Kyoto Protocol

A Condemnation of Nuclear Power & the Kyoto Protocol

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 03:09:53 AM PST

We might not be nuking anyone with a bomb these days, but we’re nuking them all the same. We’re just doing it quietly. Vandana Shiva, an Indian activist trained in nuclear physics, just published a book called Soil Not Oil in which she provides an absolutely DAMNING description of nuclear power AND of the Kyoto Protocol.Now that I’m reading it, I’m utterly depressed. We just spent the last 8 years bemoaning the fact that we aren’t signed onto Kyoto, and now that we have a president who would gladly sign onto it (or onto whatever comes next), I find out that the whole thing is a bunch of BS anyway. We SHOULD HAVE spent the last 8 years calling for real solutions to global warming, not debating whether or not global warming exists.

Thank goodness we’re back to business with a leader who gets that our energy problems are real and we need something other than oil. Follow me below so you can hear Vandana Shiva’s arguments on why nuclear is unjust and unsustainable and so is Kyoto.

Jill Richardson :: A Condemnation of Nuclear Power & the Kyoto Protocol
How are we nuking the world’s poor? Via uranium mining. Read this, about India’s uranium mine that provides all of the country’s uranium. Remember as you read that the US made a nuclear agreement with India under Bush:

The mine, operated by the Uranium Corporation of India LTD (UCIL), was opened in 1967. It impacts 30,000 people living in 15 villages within a 5-kilometer radius of the complex. The ore is first crushed into a fine powder, and then chemically treated to remove the uranium. After uranium extraction, 99.94 percent of the mined rock is left as waste. Jaduguda processes 1000 tons of ore per day and produces 200 tons of uranium in the form of yellowcake every year. Some 350,000 tons of rock are being mined, crushed, and dumped in Jaduguda every year.This crushed rock, or uranium tailings, contains more than a dozen radioactive materials, including thorium-230, radium-226, and the gas radon-222. If the tailings are allowed to remain on the surface and dry out, they can be carried by wind onto faraway vegetation, entering the radioactive material into the food chain, or be washed into rivers and lakes, contaminating the water supply. At the Jaduguda mine the coarse tailings are dumped back into the mine and the fine tailings are mixed with water and pumped via a pipeline to the tailing dams near Jaduguda village.

A study of people living within 1 kilometer of the tailing dams showed that 42 percent of women had developed menstrual problems, 18 percent had suffered miscarriages or had given birth to stillborn babies, and 30 percent had other fertility problems. Children born in the area are born with deformities, skeletal distortions, partly deformed skulls and organs. The more than 7000 mine workers are also continuously exposed to radiation hazards.

What is happening to the Ho and the Santhals in Jaduguda happened to the Navajo in the U.S. Joe Shirley Jr, the Navajo tribal president, has referred to uranium mining as “genocide.” Robert Stweard Sr, a Navajo who worked in the uranium mines for five years, said “You look around the reservation and see so many elderly people who are crippled and can barely breathe.”

Fortunately, the Navajo banned mining on their land. But if we are to have nuclear power, SOMEBODY will have to mine the uranium. It’s gotta come from somewhere. My guess is that the unlucky people who live near whatever mines are operated to come up with the necessary uranium and near wherever we end up dumping nuclear waste will be those with the least power and money.

What really kills me is not only how toxic and lethal uranium mining is, but also how inefficient it is. According to Shiva, almost 100,000 tons of rock must be mined to come up with 1 ton of uranium. And a standard reactor takes 100 times that. Here are some more details:

From the Jaduguda mines, yellowcake (U3O8) is transferred to the nuclear fuel complex in Hyderabad for fabrication into fuel rods. Yellowcake contains only about 0.7 percent uranium-235, which is the primary ingredient for nuclear fission reactors. To increase the concentrate to the necessary 3 to 5 percent, the yellowcake is mixed with fluoride and heated. The lighter U-235 molecules are separated from the heavier U-238 molecules. The enriched uranium is used for fuel rods. The remaining 85 percent becomes depleted uranium.

Re: Kyoto, Shiva talks about “CDMs” – Clean Development Mechanisms – programs that earn polluters carbon credits to use or sell. Here’s her money quote about Kyoto and the idea of carbon trading:

That such schemes are more about privatizing the atmosphere than preventing climate change is made clear by the fact that the emission rights given away in the Kyoto Protocol were several times higher than the levels needed to prevent a 2 degree Celsius rise in global temperature.

Notice that she says these emission rights are given away – not sold. The world’s nations got together and decided that their companies had the right to pollute far more than we can afford with absolutely no penalties or costs.

As for the CDMs, she says only 2% of them are actually renewable. What?? Apparently you don’t get carbon credits for doing things that suck carbon out of the atmosphere. You get credits for making a less dirty technology or process instead of a more dirty one. But this in itself IS more dirty. For example:

One controversial Chinese CDM project destroys HFC-23, a potent greenouse gas whose effect on global warming is, ton for ton, 11,200 imes greater than that of carbon dioxide. HFC-23 is a byproduct of the production of HCFC-22, a refrigerant. The US CDM board has registered 16 HFC-23 projects, the majority in China, with the potential to generate 65 million carbon credits per year. It is extremely cheap to destroy the HFC-23 and the polluting gas has become more profitable than the actual product. There is no incentive to develop clean technologies.Furthremore, since HFC destruction earns credits, it makes sense to not ban HFC. This underminds the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which mandates phasing out HFCs in Souther countries by 2010. As Lohmann observes, “The CDM has now provided a perverse incentive to hike production of HFCs in order to cash in as much as possible on credit sales.”

To sum up her section on Kyoto – which is far more in depth than I’ve included here, she says:

Nonpolluting, nonindustrial activity does not even figure in Kyoto’s CDM. To be counted as clean, you must first be dirty.

This sounds to me like a system in which driving a Prius was counted more than biking. Biking emits no carbon – save for whatever was used to manufacture the bike. Driving a Prius pollutes, although less than other cars. And what about, say, planting a tree? That actually takes carbon OUT of the atmosphere – even better than biking.

In other words, let’s say driving an SUV is considered the “norm.” So you get a certain amount of rights to drive an SUV and if you want to do more, you need to buy credits. So someone else drives a Prius and earns credits for however much their Prius pollutes less than driving the SUV. The more they drive, the more they earn – even though they are polluting as they go. Then they can sell you their credits.

What about the people who ride bikes and plant trees? They aren’t rewarded. So in the end we get more greenhouse gas emissions overall instead of less. Maybe that Prius driver could actually bike to work but they want the money earned by driving that Prius.

Of course, this is just an analogy to the large scale industrial projects that corporations are doing under Kyoto. Individuals like us don’t figure into this.

A friend of mine is an organic farmer. She grows fruit trees, so her farm is doing a lot of good for climate change. She asked me if I knew anything about a possibility that she could earn and sell carbon credits because her orchards obviously takes a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.

Now I don’t want my friend’s farm to be used as a means for someone else to pollute more. That makes no sense. I’d rather have less pollution overall than maintain the same levels. But wouldn’t it make more sense for my friend to earn carbon credits to sell, instead of an industry that is dirty but just slightly less dirty than its own most dirtiest version?

Vandana Shiva makes the point that those who will suffer the most from climate change are those least responsible for causing it. She’s right. And we here in America have the power to do something. Now that we have someone with a brain in the White House, we can choose actual change, or we can just pay lip service to change by going with dirty technologies like nuclear and like these stupid CDM projects okay’d under Kyoto. We can do better.


Nuclear power freighted with troubling consequences

Please read article, cited after the quote. Articles open in a new window.

“Nuclear power is not carbon-free. It consumes more fossil fuels in the uranium mining, refining, fuel fabrication and actual power plant construction and operation processes per unit of installed generating capacity than do the trio of the cleanest alternative sources — wind, geothermal and solar — in their production and deployment. A dollar invested in wind produces more energy, leads to a greater reduction in carbon emissions and creates more jobs than one invested in nuclear power, according to experts.”

The Flawed Economics of Nuclear Power

By Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute


Over the last few years the nuclear industry has used concerns about climate change to argue for a nuclear revival. Although industry representatives may have convinced some political leaders that this is a good idea, there is little evidence of private capital investing in nuclear plants in competitive electricity markets. The reason is simple: nuclear power is uneconomical.

In an excellent recent analysis, “The Nuclear Illusion,” Amory B. Lovins and Imran Sheikh put the cost of electricity from a new nuclear power plant at 14¢ per kilowatt hour and that from a wind farm at 7¢ per kilowatt hour. This comparison includes the costs of fuel, capital, operations and maintenance, and transmission and distribution. It does not include the additional costs for nuclear of disposing of waste, insuring plants against an accident, and decommissioning the plants when they wear out. Given this huge gap, the so-called nuclear revival can succeed only by unloading these costs onto taxpayers. If all the costs of generating nuclear electricity are included in the price to consumers, nuclear power is dead in the water.

To get a sense of the costs of nuclear waste disposal, we need not look beyond the United States, which leads the world with 101,000 megawatts of nuclear-generating capacity (compared with 63,000 megawatts in second-ranked France). The United States proposes to store the radioactive waste from its 104 nuclear power reactors in the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, roughly 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. The cost of this repository, originally estimated at $58 billion in 2001, climbed to $96 billion by 2008. This comes to a staggering $923 million per reactor–almost $1 billion each-assuming no further repository cost increases. (See data here

In addition to being over budget, the repository is 19 years behind schedule. Originally slated to start accepting waste in 1998, it is now set to do so in 2017, assuming it clears all remaining hurdles. This leaves nuclear waste in storage in 121 temporary facilities in 39 states–sites that are vulnerable both to leakage and to terrorist attacks.

Continue reading

Nuclear power bad on so many levels


Nuclear power bad on so many levels

Sunday, November 02, 2008

After 60 years and many billions of dollars in government subsidies, nuclear power should finally have to prove itself on its own merits – which evidently it cannot do in a free market.

Not only are taxpayers and citizens shouldering an unfair burden of the costs of nuclear power, but, even with these subsidies, as consumers we will be forced to cover the rising costs of nuclear plant construction.

These costs have consistently been well above even the high price tag quoted at the start of the project. Overruns of 50 percent or more will be paid by energy consumers, as utility rates are raised ever higher to protect guaranteed profits for investors.

The rules for rate increases used by the Georgia Public Service Commission provide a safe incentive for those who invest in energy facilities. Commitments made by allowing such unwise investments will lock consumers into paying rising energy costs that are unjustified and truly unnecessary.

Added to these unfair economic burdens on American taxpayers and consumers are the significant risks of moving and storing nuclear materials, made even more threatening by the prospects of terrorism.

Following six decades of attempting to find a “safe” and dependable way of storing radioactive waste from nuclear plants, experts still have no solution. These materials will remain a major public health threat for thousands of years. The more such materials we use, transport and store, the greater that threat becomes.

Two nuclear plants are located in coastal Georgia’s watersheds: Plant Hatch in Baxley, along the Altamaha River, and Plant Vogtle near Augusta, on the Savannah River. Not only are their radioactive operations a continuing risk, but these plants consume vast quantities of water. At a time when Georgia is in escalating disputes over water supply, this must be a critical consideration in making energy choices.

At Vogtle, a proposed doubling of the number of reactors in use at the site would mean an additional 65 million gallons a day taken from the Savannah River, two-thirds of which would be lost to vapor in the cooling process. This withdrawal jeopardizes a river already suffering from impairments, thereby compounding problems of growing water demands in both South Carolina and Georgia.

At Plant Hatch, radioactive waste is stored outside in canisters, right along the Altamaha River. This was done as a temporary measure, but after many years it remains a continuing threat across an enormous downstream hazard area. As a potential terrorist target, it adds still further risk to tens of thousands of Georgians.

Due to water demands for cooling, extravagant federal subsidies for new nuclear plants would worsen problems in our rivers and intensify disputes over water supply. Fish habitat and recreational amenities would also suffer, while funds taken from taxpayers and consumers paid for this wasteful energy choice.

Clearly, such subsidies for the nuclear industry are unwise, unfair and unjustified. Instead of sinking billions more tax dollars into this hazardous, extremely expensive source of energy, we should be converting to clean, proven technologies that are far more practical. According to the Georgia State Wind Map validated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there is over 10,000 megawatts of wind potential off Georgia’s coast. That’s the equivalent output of 10 large power plants — far more power than that to be produced by new coal and nuclear plants now proposed in the state.

Not only is wind energy free, but we could begin producing needed power in half the time needed to build nuclear or coal plants. Infrastructure costs for offshore towers, generators and distribution lines would be readily justified by decades of reliable service and billions of pollution-free megawatts.

Ultimately, the costs of wind power would be far lower than those of conventional sources that face rising fuel prices and diminishing supplies. Recent analysis by Amory B. Lovins (“The Nuclear Illusion” ) found that, including expenses for facilities, infrastructure and operations, power produced from wind costs half as much as nuclear. Notably, the enormous costs of storing radioactive waste and decommissioning old plants were not even included in this comparison.

Distractions in energy policy — such as offshore drilling, coal or nuclear power plants — will only delay the inevitable and logical transition to renewable sources. The longer this delay, the more consumers will pay for energy.

Attempts by special interests to marginalize wind, solar and tidal power are directly contradicted by the facts. In countries such as Finland, Iceland, Germany and France, investments in wind and geo-thermal power over the past decades have brought ample rewards – economic, environmental and political.

American energy independence and consumer goals are only attainable by making serious commitments to renewable power sources and energy-efficiency improvements. Experts estimate that efficiency upgrades could save Georgians 30 percent or more in their energy use.

Legislators must give high priority to adopting incentives that reward rapid conversion to cleaner, more efficient and lower-cost energy sources. If our taxes continue to be used to subsidize costly and polluting technology, conversion to renewables will be severely slowed, benefiting power companies, not consumers.

• David Kyler is executive director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast.