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Sierra Club

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JANUARY 26, 2006
12:23 PM

CONTACT:  Sierra Club
Brian O'Malley, 202-675-6279

 
Nuclear Power Plan Ignores True Costs, Missed Opportunites
 

WASHINGTON - January 26 - Sources in the Bush administration have recently stated that they are preparing a unsafe and costly initiative that would promote nuclear power technology around the world while taking spent fuel from foreign countries for reprocessing. The plan, called the Global Nuclear Energy Initiative (GNEI) poses a serious threat to the health and security of all American communities and families.

"At a time when we are trying to keep countries such as Iran from expanding their nuclear programs, it is irresponsible for the Bush administration to push this dangerous technology worldwide," said David Hamilton, Director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming and Energy Program. "We have better, cleaner, and cheaper energy solutions that can be used to meet our energy needs and protect the environment."

The Bush administration and its allies in Congress have painted a glowing picture of nuclear power to justify billions of dollars in new taxpayer subsidies for the industry. In reality, generating electricity from nuclear sources poses at least five insurmountable problems:

The production of highly dangerous radioactive waste - Every nuclear reactor generates about 20 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel and additional low-level radioactive waste per year. Radioactive waste is one of the most dangerous materials known to humankind-it can kill at high doses and cause cancer and birth defects at low doses. Nuclear waste remains dangerous to humans for 200 thousand years. Worse, we don't know what to do with this waste once it is generated. The nuclear industry and some in Congress propose dumping nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, NV. However, it has not been scientifically proven to safely store atomic waste. In fact, earlier this year, the Department of Energy released emails written by several U.S. Geological Survey scientists working on the Yucca Mountain Project revealing that they may have made up information for computer programs designed to track desert water movement. Additionally, there are serious concerns about the exposure risks in transporting the waste from all over the country into Nevada - waste that will pass through thousands of America's cities and towns.

A prohibitively high cost - Nuclear power is the most expensive way ever devised to generate electricity. The method is not anywhere near cost effective; nuclear plants in the states of Oregon, New York, Maine, Illinois, and Connecticut have been shut down before the end of their planned lives because the owners found it was too expensive to keep them going. Even the Bush administration's own U.S. Energy Information Administration stated that "new [nuclear] plants are not expected to be economical."

The potential for accidents - The danger with nuclear power is that the stakes in accidents are extremely high. Anyone exposed to radiation leaks or accidents will likely sicken or die from that exposure. Cleanup costs will be in the billions. Just three years ago, a nuclear reactor in Ohio came with in one-fifth of an inch of stainless steel from a rupture that could have led to a meltdown.

The risk of terrorist activity - Nuclear power is a dangerous target. Pre-911, Al-Qaeda operatives surveyed nuclear power plants as potential terrorist targets. Additionally, there is the risk that nuclear material will fall into the wrong hands. The government has elaborate plants to prevent rogue nations and terrorists from stealing the nuclear fuel or waste to make nuclear bombs. However, the more nuclear reactors, the more risk of radioactive material being stolen to make bombs.

Its inability to curb global warming - Nuclear power would do little to curb global warming, and is a bad investment in reducing global warming emissions. A study by MIT stated that in order for nuclear power to have any real affect on global warming, it would require the construction of at least 1,000 new reactors worldwide. This would result in unbelievable costs - almost in the trillions of dollars - the need for a new Yucca Mountain-sized waste site every four or 5 years, a greater proliferation on nuclear materials and technologies, and thousands of more terrorist targets.

Nuclear power is not a responsible choice. America can meet its energy needs through energy efficiency, renewable energy like solar and wind power, and responsible additions to supply. Every dollar invested in renewables and efficiency makes America more secure without making our families less safe or saddling future generations with debt. "We can meet our energy needs and have a clean and healthy world without nuclear power," continued Hamilton. "America deserves a safer, cleaner, and cheaper energy future."

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