Vigilance needed against nuclear snake oil salesmen! The nuclear power industry’s PR machine has long tried to cynically hitch its wagon to the climate crisis. As but one recent example, WAMU (NPR’s Washington, D.C. station) has been, yet again, running regular Nuclear Energy Institute, NuScale (a so-called Small Modular Reactor vendor), and other atomic sales pitches, during major climate protection events in the nation’s capital. Unfortunately, those who should know better seem to be falling for it. The nuclear power lobby has long had its way with Congress, the White House, and federal agencies like NRC, DOE, EPA, etc. But the likes of climate scientist James Hansen, and even 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, have not only fallen for it, they have joined the promotions. Even CNN host Van Jones, Obama’s green jobs czar, recently praised U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a presidential candidate, for his “brave” stand in support of nuclear power. This, despite Booker’s close association with Holtec International, whose CEO made racist statements against his own African American and Puerto Rican workforce in Camden, NJ, just a year ago, and whose consolidated interim storage facility for 173,600 metric tons of highly radioactive, irradiated nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico targets already heavily burdened Hispanic communities, not far from the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation. As former EPA environmental justice head, Mustafa Ali, said on a Sept. 5, 2019 Democracy Now! interview, the high-level radioactive waste shipments to such targeted, environmentally unjust dump-sites out West, would themselves pass through countless low income, people of color communities en route, making this yet another environmental racism burden. As Beyond Nuclear founding president Helen Caldicott, to be given a PSR lifetime achievement award next month in D.C., put it 15 years ago, nuclear power is not the answer. As Dr. Brice Smith of IEER put it in 2006, nuclear power costs too much, and takes too long, to solve the climate crisis, and has a long list of insurmountable risks all its own, from nuclear weapons proliferation, to catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, to the unsolved radioactive waste dilemma. And as Dr. Arjun Makhijani of IEER put it in 2007, carbon-free and nuclear-free is the roadmap for U.S., and even global, energy policy. Nuclear power cannot be allowed to hijack the Green New Deal! If it does, it would be an irreversible, fatal mistake. It will not solve the climate crisis. But it would waste the precious resources — in time, and money — needed to implement genuine clean energy solutions to the climate crisis, namely renewables like wind and solar, and energy efficiency, before it is too late.
The madness of nuclear power in Saudi Arabia
One year has passed since the brutal murder, and macabre dismemberment, of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbal, Turkey, at the hands of a high-level Saudi regime death squad. Official U.S. and United Nations reports implicate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in having ordered the assassination. The genocidal Saudi-led war and siege of Yemen continues, with Houthi rebel attacks igniting Saudi oil fields deep within the country, and causing recent large-scale Saudi coalition casualties at the front lines on its border. Is this a place where nuclear power plants should be built? Bennett Ramberg warned in 1985 that nuclear power plants could serve as pre-deployed weapons for an enemy, if they chose to attack them, veritable dirty bombs of immense size. In fact, Houthi forces previously fired a warning shot across the bow at a pre-operational nuclear plant in United Arab Emirates; the atomic reactor has since fired up, unfortunately. Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, while still serving as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the reason Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia were pursuing nuclear power, was in order to have a pathway to nuclear weapons, if they chose to use it that way. In fact, MBS has admitted as much on a CBS “60 Minutes” interview. Despite the inherent risk that uranium enrichment and/or plutonium reprocessing can be used for nuclear weapons production, the Trump administration has continuously tried to do end runs around congressional safeguards against nuclear weapons proliferation, in order to transfer U.S. nuclear technology and know how to Saudi Arabia. U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, has reported that corporate and personal greed are a prime motivation, despite the risks. Scandalously, the same Canadian firm that bailed out Jared Kushner’s family from its billion dollar, bad real estate investment at 666 5th Avenue in Manhattan, also owns Westinghouse Nuclear, which is vying to sell atomic reactors to Saudi Arabia; Kushner has been Trump’s point person in all things Saudi Arabian. But Trump’s Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, has also met with his Saudi counterparts, regarding nuclear commerce, including recently (see photo, above right, of Perry in Saudi-style robe, holding a sword, shown with Saudi Minister of Energy, Khalid al-Falih; Perry is now implicated in the Trump impeachment inquiry as well, as reported by the Washington Post, having led the Trump administration delegation to Ukrainian President Zelensky’s inauguration.) As decades-long, leading congressional nuclear watchdog, U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), pointed out a decade ago, “Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of solar power!” Nuclear power makes no sense there, from a safety, security, and non-proliferation perspective. Saudi nuclear power risks an arms race with Israel (which already has nuclear weapons), Iran (there are fears it could use its nuclear power industry to break out into nuclear weapons production), and perhaps other countries. As U.S. Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) has put it, “A country that can’t be trusted with a bone saw shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons.”
Urgent citizen resistance needed against Mobile Chernobyl bill
They’re back. On September 26, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate, by voice vote, approved H.R. 2699, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019, sponsored by U.S. Representatives Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and John Shimkus (R-IL). That is, not one peep of opposition, not a single question expressing concern, was uttered, not even by several Democratic members on the subcommittee who courageously and wisely voted against an earlier incarnation of this same legislation, H.R. 3053, just last year. Last year’s version was ultimately passed on the House floor on May 10, 2018 by a whopping 340 to 72 vote; thankfully, though, the bill was stopped dead in its tracks, when the U.S. Senate did not act upon it. However, this year, the Republican majority U.S. Senate has already taken up its own “Discussion Draft” version of H.R. 2699 (and there is other dangerously bad nuclear waste legislation before the U.S. Senate right now as well, such as S. 1234, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, sponsored by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).). H.R. 2699 would speed the opening of the Yucca dump, by gutting its Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceeding. It would also significantly increase the quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste that could be dumped there, from 70,000 metric tons to 110,000 MT. And it would authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to take ownership of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel even at consolidated interim storage facilities (CISFs), de-linked from development of a permanent repository, thus risking de facto permanent, surface storage, “parking lot dumps.” With loss of institutional control over long enough time periods, failed containers at CISFs would release catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity directly into the environment.
More than a thousand environmental, environmental justice, and anti-nuclear groups, along with the State of Nevada, its congressional delegation, the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, and other allies, have fended off such “Screw Nevada” attacks for a generation. So too have countless hundreds of grassroots organizations successfully blocked CISFs (previously called Monitored Retrievable Storage sites, Away-from-Reactor Storage, etc.), such as those targeted at scores of Native American reservations, like the Skull Valley Goshutes in Utah, time and time again over the course of decades. These little celebrated, grassroots victories, very hard won against all odds, have spared the country thousands, to tens of thousands, of high risk, irradiated nuclear fuel shipments, by truck, train, and/or barge, through scores of major urban population centers (including Washington, D.C. — see photo, above right). Whether bound for Yucca, or for Holtec International/Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance’s 173,600 MT CISF in New Mexico, and/or Interim Storage Partners’ 40,000 MT CISF at Waste Control Specialists, Texas, the Floating Fukushimas, Dirty Bombs on Wheels, and Mobile X-ray Machines That Can’t Be Turned Off, would continue not for years, but decades. As the vast majority of U.S. congressional districts would be directly crossed by such shipments, you would think Congress would put the brakes on. But the nuclear industry’s very large-scale campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures have blinded many with radioactive dollar signs.
We must now rise to the challenge of H.R. 2699. Please contact your U.S. Representative, and both your U.S. Senators. Given that Members of the U.S. House are back in their home districts for the next ten days, this would be an excellent opportunity to get together with other concerned friends, colleagues, and neighbors of yours, to even request a face-to-face meeting with your U.S. Representative, to discuss these issues. You can phone your Congress Members’ schedulers in their D.C. offices via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to oppose funding for the Yucca dump, and to oppose funding for CISFs, in Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations. And urge them to oppose H.R. 2699, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019. To learn more about this bill, go here.
All best wishes,
The Beyond Nuclear team