*Senate Nuclear Fetishists Take Lid Off of Pandora’s Box*

*19 June 2024*

*David Kraft, Director, NEIS*

*CHICAGO—*In a lopsided 88-2 vote (with 10 not voting, including Sen.
Richard Durbin), the Senate passed S.870 – the so-called ADVANCED Act, a
bill which quite literally takes the lid off of the nuclear safety box,
both domestically and internationally.

So proud and confident were the Senators in nuclear power’s promises,
rather than being introduced as stand-alone legislation, the 93-page bill
had to be snuck into the 3-page Fire Grants and Safety Act – a bill
reasonably assured to pass at a time when huge parts of the nation are
again in the process of burning to the ground.

Using the logic similar to that of an adolescent purchasing a first car
(“If it’s red, fast, and a convertible – that’s it! What could go wrong?”),
bill advocates trotted out the usual litany of at best contestable at worst
discredited arguments for its passage: nuclear is clean and green, is
needed to fight the climate crisis, creates jobs, and is over-regulated.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the bill’s lead sponsor, (*quite
erroneously*) stated, “Today, nuclear power provides about 20% (*18.2% in
2022; 18.6% in 2023*) of our nation’s electricity. Importantly, it’s
emissions-free electricity (*allowed to release radionuclides into the air
and water, below regulatory limits*) that is 24/7, 365 days a year. (*except
for outages and maintenance*)”

While critics of the legislation warned of significant weakening of
regulatory oversight built into the bill, John Starkey, director of public
policy at the pro-nuclear American Nuclear Society, stated the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC), “is a 21st century regulator now.”

That statement alone should send shivers up the spine, since that list
would include: the FAA allowing Boeing to self-regulate in designing the
737-MAX, resulting in two crashes and hundreds of deaths, and the
revelation that sub-standard parts have been manufactured into new planes;
Norfolk Southern preventing desperately needed rail safety measures from
passing in Congress, resulting in the East Palestine train disaster; and
the federal pipeline regulatory agency PIMSA being asleep at the wheel,
resulting in the Sartortia, Mississippi CO2 pipeline explosion.

Residents of Illinois – the most nuclear state in the U.S., which recently
repealed its nuclear construction moratorium, opening the door to new
reactors – might begin to feel some elevated distress, but – relax. There’s
nothing you can do about it, since homeowners are unable to obtain private
insurance coverage against nuclear disasters.

Nuclear safety expert Dr. Ed Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists had
this to say about the ADVANCED Act:

*“It’s extremely disappointing that, without any meaningful debate,
Congress is about to erase 50 years of independent nuclear safety oversight
by changing the NRC’s mission to not only protect public health and safety
but also to protect the financial health of the industry and its
investors. Just as lax regulation by the FAA—an agency already burdened by
conflicts of interests—can lead to a catastrophic failure of an aircraft, a
compromised NRC could lead to a catastrophic reactor meltdown impacting an
entire region for a (many) generations.*

*“Make no mistake: This is not about making the reactor licensing process
more efficient, but about weakening safety and security oversight across
the board, a longstanding industry goal. The change to the NRC’s mission
effectively directs the agency to enforce only the bare minimum level of
regulation at every facility it oversees across the United States.*

*“Passage of this legislation will only increase the danger to people
already living downwind of nuclear facilities from a severe accident or
terrorist attack, and it will make it even more difficult for communities
to prevent risky, experimental reactors from being sited in their midst.”*

The Biden Administration legislation of the past few years has lavished
more than $7 billion on the development of experimental, still non-existent
“small modular nuclear reactors” (SMNRs) as a way to fight climate change.
Yet, only one design has passed NRC licensing muster to date, and these
reactors will not be commercially available in sufficient numbers to have
an appreciable effect on climate disruption until well into the 2030s
– *assuming
the proposed designs actually work*.

As alarming as the domestic implications of the ADVANCED Act are, the
international implications can be devastating. The Act fast-tracks the
development of SMNRs, which nuclear industry companies intend to sell
oversees. Some of these reactor designs require fuel that is more highly
“enriched” – just barely below weapons-grade concerns – than that used in
contemporary reactors. Currently, the only available source for this fuel
– called “HALEU”, for “high assay low-enriched uranium” – is RUSSIA. Another
design, using a different fuel concept, requires specially refined carbon,
the main source of which is CHINA.

It is not unreasonable to ask: just where would SMNRs have been placed in,
say – Mariupol, Ukraine? Or in Gaza? Or any of the other world hot spots?
Again, not an unreasonable line of questioning since a recent priority of
the Biden Administration is to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia –
where apparently the sun no longer shines, and journalists are hacked to
pieces for covering such controversial topics.

Viable alternatives to nuclear expansion do exist: renewable energy, energy
efficiency, energy storage, and transmission improvements are ALL cheaper,
quicker to implement, reduce carbon emissions, produce no radioactive
wastes, create no nuclear proliferation issues, and, most importantly –
ALREADY EXIST. Nothing more needs to be invented; just implemented.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stated in December, 2023
that roughly 2,600 giga-watts (GW) of electric power projects – over twice
the entire electrical use of the US, and roughly 27 times the entire output
of all current US reactors combined. The large majority of this backlog
are renewable energy projects awaiting connection access to the aging
transmission grid. New EXISTING transmission technologies like
reconductoring could double the capacity of the grid, creating greater ease
of access for renewables and storage.

To summarize, The ADVANCE ACT:

• kick-starts more radioactive releases and exposures using tax

• spreads contamination to more places in the US and abroad;

• ignores the potential increased harm from nuclear reactors
large and small;

• creates more intensely radioactive fuel;

• less regulatory oversight;

• export to other countries, and

• foreign control of nuclear sites within our homeland.

Yet, the nuclear zealots continue to pour tax dollars into the nuclear
power black hole by means of the ADVANCED Act. This legislation was indeed
a Trojan Horse – filled with killer bees. And they don’t make honey.

** * **

*Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) was formed in 1981 to watchdog
the nuclear power industry, and to promote a renewable, non-nuclear energy