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Wheels Coming Off Nuclear Bandwagon

Beyond Nuclear Bulletin: July 2, 2009

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Background: International leaders of the nuclear power "renaissance" have recently announced major delays, or outright cancellations, of new reactors. In the U.S., John Rowe, CEO and Chairman of the largest nuclear utility Exelon, dropped its application to NRC to build two reactors at Victoria County Station, Texas and instead will pursue a more generic Early Site Permit approval without committing to a specific reactor design. This latest stumble is admittedly due to "limited availability of federal loan guarantees." (See Wall Street Journal coverage with links to more articles). In Ontario, $26 billion in nuclear power plant refurbishment and new reactor construction plans have been suspended, as the Province seeks to bargain down Atomic Energy of Canada Limited's skyrocketing price tags, especially given the government -owned "Crown Corporation's" current troubles and uncertain future. (See press coverage). And recent developments in South Africa have likely rung the death knell for the pebble bed modular reactor, once touted as the lead "Generation IV" design for "advanced reactors." (See The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists story). 

Our View: Thanks to the long, persistent and on-going vigilance of anti-nuclear campaigners, grassroots activists, and concerned citizens the nuclear power industry's money grab for hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies has thus far been limited to "just" $20.5 billion - likely only enough for two to three new reactors ($18.5 billion) and a single new uranium enrichment facility ($2 billion). However, industry lobbyists are still busily swarming Capitol Hill, as well as pressuring the Obama administration, attempting to lock in tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars more in atomic subsidies as part of House and Senate energy and climate bills. Industry hopes to breathe new life into dozens of "nuclear renaissance" new reactor proposals by transferring the astronomical financial risks onto taxpayers. However, as old reactors leak radioactivity and suffer safety shutdowns, and as "advanced reactor" designs prove vulnerable to catastrophic terrorist attack, it's abundantly clear that nuclear power's "insurmountable risks" and "fatal flaws" are far from solved.

What You Can Do: Thanks to all of you who have called your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators and urged them to block any further subsidies for nuclear power. Your calls helped block any additional pro-nuclear amendments from being added to the "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009" on the House floor last week. Please regularly write or call your Members of Congress (via the Capitol Switchboard, (202) 224-3121) and the White House (via the Comment Line at (202) 456-1111) to voice your opposition to nuclear subsidies. Also, consider writing letters to the editor of your local paper to call attention to radioactivity leaks, reactor safety and security risks, or atomic money grabs at sites near you.

The French Nuclear Medusa - Double Trouble for French Nuclear Waste

Contrary to arguments made by nuclear boosters - France has far from solved its radioactive waste problem - either through reprocessing or repositories - confirmed by this week's dire news: by 2030, France's radioactive waste will be more than double. High level waste will rise by 120 percent to 5,060 cubic meters out of a total of 2.2 million cubic meters, according to the French radioactive waste agency, mainly generated by the country's 58 reactors. France has no operating repository and is encountering public opposition and technical challenges at the one repository site it is exploring in Bure. A petition signed by 50,000 French citizens demanding a referendum on radioactive waste storage has so far been ignored by the French government. For more on the waste problem, read the article in The Guardian.

Beyond Nuclear in the News

Kevin Kamps discussed nuclear power subsidies on "Portside", a community radio talk show in Portsmouth, NH. A recording will be posted under "Podcasts" at http://burtcohen.com/Home.aspx

Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. Beyond Nuclear staff can be reached at: 301.270.2209. Or view our Web site at: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/

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