A few minutes ago, the Environmental Defense Fund emailed GNB a nuclear power position statement, which in essence contradicts stated position of its founder Fred Krupp...
For more information please contact:
Jeffery Greenblatt, Ph.D.
Office of Science and Policy
5655 College Ave., Suite 304
Oakland, CA 94618
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE POSITION STATEMENT
Weighing the option of nuclear power to reduce U.S. global warming pollution
Summary: Serious questions of safety, security, waste and proliferation surround the issue of nuclear power. Until these questions are resolved satisfactorily, Environmental Defense cannot support an expansion of nuclear generating capacity. We need a rigorous federal research program to address these questions, so that our nation will have the information needed to make sound decisions in the future. The problem of global warming is so serious that we must thoroughly consider every low-carbon option for generating power.
Given the seriousness of global warming, some argue that the United States should increase the number of nuclear power plants and are even calling for federal subsidies to do so. It is true that nuclear plants generate electricity with minimal emissions of carbon dioxide or other heat-trapping gases. But nuclear is not the only technology available to slow global warming, and important issues about nuclear power remain unresolved. Increasing the number of plants would only magnify these issues. As the demand for electricity increases, merely to maintain today’s 20% market share of nuclear power would mean operating about 220 major nuclear plants by 2050, double what we have today.
Safety: Compared to fossil fuels, the safety record for nuclear power in the United States has been good. There have been no fatalities from a nuclear accident in more than 30 years of operation, while the air pollution from coal-fired power plants has caused hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. But if we increase the number of nuclear plants, the probability of a serious accident increases. So, before the nation commits to expanding nuclear power, the government must tighten the existing safety guidelines to protect the public and the environment.
Security: The security of nuclear reactors and nuclear waste is less certain. Although the Department of Energy says the current generation of reactors can withstand a terrorist air strike, a recent National Academy of Sciences report concluded that further work is needed to secure the reactors’ cooling pools. A Congressional agency investigation found that several nuclear facilities were unable to locate all of their spent fuel, a problem that was traced to inadequate federal oversight.
Waste: The National Academy of Sciences has endorsed a plan for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste in appropriate geologic sites. But Yucca Mountain, the first site designated by the government, will not become operational before 2010. Lingering questions about the site’s suitability suggest that the 2010 target is optimistic, and we cannot be sure that Yucca Mountain will ever become operational. A large expansion in U.S. nuclear generating capacity would increase the amount of waste and render current disposal plans inadequate. It would be foolhardy to build additional nuclear plants before there is a technically sound plan for storage, treatment and disposal of the nuclear waste.
Proliferation: Nuclear power is an international as well as a national issue. The United States can best ensure that nuclear power is deployed safely—and is not used for the production of weapons of mass destruction—by remaining engaged in the international community and leading by example. Just as we exercise restraint in expanding our nuclear generating capacity, we should encourage other nations to act responsibly as well. The United States should not support construction of new nuclear power plants in any country where these issues have not been adequately addressed.
Each of these issues merits a full investigation. The problem of global warming is so serious that every low-carbon option for generating power must be thoroughly considered. We need a rigorous federal research program to address the unresolved questions. Then, and only then, will we know enough to determine whether using nuclear power to reduce global warming pollution is desirable and economically feasible.