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A Response to Sen. Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – Nuclear power has a large carbon footprint
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A Response to Sen. Makey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – Nuclear power has a large carbon footprint, its waste lasts millions of years, there is no place to store it, it must be treated with great seriousness and it must be excluded from the Green New Deal. Tragically it is not.
Nuclear Power’s Carbon Footprint
If you consider nuclear power zero carbon, you are looking only at the direct emissions of the plant. RadiationTruth tells us very clearly that nuclear’s carbon footprint is second after fossil fuels because of, for example, extraction by mining uranium or thorium ore, from which nuclear fuel is made; milling; conversion; enrichment; nuclear power plant construction; waste storage; monitoring radioactive waste forever; damaged reactors; accidents; and clean up after accidents.
Nuclear Power’s Other Footprint
Additionally RadiationTruth tells us about nuclear power’s other footprint, its other risks, e.g. major disasters, think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima; nuclear weapons proliferation (“You can’t make a modern nuclear weapon without a nuclear reactor”); the disastrous impact of uranium mining on the Navaho reservation, which is environmentally unjust. Furthermore, “transporting nuclear waste to a central repository risks contamination along highways and rail lines, by accident or terrorists.”
Radioactive Waste Storage
1) There is no solution to the problem of radioctive waste storage. “The GLOBAL CRISIS OF NUCLEAR WASTE, A REPORT COMMISSIONED BY GP [GREENPEACE] FRANCE,” published January, 2019, is a major, heavily researched study. Page 94, extensive information on the United States. Pages 6-15, EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. Page 14, directly below, an excerpt from the executive summary:
After 60 years (1957-2017), nuclear power reactors in the United States have generated roughly 30% of the total global inventory of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) – by far the largest. Yet at the same time, decades long efforts and billions of dollars of investment have failed to secure one geological disposal site for commercial spent fuel. The Yucca Mountain underground facility, selected on political grounds and decades in the construction was cancelled on scientific and public acceptance grounds by the Obama administration in 2010.
“- for nearly 30 years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) waste-storage requirements have been contingent on the timely opening of a permanent waste repository which has allowed reactor operators to legally store spent fuel in onsite cooling ponds much longer, and at higher densities (on average four times higher), than was originally intended – approximately 70 percent of spent fuel in the U.S. remains in vulnerable cooling pools;
“- the large accumulation of spent nuclear fuel in U.S. reactor pools poses a far more potentially consequential hazard. This is because the pools are holding several irradiated cores or 3-4 times more spent nuclear fuel than the original designs intended. The pools lack defense-in-depth such as secondary containment and their own back-up power;
“- a 2008 estimate by the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a revised life-cycle cost estimate totaling US$113 billion (2016 dollars) “for the disposal of 70,000 metric tons of commercial power reactor spent fuel at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada an amount that exceeds the current stockpile as of 2018. Under current law, spent nuclear fuel more than that amount would have to be disposed in a second disposal site;
“- the Yucca Mountain site does not meet the basic geological requirements for long term storage established by the International Atomic Energy Agency including a “stable geochemical or hydro chemical conditions at depth, mainly described by a reducing environment and a composition controlled by equilibrium between water and rock forming minerals; and long term (millions of years) geological stability, in terms of major earth movements and deformation, faulting, seismicity and heat flow”;
“- the U.S. lacks a coherent policy for long-term surface storage of spent fuel and other high level wastes, which is the only viable option at present. In recognition of the major uncertainties, the DOE has stated that “extended storage, for periods of up to 300 years, is being considered within the U.S.”
2) The cost of cleaing up America’s nuclear waste is enormous. On 1.29.19, NBC news reported “WASHINGTON – The estimated cost of cleaning up America’s nuclear waste has jumped more than $100 billion in just one year, according to a DOE report – and a watchdog warns the cost may climb still higher.
A government watchdog and DOE expert said the new total may still underestimate the full cost of cleanup, which is expected to last another 50 years. “We believe the number is growing and we believe the number is understated,” said David Trimble, director of the Government Accountability Office’s Natural Resources and Environment team.
3) On 1.31.19, The Boston Globe published a story about Rowe, MA: “ROWE – The nuclear plant deep in the woods of this Western Massachusetts town stopped producing power 27 years ago when George H.W. Bush was still president. It was dismantled, piece by piece. Buried piping was excavated. Tainted soil was removed. But nestled amid steep hills and farmhouses set on winding roads, something important was left behind.
Under constant armed guard, 16 canisters of highly radioactive waste are entombed in reinforced concrete behind layers of fencing. These 13-foot-tall cylinders may not be much to look at, but they are among the most expensive dumpsters in the country, monuments to government inaction.
4) On 1.31.19, The Nevada Independent revealed that the federal government had secretly brought nuclear material into Nevada in the area of Yucca Mountain and that: “A federal judge” denied Nevada’s preliminary request to ban the federal government from sending plutonium to the state, saying Nevada didn’t prove it would face irreparable harm if the radioactive material was brought in and that there’s precedent for having plutonium at the site north of Las Vegas.”
Judge Miranda Du issued a ruling on the state’s request for a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, the same day that the federal government disclosed it had secretly already made the delivery sometime before last November. The ruling does not address the state’s new request for a 14-day temporary restraining order, which was announced Wednesday during a press conference in which Nevada’s governor and attorney general expressed their outrage over the clandestine shipment.
“Nevada’s claims of other harms, including environmental injury, are too speculative to rise to the level of the required likelihood of irreparable harm,” Du wrote in a 16-page order. “Nevada seeks to maintain the status quo ” However, in general the status quo at [the Nevada National Security Site] ” historically includes the use of plutonium in testing operations and nuclear materials transferred to NNSS.”
The ruling is a setback to state leaders, who were not informed of the delivery or its transport route. They accused the federal government of lying to them by making the delivery while the state believed it was still negotiating in good faith to prevent such a shipment.
“We continue to explore all our legal options, and remain committed to aggressively litigating to keep this dangerous nuclear material out of our state,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement. “This is just the beginning of the process, not the end, and I look forward to continuing to work with my cabinet and our federal delegation to address this issue.”
Members of the congressional delegation also expect to continue the fight.
Nuclear Power Causes Leukemia And Other Cancers
Dr. Ian Fairlie’s 2014 study informed us about the “increased rates of childhood leukemias near nuclear power plants (NPPs)””
Dr. Helen Mary Caldicott reported in 2013 in The Medical Implications of Fukushima that “Children are 10 to 20 times more vulnerable to the carcinogenic effects of radiation than adults. Little girls are twice as sensitive as little boys and women are more sensitive than men. Fetuses are thousands of times more sensitive.”
Nuclear power is a moral, safety and public health issue. Nuclear power is a crime against humanity, all living creatures and Mother Earth.
Nuclear power is not safe, green, clean or renewable. It is dirty, dangerous, and expensive
Congress Recently Passed A Bill Very Supportive of Nuclear Industry
1) The bipartisan bill, approved by voice vote, is aimed at boosting nuclear energy and would modernize the federal government’s approval process for advanced reactors.
The approval comes a day after the Senate did the same. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.
This legislation will create more certainty for nuclear plant operations, without compromising safety or government oversight, and encourage greater investment for the next generation of nuclear power,” said cosponsors Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Fred Upton, R-Mich. “We look forward to the president signing this important, bipartisan legislation into law.”
The legislation directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create a licensing process for advanced reactors that is less prescriptive, allowing for faster approvals.
2) “WASHINGTON, D.C.-Today, Congress passed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) (S. 512), introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
The following statement can be attributed to Maria Korsnick, president and CEO at the Nuclear Energy Institute: “The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) is a significant, positive step toward reform of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission fee collection process. This legislation establishes a more equitable and transparent funding structure which will benefit all operating reactors and future licensees. The bill also reaffirms Congress’s support for nuclear innovation by working to establish an efficient and stable regulatory structure that is prepared to license the advanced reactors of the future”. NEIMA is one of several bipartisan bills that support advanced nuclear innovation to pass the 115th Congress”We look forward to carrying that momentum into the new Congress to ensure the industry can continue to innovate and thrive
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) sponsored the bill. Of the 18 co-sponsors of NEIMA, eight were Democrats and 11 were Republicans:
Millions Of People Are Against Nuclear Power
An open letter, January 10, 2019, signed by over 600 organizationsand delivered to all our Congresspeople mentions nuclear three times as part of the problem of the climate crisis:
Further, the federal government must immediately end the massive, irrational subsidies and other financial support that fossil fuel, and other dirty energy companies (such as nuclear, waste incineration and biomass energy) continue to receive both domestically and overseas”.
As the United States shifts away from fossil fuels, we must simultaneously ramp up energy efficiency and transition to clean, renewable energy to power the nation’s economy where, in addition to excluding fossil fuels, any definition of renewable energy must also exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies”.
Further, we will vigorously oppose any legislation that: (1) rolls back existing environmental, health, and other protections, (2) protects fossil fuel and other dirty energy polluters from liability, or (3) promotes corporate schemes that place profits over community burdens and benefits, including market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy”.
Environmental Justice And Nuclear Power
1) Nuclear power plants are often situated in low income African American communities. Uranium mining and waste disposal are found mostly in Indigenous communities. The Navaho people especially suffered from nuclear power. Kathryn Brunner, submitted for a course, 2.26.17 when she was a student at Stanford, “Nuclear Power and the Navajo Reservation”
The history of nuclear energy and uranium mining in the United States is quite intertwined with many Native American reservations in the Southwest part of the United States. In 1950, a Navajo sheepherder,,,discovered uranium ore near Grant, New Mexico and thus uranium mining in the Southwest began.  The resources on the Navajo reservation were in high demand in the post WWII era for both C War Weapons and then commercial nuclear power. The Navajo reservation is 14.5 million acres, about the size of West Virginia. The reservation is located in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and the Four Corners area. Their uranium rich land has created many problems involving sovereignty over the land and resources, cultural impacts from technological changes, and the radiological hazards.  The Navajo people were the original caretakers of this land and uranium mining led to abuse of the people and their home, turning it into a wasteland
 D. Nelkin, “Native Americans and Nuclear Power,” Sci. Technol. Human Values, 6, No. 2, 2 (1981).
2) “SNAP-SHOT” of environmental and economic justice issues in indigenous lands (US-CANADA)” INDIGENOUS ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK.
Inadequate governmental environment and health standards and regulations.
Clean up of contaminated lands from mining, military, and other industry activities.
National energy policies at the expense of the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Uranium mining developments and struggles to obtain victim compensation to Indigenous uranium miners, millers, processors and Downwinders of past nuclear testing experiments.
Nuclear waste dumping in Indigenous lands.
Backlash from US state governments giving in to the lobbying pressures of industry and corporations against the right of tribes to implement their own water and air quality standards.
Green New Deal Resolution And Nuclear Power
My search in this Resolution for the words “nuclear” “nuclear power” “nuclear energy” brought up nothing. Nor did these words come up when I scrolled through and read the entire Resolution. I have seen many comments in other articles about how nuclear would be dealt with in the Green New Deal in other articles, e.g. “The plan also does not explicitly exclude some major forms of low-emissions electricity – mainly, nuclear energy and hydropower – as some observers worried it would.”
Also that the Green New Deal would “transition away from nuclear power.”
“Ocasio-Cortez also clarified that under the plan, the U.S. will not invest in new nuclear power plants, but existing generation stations would be allowed to continue operating at the end of the 10-year time frame. Nuclear power plants generate 20 percent of the nation’s electric power and 63 percent of its zero-carbon power.
“The goal is to use the expansion of renewable energy sources to fully meet 100% of our nation’s power demand through only renewable sources in 10 years, but since no one has yet created a full plan to hit that goal, we are currently unsure if we will be able to decommission every nuclear plant that fast,” Ocasio-Cortez’s office said in an FAQ.” “No Nuclear Power, Ocasio-Cortez Says in Green New Deal”Nuclear power may be carbon free, but the progressive creators of the sweeping Green New Deal climate plan to stave off a global warming disaster have some bad news for boosters of atomic energy: No nukes allowed.
The lofty environmental plan that seeks to eliminate global warming causing greenhouse gas emissions is being unveiled Thursday by progressive newcomer Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
It explicitly makes clear that there is “no space” for nuclear power amid a goal to dramatically expand”
A pay wall comes down after the last line above, so if there is more to the story, I have not read it. I am in the process of writing to the author. Here are a few questions that remain for me: Since none of the above statements are in the Resolution, I am wondering why they are not included. Furthermore, what do we do while we “transition away from nuclear power?” Some plants are still licensed for many years out. Do we wait until their licenses expire? As the 8th anniversary of Fukushima approaches, March 11, 2019, we will have to hope and pray that no other nuclear power plant has a melt down while we wait to transition.The response that we must keep nuclear power plants open in order to maintain jobs of the people who work there, can easily be refuted by an important approach taken by the Green New Deal – that is, by creating many, milllions of new jobs. Some of those new jobs presumably would be in solar and wind energy and hopefully would be available for former nuclear power plants workers, who wanted to be so trained.. Moreover, we need people who know the plants to work on decommissioning them and we need people who know the plants to be there to guard the spent nuclear fuel rod.
Finally, there can be enough wind and solar to stop the climate crisis, if the government becomes serious about turning around the climate crisis. Moreover, Tesla’sbatteries storage will help provide sufficient electricity (when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.) The Green New Deal must not include nuclear power. We must close all existing nuclear power plants now and must not build any new plants, either with old or new technologies.
(Article changed on February 8, 2019 at 21:39)
Sheila Parks, Ed.D., is a former college professor. She had a spiritual awakening many years ago and left her career to do peace and justice work full time. She is the founder of the grassroots group On Behalf of Planet Earth (found on FB). (more…)