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June 2, 1999

Public Citizen Asks FTC to Declare NEI Ads
False, Misleading

Industry Ads Overstate Environmental Benefits of Nuclear Energy

WASHINGTON -- The Nuclear Energy Institute’s advertising campaign promoting nuclear power as an environmentally safe source of energy is false and misleading to consumers, Public Citizen said today in a petition to the Federal Trade Commission, filed on behalf of other consumer and environmental organizations.

The petition documents several environmental problems associated with nuclear power, including greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, highly irradiated nuclear waste -- so-called "low level" nuclear waste -- species destruction and water pollution.

"The nuclear industry’s print media advertisements mislead consumers by making false claims, ignoring significant environmental impacts, and making overly broad statements as defined by the FTC," Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said.

"The NEI is using the deregulation of the electric industry to falsely promote nuclear power as an environmentally safe alternative," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project. "The nuclear industry is using misleading advertisements to target consumers who likely will pay more for so-called ‘green electricity.’ Consumers will think they’re helping the environment when all they’re really doing is lining the pockets of the nuclear industry with more money."

A large and very new retail electricity market has emerged. Consumer unfamiliarity of this market allows for deception to occur because environmentally benign electricity is a new product that can be difficult to define. But the NEI is deceiving consumers since it is very clear that nuclear power is not environmentally benign.

Public Citizen’s complaint follows a decision last month by the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division to refer the questionable advertisements to the FTC. Previously the Better Business Bureau recommended changes to the NEI advertisements because they were potentially misleading.

"The NEI ignored the Better Business Bureau’s recommendation, so we join the Bureau in demanding that the FTC take immediate action against NEI for false and misleading advertising," said Auke Piersma, energy policy analyst for Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project.

Public Citizen’s petition was also signed by Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Safe Energy Communication Council and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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