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Anniversary of Three Mile Island Reminds Us, Nuclear Power is Still Not the Answer

March 27, 2008  

Anniversary of Three Mile Island Reminds Us, Nuclear Power is Still Not the Answer

Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

The anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident is a somber reminder of the fatal flaws of nuclear power and the unresolved dangers nuclear energy poses. However, despite the lessons learned from that catastrophe, the Bush administration is attempting to jump-start an industry that has been stagnant for almost three decades.

It’s almost as if the Bush administration forgot what happened March 28, 1979, when feedwater pumps failed at Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pa., leading to a partial core meltdown and the release of significant amounts of radiation. Prior to this event, mounting public concern and disastrous cost overruns led to the cancellation of most proposals for new reactors. Three Mile Island was the final blow.

Almost 30 years later, the flaws that halted interest in nuclear power have not changed. Cost, security, safety and waste proliferation are lingering problems that have yet to be resolved. Nuclear power is still dependent on taxpayer handouts for survival; plants still face safety shortcomings and lack of protection from terrorist attacks. Nuclear power is not a clean energy source, producing low- and high-level radioactive waste at every step of the process – from uranium mining to energy production.

What has changed since Three Mile Island? The nuclear industry has targeted not just ratepayers to bear the financial risk of these boondoggles, but is looking to saddle all taxpayers with the cost of guaranteeing the loans used to build new nuclear reactors.

Despite the president’s endorsement, nuclear power is not a solution to global warming. We have a 10-year window before global warming reaches its tipping point and major ecological and societal damage becomes unavoidable, says NASA scientist James Hansen. Even if a nuclear energy project was given government approval today, it would take about 10 years for the plant to start delivering electricity. The attempt to revitalize nuclear power is distracting us from cleaner, safer alternatives, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Let’s remember Three Mile Island so that we don’t make the same mistakes.