May 24, 2006
President Bush’s Speech Today Ignores the Reality of Nuclear Power: It Is Dangerous, Uneconomical and Polluting
Statement of Michele Boyd, Legislative Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program
President Bush’s speech today at the Limerick Generating Station in Pennsylvania advocating the building of new nuclear power plants completely neglects the dangers and unresolved problems associated with nuclear power. Since Vice President Dick Cheney’s secret energy task force meetings in 2001 with nuclear industry representatives, the Bush administration has touted new nuclear power plants as a safe and clean alternative energy source. Despite streamlined licensing procedures for new reactors enacted by Congress in 1992 and more than $12 billion in taxpayer subsidies to nuclear utilities authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the White House is obviously not convinced that it has done enough for the nuclear industry. It is creating a vaguely defined “working group” of federal agency officials to push even harder for the construction of new nuclear reactors.
The administration’s enthusiasm for nuclear power conveniently ignores the reasons we stopped building new nuclear plants more than twenty years ago: Nuclear power is fatally flawed. Nuclear reactors create large quantities of radioactive waste that pile up around the country and remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. Nuclear waste also presents the temptation to reprocess, as shown by the president’s proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which would create a global plutonium economy and increase the risk that plutonium could be used in nuclear weapons or “dirty bombs.” New nuclear plants will also expose many more communities to the threats of nuclear accidents and potential terrorism. And once again taxpayers will be on the hook for the hefty financial risks associated with building nuclear plants.
Renewable energy sources and efficiency technologies are the only safe, clean option to meet U.S. energy needs in coming decades. Technologies – such as solar, wind, advanced hydro, certain types of biomass and geothermal energy – can generate as much energy as conventional sources and can do so more cheaply and without producing radioactive waste. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently concluded that all U.S. electricity demand could technically be met by renewable energy resources in the coming decades. Federal efforts and dollars should focus on promoting these technologies. Despite the billions of dollars in subsidies and a new public relations campaign, the Bush administration cannot change reality: Nuclear power remains a dangerous, uneconomical and polluting energy source.