Thursday, June 11, 2009

Shoreham Turning Point--30 Years Later

A demonstration 30 years ago involving 15,000 people, the largest protest ever held here on Long Island, New York, coupled with nearly 600 people being arrested for non-violent civil disobedience, was a turning point in the battle against the Shoreham nuclear power plant.

Importantly, not only would Shoreham be stopped but so would the Long Island Lighting Company’s scheme to build seven to 11 nuclear plants. In all the official filings for Shoreham, it was Shoreham Nuclear Power Station 1. LILCO planned two more nuclear plants at Shoreham. Four more were slated to the east, at Jamesport. And LILCO wanted to construct several more, also along the Long Island Sound, between Shoreham and Jamesport. This is why the book I wrote on the situation was titled Power Crazy.

Long Island would have been turned into a “nuclear park,” a term the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission used to denote areas slated for intense nuclear power development when Shoreham l was first advanced in 1966.

The key to the protest at Shoreham on June 3, 1979 was the partial core-meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania in March. Proponents of nuclear power had insisted that the chances of a catastrophic accident were infinitesimal. The TMI accident and, even more seriously, the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident seven years later, showed that to be baloney.

Also a factor: what became known as the Shoreham “dump documents.” In May, a person who refinishes furniture, scavenging in the Southold Town dump, came upon a box of documents from Shoreham each headed “Engineering & Design Coordination Report.” The reports, brought to me, included 416 labeled as citing “nuclear safety related” problems in the building of Shoreham. The documents had apparently been dispatched to the dump after the TMI accident.

“A lemon grows on Long Island!” declared Dr. Michio Kaku, a nuclear physicist and professor at the City University of New York, at the June 3 demonstration. I had given Dr. Kaku copies of the reports to evaluate. He has gone on to become a well-known scientist globally—and remains solidly against nuclear power.

Nobel Prize-winner biologist Dr. George Wald also spoke declaring: “Not only is nuclear power anti-life” but despite “constant industry and government propaganda…it’s an economic disaster and the whole game now is to lay all its major costs on the people.”

Thirty years later, this is even more severe. These days, “no private money anywhere in the world is being used to build new nuclear plants,” notes Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service. And although the price of Shoreham ended up at $6.5 billion—in contrast to the “$65-$75 million range” LILCO spoke of when it announced Shoreham—today nuclear plants are projected to cost $12 billion each.

With Wall Street unwilling to providing financing, U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Warner last year pushed legislation to give $544 billion in taxpayer subsidies to build new nuclear plants. That didn’t pass, but the nuclear industry and its friends in the federal government are still pushing hard for your tax dollars.

No new nuclear plant has been ordered and built in the U.S. since 1973—and Shoreham was an element in this. As U.S. Energy Secretary Donald Herrington said at the height of the Shoreham fight: “The Shoreham plant must open! If it doesn’t, the signals will be the low point in this [nuclear] industry’s history.”

As was the case 30 years ago, the pro-nuclear propaganda remains intense. In their current drive to “revive” nuclear power, the nuclear promoters are trying to latch on to the global warming issue by saying nuclear plants don’t emit greenhouse gases. What we’re not supposed to know is that the overall nuclear “chain” or “cycle”—including uranium mining and milling, enrichment, fuel fabrication—has significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, the great advances since 1979 in safe, clean renewable energy technologies mean they can provide all the power we need—without endangering life. Nuclear power not only remains outrageously expensive and terribly dangerous but is--ever more clearly—unnecessary.

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