Monday, November 22, 2010

Avoiding Nuclear Destruction: By The Skin Of Our Teeth

As Thanksgiving 2010 arrives, thanks should be given for something that never happened decades ago: the use as planned of bases built all over the United States armed with BOMARC and Nike Hercules nuclear-tipped missiles.

It was the 1950s and 60s and the U.S. feared Soviet bombers might strike major American cities and various strategic targets. So a scheme was hatched to deploy nuclear-tipped missiles. These were early antiaircraft missiles and seen as unable to score direct hits. Thus the plan was to have the nuclear warheads on the BOMARC and Nike Hercules missiles detonate when the missiles reached a formation of Soviet bombers, blowing the formation apart—although also raining radioactivity down below.

The nuclear warheads on the BOMARC and Nike Hercules missiles had massive power. The tips on the BOMARCs had the equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima had the power of 13 kilotons. The Nike Hercules warheads ranged up to 30 kilotons.

How much radioactive fall-out would have descended on coastal areas where BOMARC and Nike Hercules bases were located depended on the winds and where the detonations of the nuclear warheads occurred. For bases sited inland, and BOMARC and Nike Hercules bases ringed several inland cities including Chicago, the nuclear warheads would definitely have exploded over populated regions of America. The BOMARC had a range of 250 miles, the Nike Hercules 100 miles.

I had the eerie experience recently of walking around two former nuclear-tipped missile sites—a BOMARC base in Westhampton and a Nike Hercules base in Rocky Point, both on Long Island, New York. (The BOMARC program was run by the Air Force and named for its developers—BO for Boeing and MARC for Michigan Aerospace Research Center. The Nike program was run by the Army and named for the Greek goddess of victory, although in this scheme it would have been a potentially suicidal victory.)

I was making a TV documentary on the BOMARC and Nike bases set up on Long Island and elsewhere in the New York Metropolitan Area with Soviet bombers headed for New York City as the major concern.

The documentary, which I did as chief investigative reporter for WVVH-TV in New York, has been broadcast in recent weeks, and WVVH has also put it up on YouTube. You can view it at Or just input my name at along with the words: Avoiding Nuclear Destruction: By The Skin Of Our Teeth.

Each of the 56 BOMARC missiles in Westhampton had its own building. The missiles were positioned on the floors of the buildings and their roofs would open when they were to be fired. The buildings remain, and they and the machinery in them to open the roofs are very solid. Large amounts of money were spent on this scheme.

With the shift by the Soviets (and the U.S.) to ICBMs, the BOMARC and Nike bases were closed in the 70s. The nuclear-tipped missiles are now all gone, but many of the bases remain, frightening reminders of a dangerous period.

The Westhampton BOMARC base was given to Suffolk County which utilizes some of the buildings for storage. The site is also used as a police shooting range. Fittingly, gunfire was in the background as we filmed.

The three-mile Nike Hercules base in Rocky Point is now the site of an Army Reserve Center. The Nike missiles were positioned underground in silos. I stood on one of the welded-shut tops of a silo to explain what had been below.

The words that came to me in visiting the nuclear-tipped missile sites were: by the skin of our teeth. Only by the skin of our teeth, I thought, had we avoided nuclear destruction. Thus the title of the program.

A book has just been published, Continental Defense in the Eisenhower Era: Nuclear Antiaircraft Arms and the Cold War by Christopher J. Bright. He writes about the “effort to facilitate popular acceptance of these weapons…The arms were touted in news releases, featured in films and television episodes…The need for atomic antiaircraft weapons was readily accepted by most Americans, and few objected to their existence or ubiquity.”

Nuclear technology is still being heavily promoted. The U.S. as well as the French and Russian governments are pushing for the building of many more nuclear plants—and inevitably there will be more accidents as bad as or worse than the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. Though ostensibly for civilian use, the reactors would also provide the fuel and give their technicians the expertise for making nuclear weapons—this is how India got the atomic bomb. The Pentagon, meanwhile, still holds nuclear war to be quite feasible. And U.S. Senator John Kyl, an Arizona Republican, is right now seeking to block ratification of a new nuclear arms pact between the U.S. and Russia, a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The treaty has done a good job in limiting the nuclear weapons stockpiles of both countries and providing transparency. Will Kyl and his followers kill that?

This, too, is a highly dangerous period.

In front of a BOMARC building, I ended the documentary asking: how long will we be able to survive by the skin of our teeth? We should give thanks this week that somehow we got through the Cold War atomic nightmare. Now we must roll back the new crazy atomic push.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cancer--The Number One Killer--And Its Environmental Causes

The World Health Organization projects that this year cancer will become the world's leading cause of death. Why the epidemic of cancer? Death certificates in the United States show cancer as being the eighth leading cause of death in 1900.

Why has it skyrocketed to now surpass heart disease as number one?

Is it because people live longer and have to die of something? That's a factor, but not the prime reason as reflected by the jump in age-adjusted cancer being far above what could be expected from increased longevity. And it certainly doesn't explain the steep hike in childhood cancers. Is it lifestyle, diet and genetics, as we have often been told? They are factors, but not key reasons.

The cause of the cancer epidemic, as numerous studies have now documented, is largely environmental--the result of toxic substances in the water we drink, the food we eat, the consumer products we use, the air we breathe. (Some of the pollution is voluntarily caused--by smoking. But most is involuntary.)

As the President's Cancer Panel declared in May, in a 240-page report titled "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now," "The American people--even before they are born--are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures." It said: "With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented through appropriate national action."

It pointed to chemicals and radiation as major causes of cancer and stated: "Cancer continues to shatter and steal the lives of Americans. Approximately 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and about 21 percent will die from the cancer. The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing...The burgeoning number and complexity of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compel us to act to protect public health."

The panel urged President Obama "most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation's productivity, and devastate American lives."

In 1980, another presidential panel, the Presidential Toxic Substances Strategy Committee, came to the same conclusion. It declared: "Of the hazards to human health arising from toxic substances, cancer is a leading cause of concern. Cancer is the only major cause of death that has continued to rise since 1900. It is now second only to heart disease as a cause of death... Some of the increase in cancer mortality since 1900 is a function of the greater average age of the U.S. population and the medical progress made against infectious disease. But even after correcting for age, both mortality (death) rates and incidence (new cases) of cancer are increasing. Many now believe that environmental (nongenetic) factors--life style and work and environmental exposures--are significant in the great majority of cancer cases seen."

Meanwhile, through the years solid science done by independent researchers -- not those taking money from the chemical or nuclear industries -- has extensively documented this cancer/environment connection.

"The evidence is there that the majority of cancer cases are environmentally caused," says Dr. David Carpenter, founding dean of the University of Albany School of Public Health and now director of the Institute for Health and the Environment there. Among the research he points to is a 2000 study involving examining health records of 44,788 pairs of twins in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. If genetics were the main cause of cancer, if one twin developed cancer the other probably would, too. This was not found. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that "inherited genetic factors make a minor contribution" in most cancers. "This finding indicates that the environment has the principle role in causing sporadic cancer."

Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, in his book The Politics of Cancer concludes that cancer is a preventable disease "caused mainly by exposure to chemical or physical agents in the environment." The huge problem, he said, is how "a combination of powerful and well-focused pressures by special industrialized interests, together with public inattention and the indifference of the scientific community" has warped public policy and thwarted "meaningful attempts to prevent the carnage." Dr. Epstein now chairs the Cancer Prevention Coalition committed to eliminating those toxins that are causing the cancer epidemic (

The initiative, Prevention is The Cure, was founded by breast cancer survivor Karen Joy Miller and on its website,(, declares that four decades have passed, "and the wake-up call put forth by Rachel Carson" in her book Silent Spring "and other activists has been blocked by powerful political interests that profit from pollution."

These powerful interests have long had allies in government. The late James Sibbison, who went from being a reporter for the Associated Press to press officer at the Environmental Protection Agency, would tell the story of how immediately after Ronald Reagan became president, orders were given to the EPA press office "never to use the words cancer-causing in front of the word chemical." Now the number of chemicals in commercial use in the U.S. totals 80,000. The EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 has been required to assess all of them. In over 30 years it has gotten around to examining 200.

The poisoning--and consequent cancer--is not necessary. The report by the President's Cancer Panel emphasize how "the requite knowledge and technologies exist" to provide safe "alternatives" to cancer-causing agents.
But this doesn't suit those doing the polluting--who have such a hold on government.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Push To Revive Nuclear Power -- A Presentation at the State University of New York at New Paltz on October 21, 2010

I’d like to start with the bottom line: the problem with nuclear power is—in one word—radioactivity.

In a presidential election campaign several years ago, there was the line: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

When it comes to nuclear power: It’s the radioactivity.

Admiral Hyman Rickover, who was in charge of building the first nuclear power plant in the United States, Shippingport in Pennsylvania, and is heralded as the “father” of the nuclear navy, finally realized that. In a farewell address before a committee of Congress in 1982, as he retired, Rickover said, “I’ll be philosophical. Until about two billion years ago, it was impossible to have any life on Earth; that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn’t have any life—fish or anything.” This was from cosmic radiation around when the Earth was in the process of forming. “Gradually,” said Rickover, “about two billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet…reduced and make it possible for some form of life to begin…Now, when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible….every time you produce radiation” a “horrible force” is unleashed, said Rickover, “and I think there the human race is going to wreck itself.” Rickover went on to declare: we must “outlaw nuclear reactors.”

That was Rickover, a key figure in nuclear development in the U.S., not Greenpeace.

The problem is radioactivity—the radioactivity unleashed when the atom is split. That splitting is called fission.

This is a bit technical, but we need to understand it to understand the central problem of nuclear power: radioactivity.

Uranium is taken from the ground. That portion of the uranium, not much, less than 1 percent, Uranium-235, that’s fissile—which means it splits when bombarded with neutrons. What does it split into? Radioactive twins of safe and stable elements in nature: radioactive iodine, Strontium-90, Cesium-137—all called fission products. There are 200 of them.

The body doesn’t know the difference between, for example, that radioactive iodine and the iodine you put on a cut.

If these fission products are let loose in an accident—or are released without an accident and there are what are termed “routine emissions” from nuclear plants letting out fission products—and they are absorbed by the body, they can cause cancer and other diseases. They kill.

And then also produced by fission are three forms of ionizing radiation: alpha and beta particles and gamma rays.

And, importantly, additional neutrons are set loose which bombard other atoms and cause these atoms to split and yet more neutrons to be set loose. And this goes on and on—and is called a chain reaction.

And from this there’s heat—which in a nuclear power plant is used to boil water. It’s the most dangerous way to boil water ever designed.

Fission products, further, are what radioactive waste is composed of. Some of these poisons remain hot with radioactivity for thousands, some millions of years. During this time they must be isolated from life or they’ll destroy life.

This is the problem: radioactivity. The radioactivity produced with fission. This is the “horrible force” that Rickover spoke about that is unleashed and “is going to wreck” the human race. And we should not be anthropomorphic. Other forms of life are impacted by radioactivity, too. Cockroaches somehow are resistant to radioactivity—but we don’t want to leave a planet for cockroaches.

Why use this toxic process to boil water and generate electricity?

It has far less to do with science than it has to do with politics and economics—in specific: vested interests.

Atomic technology begins in the United States with a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt, from Albert Einstein—written in Peconic on Long Island—and, if you’d like to see that letter, go to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum not far from here, in Hyde Park. It’s on display.

In 1938 fission was accomplished in Nazi Germany. Physicists Leo Szilard and Edward Teller, like Einstein, refugees from the Nazis, fearing Hitler might develop a bomb based on fission, with others, asked Einstein to write that letter to Roosevelt.

Einstein wrote that “it may be possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium” leading “to the construction of bombs…extremely powerful bombs of a new type.” Based on, yes, fission.

Out of that letter came the Manhattan Project. Scientists and engineers were gathered and put to work at facilities secretly built at locations across the United States. Laboratories and manufacturing plants in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Hanford, Washington; Argonne, Illinois; Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Large corporations and universities were retained to manage the facilities. General Electric and Westinghouse—which were to become the Coke and Pepsi in the U.S. in the manufacture of nuclear power plants—got their start in atomic technology as Manhattan Project contractors.

By 1945 four atomic bombs had been built, one used for a test and two dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

Also by 1945, 600,000 people had become part of a program on which billions of dollars had been spent.

With the war’s end there was anxiety among many of those involved in the Manhattan Project. Many of the scientists and government officials didn’t want to see the endeavor and their jobs over; corporations didn’t want to see their contracts ended.

As James Kunetka writes in his book City of Fire about Los Alamos Laboratory, with the war over there were now problems of “job placement, work continuity…more free time than work…hardly enough to keep everyone busy…without a crash program underway.”

Some of the people and corporations could continue building nuclear weapons, and they did. And they built even bigger bombs—the “super,” the hydrogen bomb. Buy nuclear weapons do not lend themselves to commercial spinoff. What else could be done with atomic technology to perpetuate the nuclear establishment that was established with the Manhattan Project?

There were all kinds of schemes conceived: using nuclear devices as substitutes for TNT to blast huge holes in the ground.

Indeed, in the 1950s the U.S. planned to string 250 nuclear devices across the isthmus of Panama and detonate them and, presto, there’d be a new canal—dubbed the Panatomic Canal. But that would rain radioactive debris on a large section of Central America. Finally, what the Manhattan Project became in 1946, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, withdrew that project because of “prospective host country opposition to nuclear-canal excavation.”

There were plans to use nuclear technology to use radioactivity to zap food so it would be seemingly OK to store for years. And to build nuclear-powered airplanes and nuclear-powered rockets.

And from the earlier reactors which were built to produce fuel for atomic bombs came another idea: using the heat of fission to boil water to produce electricity.

This was all about people and corporations seeking to perpetuate their vested interests, to somehow continue the nuclear establishment first created with the Manhattan Project.

The extreme dangers of atomic energy were understood.

1957 was a pivotal year. In that year, the first U.S. nuclear power plant—that one Rickover was in charge of building called Shippingport—opened. It was constructed by the government, and Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, made a speech saying that if you, the utility industry, didn’t build nuclear plants, we, the government, would. That was the stick. The carrot: passage in 1957 of the Price-Act Act which limited liability in the event of a catastrophic accident at a nuclear plant to $560 million –with the U.S. government paying the first $500 million.

Utilities would only have to pay $60 million in the event of a meltdown or other catastrophic accident.

That was the carrot.

I could fall on the sidewalk here at SUNY New Paltz and sue the state. Or slip in front of the motel where I’m staying in town and sue 87 Motel.

But if there is an accident at a nuclear plant—like a disaster at the Indian Point plants in Buchanan just 40 miles down the Hudson from where we are tonight—and New Paltz and elsewhere around the plant is impacted, and people are irradiated and land left rendered useless because of contamination, like around the Chernobyl plant in the Ukraine, we’d only be able to get reimbursed for a fraction of the loss.

Price-Anderson was supposed to be a temporary law but it has been extended and extended with now a $10.5 billion cap, still a fraction of the damages seen as resulting from a major nuclear plant accident.

Also in 1957, the first report on the consequences of a major nuclear plant accident was done, WASH-740, it was named, done at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island.

It said that in the “worst case” a nuclear power plant accident could kill 3,400 people. And injure 43,000—as distances of up to 45 miles. Property damage could be as high as $7 billion, it said. Not $560 million.

But WASH-740 was based on small nuclear power plants like Shippingport. Being proposed were plants five time that size, like the Indian Point plants now running not far from here.

So a WASH-740-update was done. It increased the estimated death toll from a major nuclear plant accident to 45,000, injuries to 100,000 and property damage to up to $280 billion. And over and over again WASH-740-update states “the possible size of the area of such a disaster might be equal to that of the State of Pennsylvania.”

This was a decade before a major nuclear plant accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania happened.

There’s not been a new nuclear power plant ordered and built since that near-catastrophe at Three Mile Island in 1979, but now the nuclear establishment—the nuclear interests within the U.S. government and nuclear industry—are pushing for a “revival” of nuclear power, to, more than 30 years later, get new nuclear plants built again.

They are showering us with disinformation to promote their deadly technology.

Some of the claims—and the realities:

Nuclear Power “Doesn’t Contribute” to Global Warming

This is a key claim in the current drive—that nuclear plants don’t emit greenhouse gases. But what we’re not supposed to know is that the overall nuclear “chain” or “cycle” has significant greenhouse gas emissions.

As Michel Lee, chair of the Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy, which has been involved in the Indian Point issue, the “dirty secret is that nuclear power makes a substantial contribution to global warming. Nuclear power is actually a chain of highly energy-intensive industrial processes. These include uranium mining, conversion, enrichment and fabrication of nuclear fuel; construction and deconstruction of the massive nuclear facility structures; and the disposition of high-level nuclear waste.”

As the Nuclear Information & Resource Service notes in its report Nuclear Power Can’t Stop Climate Change, the claims that nuclear plants don’t contribute to global warming “fail to account for the entire nuclear fuel chain.” Omitted is the “fact that the nuclear fuel chain emits more CO2” than “sustainable options…Wind and solar…which are virtually greenhouse-gas free.”

Michael Mariotte, executive director of NIRS, stresses, moreover, that these sustainable alternatives, renewable energy technologies here today are the “safer, faster and cheaper way” to deal with global warming. He says: “Why not go safer, faster and cheaper when you have a choice—and we do have a choice.”

Then there’s the claim that: No One in the U.S. Has Died As a Result of Nuclear Power And Perhaps the Toll of the Chernobyl Disaster Will Be 4,000 Dead

This book, published this year by the New York Academy of Sciences, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, is the most comprehensive study ever done on the explosion of Unit 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the worst nuclear plant disaster—so far—in the world.

Written by a team of scientists, it concludes that between 1986, when the accident happened, and 2004, some 985,000 people died, especially of cancer, as a result of the radioactivity emitted. That’s based on health data, radiological reports and scientific studies especially from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus but from other affected nations as well.

This new documentation of Chernobyl casualties coincides with the estimate of Dr. Vladimir Chernousenko, the nuclear physicist in charge of the clean-up, on a television program I did with him a decade ago—The Truth About Chernobyl which you can view on YouTube—that that a million people will die due to the accident.

Incidentally, the International Atomic Energy Agency claims that 56 people have died as a result of the Chernobyl disaster and the final death toll can be expected to maybe reach 4,000. The IAEA was set up through the United Nations in 1957 “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy.” It was to be a mirror image of our U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The AEC was abolished by Congress in 1974 for being in conflict of interest: promoting and at the same time supposedly regulating nuclear power. But the IAEA continues. And its Chernobyl casualty claim is quite the Big Lie.

Importantly, it doesn’t take an accident for radioactivity to be released from a nuclear power plant affecting on people (and other life). As noted, there are “routine releases” of radioactive gases because nuclear plants are not sealed—and I’d recommend you go to the website of the Radiation and Public Health Project to see important reports on the impacts through the years—especially in cancer clusters—as a result of these “routine emissions.”

Then there’s The French Nuclear “Success” Story

In fact, the French nuclear power program is a health and economic disaster. On the table in the back I’ve left a pile reports by the group Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Power and France: Setting the Record Straight. It discloses leukemia clusters in communities around France’s La Hague nuclear reprocessing center and notes that La Hague, on the Normandy Coast, discharges 100 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste yearly into the English Channel. Marine life has been seriously contaminated. Waters off La Hague have been “measured as 17 million times more radioactive than normal sea water”—and this contamination has affected waters as far as the Arctic Circle.

Inland, there have been numerous leaks at French nuclear plants—and the problems have been rising.

And there is no French love affair with nuclear energy but rather a deep mistrust. Polls show a majority in France want nuclear power phased out. There have been massive protests against construction of new plants.

Global Chance, a French research organization, has issued a report Nuclear Power: The Great Illusion, which states that the “image” that the French nuclear program is “successful…is a sham.”

A Nuclear Plant Can Withstand an Airborne Terrorist Hit

There have been concerns about nuclear plants being terrorist targets for years. This concern was heightened after 9/11 when American Airlines Flight 11 flew over the two Indian Point nuclear plants just above New York City before, minutes later, crashing into the World Trade Center. Then came the revelation that al-Qaeda had been considering targeting nuclear plants. And, reports are, it still is.

The nuclear industry insisted its plants were “robust” and could withstand such a hit. But in recent times, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (which replaced the AEC) has finally stopped accepting this claim.

It has ordered the builders of all new nuclear plants in the U.S. do a “design-specific assessment of the effects of the impact of a large commercial aircraft.”

What about the existing 104 U.S. nuclear plants? They would be left as is and be, as Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear says, “pre-deployed weapons of mass destruction.” Gunter notes: “Public documents within the NRC confirm that the plants were never designed or constructed for aircraft impact, particularly explosion and fire.”

Uranium Fuel Is Abundant

The claim is made by nuclear proponents that the uranium fuel used in nuclear plants is an abundant source in comparison to oil that could vanish in several decades. But uranium fuel for nuclear plants comes from so-called “high-grade” ore containing substantial amounts of Uranium-235, the isotope of uranium that splits or fissions. It is not abundant.

Even the IAEA, that promoter of nuclear power, estimates that there is only enough high-grade uranium resources “to last only another 85 years.”

This limit is why many nuclear scientists have long said nuclear power will need to be based on manmade plutonium. But the plutonium-fueled breeder reactors can explode like atomic bombs. And they would contain tons of plutonium compared to the few pounds needed to make an atomic bomb. The first atomic bomb using plutonium, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, contained 15 pounds of plutonium. And plutonium-fueled breeder reactors, even more so than uranium-fueled reactors, can easily provide the fuel with which to make atomic bombs.

It is The “Peaceful” Atom

There has never been a “peaceful” atom. Any country which gets a nuclear facility has the materiel—the plutonium built up in a uranium reactor—and the trained technicians to make nuclear weapons. That’s how India got The Bomb in 1974. It got a “civilian” reactor from Canada and the U.S. trained Indian personnel in atomic technology. And India had nuclear weapons. Atoms for war and energy are two sides of the same coin.

Nuclear Power Is “Inexpensive”

It’s extremely expensive—now $12 to $15 billion to build a nuclear power plant. “No private money anywhere in the world is being used to build new nuclear plants,” points out Michael Mariotte of NIRS.

President Obama has called for a taxpayer-supported nuclear loan guarantee fund of $54.5 billion to build new nuclear plants. There’s been one bill that’s been in Congress, pushed by Senators Joseph Lieberman and Lindsay Graham, to provide $544 billion for new nuclear plants. There’s another bill to provide unlimited taxpayer dollars.

Says Amory Lovins, a physicist and co-founder and chairman of the Rocky Mountain Institute: “Nuclear is incredibly expensive. “Wall Street is not putting a penny of private capital into the industry…It’s uneconomic. It costs, for example, about three times as much as wind power, which is booming.”

Just last week, Constellation energy pulled out of building what was to be one of the first of the nuclear plants, at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, because of finance issues.

And, John Rowe, chairman of Exelon, the biggest nuclear utility in the country, said last week that the lower price of natural gas puts off the sought-for revival of nuclear power by 10 or 20 years. It need be forever.

Speaking of costs, the costs of an accident, the most recent report on the impacts of a reactor accident—and I’ve left photocopies of the Congressional breakdown of the report on the table in the back—is titled Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences for U.S. Nuclear Plants (acronymed CRAC-2).

Every nuclear plant in the U.S. was evaluated as to “early fatalities” in the event of a meltdown with breach of containment. For the Indian Point 2 and 3 nuclear plants (Indian Point 1 has been permanently shut down), CRAC-2 projects 46,000 “early fatalities” if Indian Point 2 underwent a meltdown with breach of containment; 50,000 “early fatalities” from a meltdown at Indian Point 3. Peak “early injuries” from 2: 141,000. From 3, 167,000. Cancer deaths, 13,000 from 2; 14,000 from 3. As to property damage, CRAC-2 estimated $274 billion as a result of a meltdown at 2; $314 billion as a result of a meltdown at 3. But that’s in 1980 dollars which would be triple that today: a trillion dollars for an accident at one of the two Indian Point plants.

And, as noted, because of the Price-Anderson Act, all the nuclear industry would have to pay to compensate people for deaths, injuries and property damage would be $10.5 billion— a fraction of what CRAC-2 estimates would be the potential costs.

Another claim, The New Nuclear Plant Designs Are “Inherently Safe”

The nuclear industry is touting its “new and improved” nuclear plant models as “inherently safe.” They’re not. They, like all nuclear plants, are “inherently dangerous,” emphasizes Gunter of Beyond Nuclear. They are subject to catastrophic accidents, have “routine emissions” of radioactivity, produce nuclear waste which must somehow be isolated from life some of it for millions of years.

Says Mariotte of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, the purportedly “inherently safe” new nuclear plants “do not exist.”

And they, in fact, never can. That’s because the basic issue about atomic energy is radioactivity. Once atom-splitting or fission occurs, radioactivity is produced—and it’s a killer.

Finally, the argument that Nuclear Power Is “Needed”

This is a central falsehood for, in fact, there’s absolutely no need to undergo the life-threatening dangers of nuclear power.

The noted British magazine, the New Scientist, put out this issue on safe renewable energy technologies based on a United Nations report that found, as the New Scientist notes, that “renewable energy that can already be harnessed economically would supply the world’s electricity needs.”

From solar to wind (now the fastest-growing and cheapest new energy technology) to geothermal to tidal-power to wave-power to bio-fuels to small hydropower to co-generation, and on and on, a renewable energy windfall is here today.

Consider the breakthroughs at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, in using solar power to break down water into oxygen and hydrogen—with the hydrogen then being able to be used as a a fuel.

As Dr. John Turner, senior scientist at the lab told us when I did a TV shoot out there: “It’s the forever fuel. This uses are two most abundant natural resources—sunlight and water–to give us an energy supply that is inexhaustible.”

Indeed, amazing at that lab, NREL, is whatever division you go to, scientists speak of the potential for all the energy we need from the energy technology they’re working on.

At NREL’s Solar Energy Research Facility they’ve pioneered a new amazing solar energy technology called “thin film photovoltaic.” Rather than conventional rigid solar panels, it involves flexible membranes impregnated with high-efficiency solar collectors. These sheets of solar-collecting membranes can be applied over glass buildings. Skyscrapers that rise in Manhattan or buildings here on the New Paltz campus can serve as electricity generators. “Thin film photovoltaic” is now being widely used in Europe. Scientists at NREL’s Solar Energy Research Facility say through solar we could get all the energy we’d ever need.

But then you go to NREL’s National Wind Technology Center where the scientists speak about wind providing all the energy we need. They were pioneers in the great advances in wind energy in recent years—especially the development of turbines with highly-efficient blades and wind turbines that can be…and are...being placed on land and increasingly, in Europe, offshore.

Bluewater Wind is getting set to build the first offshore wind farm off Delaware. It would be this country’s first.

Wind is now the fastest growing energy technology. It has been expanding 25 percent a year and that kind of future annual growth is predicted. Wind energy costs a fifth of what it did in the 1980s—and is now fully competitive with other energy technologies—and a continuing downward cost trend is anticipated.

And at NREL’s National Bioenergy Center, the scientists say biomass could fulfill a huge portion of the world energy needs—and we’re not talking here about using food stocks, corn, but switchgrass and poplar trees and other, again, non-food energy crops.

The scientists at NREL might not be right on any single energy source—but all together these and other renewable energy sources, can, in a mix, provide all the energy we need. As NREL declares on its website:“There’s no shortage of renewable energy resources.”

And there’s so many more:

Consider: wave power. In Portugal, a wave power project has just begun. Pelamis Wave Power, a Scottish company, has engineered it—a line of machines will be tapping nature’s constant ocean power.

And tidal energy. The government of Nova Scotia is moving ahead with tapping the enormous power of the 40 and 50 foot tides that twice a day rush in and out of the Bay of Fundy—driven by the moon.

And energy from algae.

And micro or distributed power, smart grids, cutting energy loss from transmitting electricity over long distances.

Renewables Are Ready is the title of a book written by two Union of Concerned Scientists staffers in 1999. Today, they are more than ready. Combined, importantly, with energy efficiency, these clean, safe, renewable energy technologies render nuclear as unneeded.

The question, of course, is can we put the nuclear genie back into the bottle. We can and must. What people have done—things that are terrible like nuclear power—other people can undo.

Nuclear technology came out of World War II like mustard gas came out of World War I. Mustard gas, a horrible killer, has been outlawed. Nuclear power needs to be, too—and instead we need to employ energy we can live with.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jellyfish Revenge, continued

Summer was officially over last week and it was some summer in the Greater New York Area: record hot and a summer—and this is related—in which we were hit with loads of jellyfish off Long Island, where I live.

It used to be that jellyfish would arrive in these parts in August—when the waters off our shores had become sufficiently warm. But again this year, those stinging globs were here in June and by July there were swarms of them, remaining through August.

This jellyfish explosion here is mirrored around the world. With global warming a prime culprit, there’s been the revenge of the jellyfish for those who love the water all over this earth.

“There has been a global increase in jellyfish with the higher temperatures of recent years,” explains Dr. Christopher Gobler, associate professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at New York’s Stony Brook University. “With global warming, jellyfish emerge earlier, grow quicker and stay around longer.”
He notes other factors, too—also having to do with the activities of people.

There’s eutrophication, the process in which water bodies receive excess nutrients. Algal blooms are triggered by eutrophication, Dr. Gobler notes, and the blooms “reduce oxygen and water clarity. These conditions have adverse effects on planktivorous fish [fish that eat plankton] meaning the fish consume lower amounts of plankton. Because jellyfish are non-visual predators and are less sensitive to low oxygen” they can feast on the plankton that the planktivorous fish are missing. Jellyfish “thrive under these conditions.”

Then there’s overfishing. “The overharvest of filter feeding bivalves and planktivorous fish such as menhaden leaves more plankton for jellyfish to consume,” says Dr. Gobler.

And there is what’s termed “shoreline hardening—the building of bulkheads, docks and jetties which encourages greater jellyfish populations because jellyfish polyps attach to these “hard surfaces” and “we have more of these now,” says Dr. Gobler.
What was termed a worldwide “jellyfish plague” was examined a while back by the British magazine, New Scientist, in an article -- -- that began: “Global warming is starting to sting—literally.” The story by Debora Mackenzie told of how warmer water caused by global warming has resulted in mammoth swarms of jellyfish—such as one 20 square miles in area, 33 feet deep in the Irish Sea that hit a salmon farm “killing all 100,000 fish in it.

The piece also linked the increased levels of carbon dioxide being released on the planet—central to global warming—to the jellyfish explosion. The CO2 discharges are causing seawater to become more acidic. This has been harming “small creatures with acid-soluble shells that compete with jellyfish.”

It stressed overfishing, and what was described as “a vicious cycle” was outlined. “Overfishing means we need more fish farms and it also boosts populations of jellyfish which damage fish farms,” it related. “As the growing human population needs more food, that exacerbates warming, and…jellyfish prosper. The final irony: small plankton-eating fish, which compete most directly with jellyfish” are being “overfished—largely to make fishmeal, the main food for fish farms.”

The article stated: “Fisheries scientists have warned for years that we are replacing an ocean full of fish with one full of jellyfish.”

Wow, what an aquatic mess.

Now with due respect to those in the Orient who like to eat jellyfish, I must say I don’t like them at all—I can’t imagine eating them and I don’t like swimming around them.

Considering that humans are the prime culprits when it comes to the conditions that have created the huge uspsurge in jellyfish, it’s obvious that we must change course, and fast. The jellyfish explosion is sending us a very clear message.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Floating Chernobyls

Published on CounterPunch on July 27, 2010

They would be floating Chernobyls.

Russia has embarked on a scheme to building floating nuclear power plants to be moored off its coasts—especially off northern and eastern Russia—and sold to nations around the world.

“Absolutely safe,” Sergei Kiriyenko, director general of Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear energy corporation, told Reuters as the barge that is to serve as the base for the first floating plant was launched recently in St. Petersburg.

However, David Lochbaum, senior safety engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, describes an accident at a floating nuclear power plant as “worse” than at a land-based plant. “In a meltdown, a China syndrome accident, the molten mass of what had been the core would burrow into the ground and some of the radioactive material held there. But with a floating nuclear plant, all the molten mass would drop into the water and there would be a steam explosion and the release of a tremendous amount of energy and radioactive material. It would be like a bomb going off,” said Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project at Washington-based UCS.

“With a floating nuclear plant you have a mechanism to significantly increase the amount of radioactive material going into the environment,” said Lochbaum, who worked 18 years as an engineer in the nuclear industry and also for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A large plume of radioactive poisons would be formed and “many more people would be put in harm’s way.” Further, there would be radioactive pollution of the sea, he noted.

Nuclear experts in Europe—including in Russia—are as critical as Lochbaum is about floating nuclear power plants and their unique accident potential. Other issues raised include the floating plants being sources of fuel for nuclear weapons and easy targets for terrorists.

“This project is clearly a risky venture,” said Alexander Nitikin, a former chief engineer on nuclear-powered submarines of the Soviet Union and senior inspector for the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Inspection Department for its Department of Defense. He is now head of the St. Petersburg branch of the Bellona Foundation, an international environmental organization.

“Safety shouldn’t be neglected for the profits Rosatom wants to get from selling floating nuclear power plants to the troubled regions. Such Rosatom activities simply violate the idea of non-proliferation.”

“Such installations could heighten the risk of radioactive contamination of the sea and shore zones…by many times,” said Andrei Ponomarenko, coordinator for the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Project of Bellona’s chapter in Murmansk.

In a statement describing the plants “floating Chernobyls in waiting,” the main office of Norway-headquartered Bellona said that “Russia has neither the means nor infrastructure to ensure their safe operation, has made no plans for disposing of their spent fuel, and has not taken into consideration the enormous nuclear proliferation risks posed.”

“It is better to invest in solar and wind energy rather than produce time bombs,” said Vladimir Chuprov, energy projects chief for Greenpeace Russia.

Greenpeace Russia, in a report to Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, had declared that the export of the floating nuclear plants, particularly to countries in Southeast Asia with numerous terrorist groups, “creates a serious threat of terrorism and piracy on the high seas.”

The floating nuclear plants would use a far more volatile fuel compared to land-based plants: weapons-grade uranium containing 40 percent Uranium-235. The U-235 enrichment level in land-based plants is 3 percent. Each would include two reactors providing a total of 70 megawatts of electricity.

A press release by Rosatom issued with the June 30th launch of the football field-sized barge at St. Petersburg said “there are many countries, including in the developing world, showing interest” in the plants.

The Times of London has reported countries interested in buying them include China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Algeria and Argentina (“Floating Nuclear Power Stations Raise Spectre of Chernobyl at Sea.”) World Nuclear News in its article added Namibia and Cape Verde to the list

The notion of a floating nuclear power plant being pursued by Russia originated in the United States where it was scuttled because of excessive cost, public opposition and lack of energy need. Public Service Electric and Gas. Co. of New Jersey, in its literature, has related that while taking a shower in 1969 the idea of floating nuclear plants came to its vice president for engineering and construction, Richard Eckert. In the shower, Eckert thought that the sea could supply the mammoth amounts of water nuclear plants need as coolant.

PSE&G convinced Westinghouse Electric Co. to build such plants. In 1970, Westinghouse and Tenneco set up Offshore Power Systems to fabricate them at a facility it built on Blount Island off Jacksonville, Florida. The plants were to be towed into position with the first four moored l.8 miles off Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, 11 miles northeast of Atlantic City. Costs skyrocketed, there were protests—in both Jacksonville and New Jersey as well as national opposition. And because of the 1973 oil crisis energy conservation reduced PSE&G’s need for more power. In 1984, Offshore Power Systems cancelled the undertaking and dissolved after spending $180 million on the failed venture.

The most comprehensive analysis which has been done on the floating nuclear power plants Russia is now building is a book researched and written by a team of Russian scientists and titled: Floating Nuclear Power Plants in Russia: A Threat to the Arctic, World Oceans and Non-Proliferation. Its authors include: Vladimir Kuznetsov, formerly of the Russian Federal Inspectorate for Nuclear and Radiation Safety; Alexey Yablokov, a biologist, former environmental advisor to the Russian president and president of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy; Yevgeney Simonov, senior engineer at the Obninsk nuclear power plant; Vladimir Desyatov, an engineer who worked in nuclear submarine construction; and Alexander Nitikin.

“One would have imagined that the Chernobyl catastrophe would have taught us to treat nuclear technologies with caution,” begins the book. It notes that the reactor to be used on the floating nuclear plants is a version of the reactor built for Soviet nuclear-powered icebreakers and provides information on “at least six serious accidents” involving it.

As to accidents, the book says that there can be no “guarantee that” the floating nuclear power plants “will operate in the way the developers suppose. Trouble-free operations of floating nuclear power plants cannot be in principle. The only question is how serious the emergency and its consequences.” It considers the “radioactive cloud” that would be formed in an accident, and for a plant off eastern Russia, says it would impact on a “considerable proportion of Alaska.”

Moreover, in the “case of such emergency, the engaging of any serious rescuing forces and means will be extremely difficult because of remoteness and usually unfavorable weather conditions…Thus, it is completely clear that [a} floating nuclear power plant creates [a] serious threat to the nature and the population.”

In a chapter on the floating plants as “an attractive object of nuclear terrorism,” the book cites an impossibility of providing “protection from torpedo attack or from underwater saboteurs, and on the surface from a rocket-bombing strike.” Further, the “spreading” of the floating plants “all over the world will allow” this to be done “much easier and with more efficiency.” Moreover, each floating nuclear plant will contain “the ready material for ten nuclear bombs in the way of enriched uranium of weapon quality.”

It speaks of officials in several Russian regions saying they welcome the floating plants “with their desire to receive funds from the federal budget” but they do “not imagine perils and negative consequences” of the plants’ operation.

The book includes a chapter on economics asking whether the floating plants can be profitable and concludes they cannot: that the cost of construction and operation of a plant would exceed the value of the electricity it would generate. It states: “During the Soviet era, the costs of constructing a nuclear power plant were covered by governmental funding and nuclear engineers were not overly concerned about providing accurate cost calculations since they knew that any additional expenditures incurred would eventually be covered.” Now, “purely ideological arguments can no longer take precedence over economic feasibility.”

“The idea of creating floating nuclear power plants originated in the USA, but did not come to fruition due to obvious inherent economic drawbacks,” it adds.

The floating nuclear plant scheme is backed, it has been reported, by now Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “as part of a program to raise the portion of Russian electricity generated by nuclear power.”

Kiriyenko of Rosatom is extremely bullish on the project. Kiriyenko’s background is in politics: he, too, was Russia’s prime minister, but only briefly, from March to August 1998, when he was forced to resign after his financial machinations led to a devaluation of the Russian ruble and a major financial crisis that year. He was appointed as head Rosatom in 2005.

There is strong opposition in the initial area off which the first nuclear plants would be moored—the Murmansk Region. The Romir polling agency has found some 71 percent of respondents there said they were “strongly negative.”

And, “protests against the project have already occurred,” said Vitaly Servetnik, chairman of the organization Nature and Youth.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Obama Brings Back Space Nuclear Power

(Published in Summer 2010 issue of Space Alert!, publication of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power In Space --

The Obama administration is seeking to renew the use of nuclear power in space. It is calling for revived production by the U.S. of plutonium-238 for use in space devices—despite solar energy having become a substitute for plutonium power in space.

And the Obama administration appears to also want to revive the decades-old and long-discredited scheme of nuclear-powered rockets—despite strides made in new ways of propelling spacecraft. Last month, Japan launched what it called its “space yacht” which is now heading to Venus propelled by solar sails utilizing ionized particles emitted by the Sun. “Because of the frictionless environment, such a craft should be able to speed up until it is traveling many times faster than a conventional rocket-powered craft,” wrote Agence France-Presse about this spacecraft launched May 21.

But the Obama administration would return to using nuclear power in space—despite its enormous dangers.

A cheerleader for this is the space industry publication Space News. “Going Nuclear” was the headline of its editorial on March 1 praising the administration for its space nuclear thrust. Space New declared that “for the second year in a row, the Obama administration is asking Congress for at least $30 million to begin a multiyear effort to restart domestic production of plutonium-238, the essential ingredient in long-lasting spacecraft batteries.”

The Space News editorial also noted that “President Obama’s NASA budget [for 2011] also includes support for nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric propulsion research under a $650 million Exploration Technology and Demonstration funding line projected to triple by 2013.”

Space News declared: “Nuclear propulsion research experienced a brief revival seven years ago when then-NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe established Project Prometheus to design reactor-powered spacecraft. Mr. O’Keefe’s successor, Mike Griffin, wasted little time pulling the plug on NASA’s nuclear ambitions.”

Being referred to by Space News as “spacecraft batteries” are what are called radioisotope thermoelectric generators or RTGs, power systems using plutonium-238 to provide on board electricity on various space devices including, originally, on satellites.

But this came to an end when in 1964 a U.S. Navy navigational satellite with a SNAP-9A (SNAP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) RTG on board failed to achieve orbit and fell to the Earth, disintegrating upon hitting the atmosphere. The 2.1 pounds of plutonium fuel dispersed widely. A study by a group of European health and radiation protection agencies subsequently reported that “a worldwide soil sampling program carried out in 1970 showed SNAP-9A debris present at all continents and at all latitudes.” Long linking the SNAP-9A accident to an increase of lung cancer in people on Earth was Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, who was involved in isolating plutonium for the Manhattan Project.

The SNAP-9A accident caused NASA to turn to using solar photovoltaic panels on satellites. All U.S. satellites are now solar-powered.

But NASA persisted in using RTGs on space probes—claiming there was no choice. This was a false claim. Although NASA, for instance, insisted—including in sworn court depositions —that it had no alternative but to use RTGs on its Galileo mission to Jupiter launched in 1989, documents I subsequently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from NASA included a study done by its Jet Propulsion Laboratory stating that solar photovoltaic panels could have substituted for plutonium-fueled RTGs.

And right now, the Juno space probe—which will getting its on board electricity only from solar photovoltaic panels—is being readied by NASA for a launch next year to Jupiter. It’s to make 32 orbits around Jupiter and perform a variety of scientific missions.

Meanwhile, in recent years facilities in the U.S. to produce plutonium-238—hotspots for worker contamination and environmental pollution—have been closed and the U.S. has been obtaining the radionuclide from Russia. Under the Obama 2011 budget, U.S. production would be restarted. Last year, Congress refused to go along with this Obama request.

As for rocket propulsion with atomic energy, building such rockets was a major U.S. undertaking 50 and 60 years ago, under a program called NERVA (for Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application) followed by Projects Pluto, Rover and Poodle. Billions of dollars were spent and ground-testing done, but no nuclear rocket ever got off the ground. There were concerns over a nuclear rocket blowing up on launch or crashing back to Earth. The effort ended in 1972 but was revived in the 1980s under President Reagan’s Star Wars program. The “Timberwind” nuclear-powered rocket was developed then to loft heavy Star Wars equipment into space and also for trips to Mars. Most recently, Project Prometheus to build nuclear-powered rockets was begun by NASA in 2003, but ended in 2006, the cancellation referred to in the Space News editorial.

Obama’s choice to head NASA, Charles Bolden, favors nuclear-powered rockets—but he acknowledges public resistance. In a recent presentation before the Council on Foreign Relations, he opened the door to having a nuclear-powered rocket launched conventionally and moving in space with nuclear power.

Bolden, a former astronaut and U.S. Marine Corps major general, spoke in the May 24th address, of work by another ex-astronaut, Franklin Chang-Diaz, on a nuclear-propelled rocket. “Chang-Diaz is developing what’s called a VASIMIR rocket,” said Bolden. “It’s an ion engine, very gentle impulse that just pushes you forever, constantly accelerating. And this, theoretically, is something that would enable us to go from Earth to Mars in a matter of some time significantly less than it takes us now.”

But, he said, “most people…in the United States are never going to agree to allow nuclear rockets to launch things from Earth.” Yet “once you get into space, you know, if we can convince people that we can contain it and not put masses of people in jeopardy, nuclear propulsion for in-space propulsion” would enable a faster trip to Mars. He said, “You don’t want to have to take eight months to go from Earth orbit to Mars.”

Having nuclear power systems only activated once up in space was a system followed by the Soviet Union—because of it having suffered many launch pad explosions. Still, the scheme wasn’t accident-free. The worst Soviet space nuclear device accident involved its Cosmos 954 reconnaissance satellite. Its on board nuclear reactor was only activated after launch when the reactor was in orbit. But then there was a malfunction causing Cosmos 954 to tumble out of control and hurtle back to Earth, breaking up and spreading hotly radioactive debris over 124,000 square miles of the Northwest Territories of Canada.

President Obama, in a speech on “Space Exploration in the 2lst Century” given April 15 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, didn’t mention nuclear-powered rockets (not even those that would only be activated after launch). He did announce that “we will invest more than $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced heavy lift rocket—a vehicle to efficiently send into orbit the crew capsules, propulsion systems and large quantities of supplies needed to reach deep space. In developing this new vehicle, we will not only look at revising or modifying older models; we want to look at new designs, new materials, new technologies that will transform not just where we can go but what we can do when we get there. And we will finalize a rocket design no later than 2015 and then begin to build it.”

“At the same time, after decades of neglect, we will increase investment—right away—in other groundbreaking technologies that will allow astronauts to reach space sooner and more often, to travel farther and faster,” he said.

“How do we supply spacecraft with energy needed for these far-reaching journeys? These
are questions that we can answer and will answer. And these are the questions whose answers no doubt will reap untold benefits right here on Earth.”

“And by 2025,” Obama said, “we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space. So we’ll start—we’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars.”

“I want to repeat this,” Obama asserted. “Critical to deep space exploration will be the development of breakthrough propulsion systems and other advanced technologies.”

With Obama on the platform was U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida—who he introduced at the start of his speech. Nelson in 1986 was a passenger on the space shuttle (before the 1986 Challenger disaster ended the shuttle passenger program) and he is a member of Senate Science and Transportation Committee. Although Obama was not specific on the kind of spacecraft he envisioned for trips to Mars, later that day on “Hardball With Chris Matthews” on MSNBC, Nelson was—and it was Chang-Diaz’s nuclear rocket. “One of my crewmates,” said Nelson, speaking of former astronaut Chang-Diaz who was with him on the 1986 shuttle flight, “is developing a plasma rocket that would take us to Mars in 39 days.”

The object of Administrator Bolden and Senator Nelson’s technical affections, Chang-Diaz, a Costa Rican-native, the first naturalized U.S. citizen to become a U.S. astronaut, founded the Ad Astra Rocket Company after retiring from NASA in 2005. He is its president and CEO. In an interview with last year, he said the engine for his VASIMIR (for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket) could work with solar power. The engine uses plasma gas heated by electric current to extremely high temperatures.

But larger versions are needed for space travel and they require nuclear power, said Chang-Diaz. “What we really need is nuclear power to generate electricity in space. If we don’t develop it, we might as well quit, because we’re not going to go very far. Nuclear power is central to any robust and realistic human exploration of space. People don’t really talk about this at NASA. Everybody is still avoiding facing this because of widespread anti-nuclear sentiment.”

“People have fears of nuclear power in space,” continued Chang-Diaz, “but it’s a fear that isn’t really based on any organized and clear assessment of the true risks and costs.”

Comments Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space: “Despite claims that ‘new’ and innovative technologies are under development at NASA, the story remains much the same—push nuclear power applications for future space missions. Obama is proving to be a major proponent of expansion of nuclear power—both here on Earth and in space. His ‘trip to an asteroid and missions to Mars’ plan appears to be about reviving the role of nuclear power in space. The nuclear industry must be cheering.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My TV Commentary on Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Disaster

Just posted on YouTube, my TV commentary on the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is at:

Cancer and Pollution

The Health Department of New York State this month put out a first-in-the-nation cancer map showing the locations of incidences of cancer and likely sources of pollution such as hazardous waste and Superfund sites. For many places in New York, with high cancer rates and numerous sources of pollution, the map—accessible on the Internet—is a breakthrough.

Only reluctantly did the Health Department put together the map based on cancer cases between 2003 and 2007 listed in the state’s Cancer Registry and data on potentially polluting sites provided by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

As the New York Times reported, the department along with the American Cancer Society
“opposed” the mapping because of “concerns that its unfiltered data could be misinterpreted.” But Governor David Paterson “sided against his own administration in signing the legislation” which mandated the mapping, noted the Times.

The Assembly sponsor of the legislation, Richard Brodsky of Westchester County, commented that the map is a “first step in getting to answers about whether these clusters are statistical accidents or related to an environmental cause.”

The unveiling of the map came a week after the President’s Cancer Panel issued a 240-page report pointing to chemicals and radiation as key causes of cancer. It is titled “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now” and is also available online.

It states that “cancer continues to shatter and steal the lives of Americans. Approximately 61 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and about 21 percent will die from the cancer. The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing…The burgeoning number and complexity of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compel us to act to protect public health.”

The panel concludes that “the grievous harm” from carcinogens “has not been addressed adequately by the National Cancer Program…The burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated…The American people…are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures.”

It urges President Obama “most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

But will government move? For example, although the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed in 1976 requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to assess chemicals in commercial use in the U.S.—now totaling 80,000, the report notes—EPA has only gotten around to examining 200.

I wrote a book on all this titled The Poison Conspiracy, out in 1983, showing how those who are supposed to protect us from poisons—including the EPA—largely do not because of coziness with those who do the polluting.

And in a chapter on “Admitted Consequences,” I cited reports of a number of federal panels on the cancer epidemic and its pollution link including a 1980 report of the Presidential Toxic Substances Strategy Committee that found “environmental factors…are significant in the great majority of cancer cases seen, perhaps 80-90 percent.”

The American Cancer Society criticized the new President’s Cancer Panel report insisting pollution isn’t a major cause of cancer. This caused Dr. Samuel Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and author of The Politics of Cancer, to criticize the society noting the large amount of money it receives from DuPont, BP and other polluters.

The poisoning—and consequent cancer—isn’t necessary. The President’s Cancer Panel emphasizes how “the requite knowledge and technologies exist” to provide safe “alternatives” to cancer-causing agents. But this doesn’t suit those doing the polluting—who have such a hold on government.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Enviro Close-Up Programs Now Can Be Seen In Full On Your Computer

Yesterday, my partners at EnviroVideo accomplished having many of the Enviro Close-Up television programs I've hosted in the past years--plus current offerings--put up on the Internet and available to be viewed, in full, on computer. Visit and you will see a wide variety of programs you can click on and watch.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chernobyl Catastrophe: 24th Anniversary

With the 24th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster coming next week, a new book has been published by the New York Academy of Sciences which concludes that between 1986, when the accident happened, and 2004 some 985,000 people died, especially of cancer, as a result of the radioactivity that was emitted.

The 985,000 figure is based on health data, radiological reports and scientific studies—some 5,000 in all—especially from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus but from other affected nations as well.

It belies the assertion of the International Atomic Energy Agency that, as the IAEA still claims on its website, the “total number of deaths already attributable to Chernobyl or expected in the future…is estimated to be about 4,000.” That claim of the IAEA, which was set up in 1957 “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy,” has been widely reported as the toll from the disaster.

The new book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, shows it to be an extreme minimization.

It is authored by three noted scientists: Dr. Alexey Yablokov of Russia, a biologist and former environmental advisor to the Russian president; Dr. Alexey Nesterenko, a biologist and ecologist in Belarus; and Dr.Vassili Nesterenko, a physicist, and at the time of the accident director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The consulting editor is Dr. Janette D. Sherman, a Virginia-based physician and toxicologist who has long specialized on the impacts of radioactivity.

The work is comprehensive, indeed, the most encompassing study that has ever been done of the Chernobyl accident. It is anchored in strong evidence. And it is chilling.

The radioactive release from Unit 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, starting with it exploding on April 26, 1986 and ending when it stopped burning in mid-May, “was many hundreds of millions of curies, a quantity hundreds of times larger than the fallout from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” notes the book.

The “winds around Chernobyl” kept changing, covering 360-degrees “so the radioactive emissions from the mix of radionuclides varied from day to day and covered an enormous territory.” The radioactive poisons included Cesium-137, Plutonium, Iodine-131 and Strontium-90, among others.

A country-by-country breakdown of where they fell out, with the detailed measurements taken and maps, follow. The list starts with Belarus—“Practically the entire country of Belarus was covered by the Chernobyl cloud”—and on to Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom and so on to Asia and North America, where “some 1% of all Chernobyl radionuclides…fell.”

The consequences on public health are exhaustively analyzed, first “General Morbidity, Impairment, and Disability.” Again, the grisly list starts with Belarus where, it is noted: “According to data from the Belarusian Ministry of Public Health, just before the catastrophe…90% of children were considered ‘practically healthy.’ By 2000, fewer than 20% were considered so.” Rises in nonmalignant diseases including blood and cardiovascular diseases are examined.

There is a focus on genetic impacts with records showing an increase in “chromosomal aberrations” cited. This will continue through the “children of irradiated parents for as many as seven generations.” Thus, “the genetic consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe will impact hundreds of millions of people.”

And then comes cancer—with records illuminated by charts showing the increases in various countries of childhood cancer, thyroid cancer, leukemia and other cancers. For Ukraine, for instance, “According to official data, the general [cancerl] mortality rate in the heavily contaminated territories was 18.3 per 1,000 in 1999, some 28% higher than the national average of 14.9 per 1,000.”

Considering health data of people in all nations impacted by the fallout, the “overall [cancer] mortality for the period from April 1986 to the end of 2004 from the Chernobyl catastrophe was estimated as 985,000 additional deaths.”

Moreover, “the concentrations” of some of the poisons, because they have radioactive half-lives ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 years, “will remain practically the same virtually forever.”So “the number of Chernobyl victims will continue to grow in the next several generations.”

The book investigates, too, the impact on flora, fauna and animals. It presents numerous studies, including those finding rapid genetic alterations, and, as to animals, notes “serious increases in morbidity and mortality that bear striking resemblance to changes in the public health of humans—increasing tumor rates, immunodeficiencies, decreasing life expectancy…”

The book concludes: “The Chernobyl catastrophe demonstrates that the nuclear industry’s willingness to risk the health of humanity and our environment with nuclear power plants will result, not only theoretically, but practically, in the same level of hazard as nuclear weapons.”

Dr. Sherman, speaking of her experience editing the book, commented: “Every single system that was studied—whether human or wolves or livestock or fish or trees or mushrooms or bacteria—all were changed, some of them irreversibly. The scope of the damage is stunning.”

In his foreword, Dr. Dimitro Grodzinsky, chairman of the Ukranian National Commission on Radiation Protection, writes about how “apologists of nuclear power” sought to hide the real impacts of the Chernobyl disaster from the time when the accident occurred. The book “provides the largest and most complete collection of data concerning the negative consequences of Chernobyl on the health of people and the environment...The main conclusion of the book is that it is impossible and wrong ‘to forget Chernobyl.’”

The claim that “only” 4,000 people will die as a result of the Chernobyl catastrophe is among the biggest lies of modern times.

The Chernobyl disaster should not only be remembered but must not be allowed to be repeated—which will happen regularly if the forces behind nuclear power get their way in their effort to “revive” nuclear power and build more nuclear plants.

Those in operation now need to be shut down and no more built—and a rapid transition made to clean, safe energy technologies available today, led by solar and wind power, which don’t kill people and other forms of life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Offshore Oil Drillilng Stupidity

Larry Penny, the director of natural resources here in East Hampton Town on Long Island, tells of being out in a small boat having taken friends to the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara, California when a blow-out on an offshore oil rig resulted in a massive oil spill in 1969.

The oil on the Pacific Ocean through which his boat needed to travel was “about a foot thick,” he recouns. He only barely made it through the “black mess” and got back. “It sure choked up the motor.” The next day he went up in a small plane and saw the devastation from the air. The “wind had been blowing from the west” and the shoreline was coated with oil.

Penny was a fisherman, ran an aquarium and was a teacher in Santa Barbara at the time. The spill was a pivotal event for him—and many others. It resulted in the organization Get Oil Out (GOO) demanding an end to the drilling—and today the waters from Santa Barbara to north of San Francisco have been declared marine sanctuaries and no longer is there offshore oil drilling there.
Thus the announcement last week by President Obama that he is moving to open up large sections of offshore waters to oil drilling—including the Atlantic from Delaware to Florida, a stretch also barred to drilling for decades—is seen as an outrage by Penny.

The waters off Long Island are not—now—part of what Obama wants opened to drilling. But Penny notes that spilled oil travels far and Delaware and Maryland are not that distant—especially considering frequent southerly winds and the Gulf Stream off our coast, both of which would send black goo north. Moreover, those rigs would go up right in hurricane alley.

And the East Coast stands to be far more damaged by an oil spill than the West Coast, notes Penny, considering that it is lined with wetlands, the feeding and breeding grounds of sea life. “Once oil gets in the marshes, that’s it.”

“This is completely unnecessary,” protests Penny. The technologies for clean, renewable energy are here today waiting to be fully implemented. “In this day and age this is ridiculous.”

It would be a huge threat to marine life, the fishing industry and the recreational industry which serves as an economic base for much of the East Coast. As New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg said last week, Obama’s gift to “Big Oil” is a “kill baby kill policy. It threatens to kill jobs, kill marine life and kill coastal economies that generate billions of dollars.”

It was exactly 40 years ago, in 1970, that as a reporter for the daily Long Island Press
that I broke the story of the oil industry seeking to drill in the offshore Atlantic. I got a tip from a fisherman in Montauk who said he had seen in the ocean east of Montauk the same sort of vessel as the boats he observed searching for oil when he was a shrimper in the Gulf of Mexico.

I spent the day telephoning oil companies. PR people for each said their companies were not involved in searching for oil in the Atlantic. But at day’s end, as I was walking out of the office, there was a call from a PR guy at Gulf saying, yes, Gulf was involved in exploring for oil in the Atlantic—as part of a “consortium” of 32 oil companies. These included the companies which all day issued denials. It was a first lesson in oil industry honesty, an oxymoron.

I traveled widely on the issue including in 1971 visiting the first drilling rig set up in the Atlantic, off Nova Scotia. The process was fraught with danger. A rescue boat went round and round the rig as the man from Shell Canada explained: “We treat every foot of hole like a potential disaster.” An oil well blow-out, a gusher, is one thing on land and another entirely on water. The Shell Canada official acknowledged that curtains, booms and other devices the oil industry still claims clean up spills “just don’t work in over five foot-foot seas.”

In 1974, the President’s Council on Environmental Quality stated that a major spill along the Atlantic Coast “could devastate the areas affected…the Atlantic [is a] hostile environment for oil and gas operations. Storm and seismic conditions may be more severe than in the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico.” There were strong Congressional, state and local challenges and the Atlantic was closed to offshore oil drilling.

The Republican presidential slate, John McCain and Sarah Palin, advocated offshore oil drilling. Obama, as a candidate, opposed it. As president, Obama has—as he earlier did on nuclear power—done a complete reversal. “This is stupid,” said Penny. It sure is and needs to be stopped with citizen action and Congressional, state and local opposition.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Obama Goes Nuclear

Published on Counterpunch February 17, 2010.

Is there any chance that President Barak Obama can return to his long-held stand critical of nuclear power? Is he open to hearing from scientists and energy experts, such as Amory Lovins, who can refute the pro-nuclear arguments that have apparently influenced him?

Obama’s declaration in his State of the Union speech on January 27 about “building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country” marked a significant change for him. His announcement Tuesday on moving ahead on $8.3 billion in federal government loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants and increasing the loan guarantee fund to $54.5 billion was a further major step. Wall Street is reluctant to invest money in the dangerous and extremely expensive technology.

Before taking office, including as a candidate for president, Obama not only was negative about atomic energy but—unusual for a politician—indicated a detailed knowledge of its threat to life.

“I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal and so I am not a nuclear energy proponent,” Obama said at a campaign stop in Newton, Iowa on December 30, 2007. “My general view is that until we can make certain that nuclear power plants are safe, that they have solved the storage problem—because I’m opposed to Yucca Mountain and just dumping…in one state, in Nevada particularly, since there’s potentially an earthquake line there—until we solve those problems and the whole nuclear industry can show that they can produce clean, safe energy without enormous subsidies from the U.S. government, I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and bio-diesel and strategies [for] alternative fuels.”

As he told the editorial board of the Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire on November 25, 2007: “I don’t think there’s anything that we inevitably dislike about nuclear power. We just dislike the fact that it might blow up…and irradiate us…and kill us. That’s the problem.”

Yes, that’s the big problem with splitting the atom—one that has existed since the start of nuclear power and will always be inherent in the technology. Using the perilous process of fission to generate electricity with its capacity for catastrophic accidents and its production of highly toxic radioactive poisons called nuclear waste will always be unsafe. And it is unnecessary considering the safe energy technologies now available, from solar, wind and other clean sources.

Just how dangerous it is has been underlined in a book just published by the New York Academy of Sciences, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. Written by a team of scientists led by noted Russian biologist Dr. Alexey Yablokov, using health data that have become available since the 1986 accident, it concludes that the fatality total “from April 1986 to the end of 2004 from the Chernobyl catastrophe was estimated at 985,000 additional [cancer] deaths.” This is in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries where Chernobyl’s poisons fell. The toll, they relate, continues to rise.

Chernobyl was a different design from the nuclear plants which the U.S., France and Japan seek now to build but disasters can also happen involving these plants and they, too, produce the highly toxic nuclear waste poisons. The problem is fission itself. It’s no way to produce electricity.

Obama has been aware of this. As he stated at a Londonderry, New Hampshire town meeting on October 7, 2007: “Nuclear power has a host of problems that have not been solved. We haven’t solved the storage situation effectively. We have not dealt with all of the security aspects of our nuclear plants and nuclear power is very expensive.”

He still left the door open to it. His Energy Plan as a candidate stated: “It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power from the table. However, there is no future for expanded nuclear without first addressing four key issues: public right-to-know, security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and [nuclear weapons] proliferation.”

In his first year as president, nuclear power proponents worked to influence him. Among nuclear opponents, there has been anxiety regarding Obama’s two top aides, both of whom have been involved with what is now the utility operating more nuclear power plants than any other in the United States, Exelon.

Rahm Emanuel, now Obama’s chief of staff, as an investment banker was in the middle of the $8.2 billion merger in 1999 of Unicom, the parent company of Commonwealth Edison of Chicago, and Peco Energy to put together Exelon. David Axelrod, now a senior Obama advisor and formerly chief campaign strategist, was an Exelon consultant. Candidate Obama received sizeable contributions from Exelon executives including from John Rowe, its president and chief executive officer who in 2007 also became chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the U.S. nuclear industry’s main trade group.

It’s not only been nuclear opponents who have seen a link between Exelon and the Obama administration. Forbes magazine, in its January 18th issue, in an article on John Rowe and how he has “focused the company on nuclear,” displayed a sidebar headlined, “The President’s Utility.” It read: “Ties are tight between Exelon and the Obama administration,” noting Exelon political contributions and featuring Emanuel and Axelrod with photos and descriptions of their Exelon connections.

The Forbes article spoke of how last year “Emanuel e-mailed Rowe on the eve of the House vote on global warming legislation and asked that he reach out to some uncommitted Democrats. ‘We are proud to be the President’s utility,’ says Elizabeth Moler, Exelon’s chief lobbyist,” the article went on. “It’s nice for John to be able to go to the White House and they know his name.’”
Chicago-based Exelon’s website boasts of its operating “the largest nuclear fleet in the nation and the third largest in the world.” It owns 17 nuclear power plants which “represent approximately 20 percent of the U.S. nuclear industry’s power capacity.”

The climate change or global warming issue is another factor in Obama’s change on nuclear power. An Associated Press article of January 31 on Obama’s having “singled out nuclear power in his State of the Union address and his spending plan for the next budget,” began: “President Barack Obama is endorsing nuclear energy like never before, trying to win over Republicans and moderate Democrats on climate and energy legislation.”

MSNBC’s Mike Stuckey on February 9 reported about “Obama’s new support for nuclear power, which some feel may be a down payment for Republican backing on a climate change bill.”

After the “safe, clean nuclear power” claim, Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, declared: “Politically, Obama likely was simply parroting the effort being led by Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham to gain support for a climate bill by adding massive subsidies for nuclear power, offshore oil and ‘clean’ coal. But recycling George W. Bush energy talking points is no way to solve the climate crisis or develop a sustainable energy policy…Indeed, Obama knows better. Candidate Obama understood that nuclear power is neither safe nor clean.”

Climate change has been used by those promoting a “revival” of nuclear power—there hasn’t been a new nuclear plant ordered and built in the U.S. in 37 years—as a new argument. In fact, nuclear power makes a substantial contribution to global warming considering the overall “nuclear cycle”—uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication and the disposition of radioactive waste, and so on.

Climate change is also one argument for pushing atomic energy of another major influence on Obama on nuclear power, Steven Chu, his Department of Energy secretary. Chu typifies the religious-like zeal for nuclear power emanating for decades from scientists in the U.S. government’s string of national nuclear laboratories. Chu was director of one of these, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, before becoming head of DOE.

First established during World War II’s Manhattan Project to build atomic weapons, the laboratories after the war began promoting civilian nuclear technology—and have been pushing it unceasingly ever since. It has been a way to perpetuate the vested interest created during World War II. The number of nuclear weapons that could be built was limited because atomic bombs don’t lend themselves to commercial distribution, but in pushing food irradiation, nuclear-powered airplanes and rockets, atomic devices for excavation and, of course, nuclear power, the budgets and staffs of the national nuclear laboratories could be maintained, indeed increase.

That was the analysis of David Lilienthal, first chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, which preceded the Department of Energy. Lilienthal in his 1963 book Change, Hope, and the Bomb wrote: “The classic picture of the scientist as a creative individual, a man obsessed, working alone through the night, a man in a laboratory pushing an idea—this has changed. Now scientists are ranked in platoons. They are organization men. In many cases the independent and humble search for new truths about nature has been confused with the bureaucratic impulse to justify expenditure and see that next year’s budget is bigger than last’s.”

Lilienthal wrote about the “elaborate and even luxurious [national nuclear] laboratories that have grown up at Oak Ridge, Argonne, Brookhaven” and the push to use nuclear devices for “blowing out harbors, making explosions underground to produce steam, and so on” which show “how far scientists and administrators will go to try to establish a nonmilitary use” for nuclear technology.

Chu, like so many of the national nuclear laboratory scientists and administrators, minimizes the dangers of radioactivity. If they didn’t, if they acknowledged how life-threatening the radiation produced by nuclear technology is, their favorite technology would crumble.

A major theme of Chu, too, is a return to the notion promoted by the national nuclear laboratories in the 1950s and 60s of “recycling” and “reusing” nuclear waste. This way, they have hoped, it might not be seen as waste at all. The concept was to use radioactive Cesium-137 (the main poison discharged in the Chernobyl disaster) to irradiate food, to use depleted uranium to harden bullets and shells, and so on. In recent weeks, with Obama carrying out his pledge not to allow Yucca Mountain to become a nuclear waste dump, Chu set up a “blue-ribbon” panel on radioactive waste—stacked with nuclear power advocates including Exelon’s John Rowe—that is expected to stress the “recycling” theory.

“We are aggressively pursuing nuclear energy,” declared Chu in January as he announced DOE’s budget plan—which included an increase in the 2011 federal budget in monies for nuclear loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants cited by Obama Tuesday. “We are, as we have repeatedly said, working hard to restart the American nuclear power industry.”

The $8.3 billion in loan guarantees Obama announced Tuesday is to come from $18.5 billion in guarantees proposed by the George W. Bush administration and authorized by Congress in 2005. “My budget proposes tripling the loan guarantees we provide to help finance safe, clean nuclear facilities,” said Obama Tuesday, referring to the DOE plan which would add $36 billion and bring the loan guarantee fund to $54.5. And this despite candidate Obama warning about “enormous subsidies from the U.S. government” to the nuclear industry.

The $8.3 billion in loan guarantees is to go toward the Southern Company of Atlanta constructing two nuclear power reactors in Burke, Georgia. These are to be AP1000 nuclear power plants designed by the Westinghouse nuclear division (now owned by Toshiba) although in October the designs were rejected by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as likely being unable to withstand events like tornadoes and earthquakes.

Obama’s change of stance on nuclear power has led to an earthquake of its own politically. MoveOn, the nonprofit advocacy group that has raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates including Obama, gauged sentiment of his State of the Union speech by having10,000 MoveOn members record their views. Every few seconds they pressed a button signaling their reactions—ranging from “great” to “awful.” When Obama got to his line on energy, the overwhelming judgment was awful. “The most definitive drop in enthusiasm is when President Obama talked about nuclear power and offshore drilling,” said Ilyse Hogue, MoveOn’s director of political advocacy. “They’re looking for clean energy sources that prioritize wind and solar.”

“Safe, clean nuclear power—it’s an oxymoron,” said Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace USA. “The president knows better. Just because radiation is invisible doesn’t mean it’s clean.”

“From a health perspective, the proposal of the Obama administration to increase federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors poses a serious risk to Americans,” said Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project. “Adding new reactors will raise the chance for a catastrophic meltdown. It will also increase the amount of radioactive chemicals routinely emitted from reactors into the environment—and human bodies. New reactors will raise rates of cancer—which are already unacceptably high—especially to infants and children. Public policies affecting America's energy future should reduce, rather than raise, hazards to our citizens."

As to government loan guarantees, “The last thing Americans want is another government bailout for a failing industry, but that’s exactly what they’re getting from the Obama administration,” said Ben Schreiber, the climate and energy tax analyst of Friends of the Earth.

“It would be not only good policy but good politics for Obama to abandon the nuclear loan guarantee program,” said Mariotte of NIRS.

After Obama’s Tuesday declaration on loan guarantees, Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project of the organization Beyond Nuclear, said: “Unfortunately, the president’s decision is fuel for opposition to costly and dangerous nuclear power. It signals a widening of a divide as the administration steps back from its promise for a change in energy policy and those of us who are committed to a change.”

“We are deeply disturbed by President Obama’s decision,” said Peter Wilk, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Not only does this put taxpayers on the hook for billions, it prioritizes a dirty, dangerous, and expensive technology over public health. From the beginning to the end of the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear reactors remain a serious threat to public health and safety. From uranium mining waste to operating reactors leaking radioactivity to the lack of radioactive waste solutions, nuclear power continues to pose serious public health threats.”
Nuclear opponents have been disappointed in a lack of access to the Obama White House of those with a critical view on nuclear power—who could counteract the pro-nuclear arguments that Obama has been fed. Will President Obama open himself to hearing from those who question nuclear power?

Obama has credibility trouble already. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote
on January 26: “Who is Barack Obama? Americans are still looking for the answer…Mr. Obama may be personally very appealing, but he has positioned himself all over the political map…Mr. Obama is in danger of being perceived as someone whose rhetoric, however skillful, cannot always be trusted. He is creating a credibility gap for himself, and if it widens much more he won’t be able to close it.”