Nuclear power isn't the answer to energy or environmental problems

March 4, 2009

By Eric Epstein



The CEO of Westinghouse recently argued in the Post-Gazette 

that nuclear power can help cure global warming and make America

 energy independent ("Nuclear Empowered," Forum, Feb. 22).

The problem is, the numbers don't add up and our cars don't run 

on uranium pellets. Don't be fooled again by the same people 

who brought you electricity "too cheap to meter."


Ask your friendly nuclear power plant to answer four questions about:


Nuclear waste

Every nuclear reactor produces 30 metric tons of high-level 

radioactive waste per year. This is nuclear garbage without 

a forwarding address sitting in a swimming pool in your backyard. 

Three Mile Island is home to hundreds of tons of spent fuel 

and a melted reactor that has not been decontaminated or 

decommissioned. An island in the middle of a river that empties

into the Chesapeake Bay is not an ideal nuclear waste site.

When is the nuclear industry going to solve the problem they 

told us not to worry about 40 years ago? Would you buy a house 

from a developer who promised to install a sewer line 40 years 

after you began flushing?


Greenhouse gases

Nuclear-fuel production in America creates chlorofluorocarbons. 

The enrichment of uranium in Kentucky releases large amounts 

of CFCs, which are more damaging as a global warmer than 

carbon dioxide. CFCs remain the primary agent for stratospheric 

ozone depletion. The production and importation of 

chlorofluorocarbons was banned as part of a global treaty 

(the Montreal Protocol, 1987), and by the federal government 

(Clean Air Act Amendments, 1990). CFCs were supposed 

to be phased out, but the chemical can still be used until 

supplies run out.

From the moment uranium is mined, milled, enriched, fabricated 

and transported it releases large quantities of airborne pollutants, 

as well. What is the nuclear industry's plan to cut its 

greenhouse-gas emissions?


Water and fish kills

Communities and ecosystems that depend on limited water 

resources are adversely affected by nuclear plants, which 

draw millions of gallons a day and return water at elevated 

temperatures. Every year millions of fish, fish eggs, shellfish 

and other organisms are sucked out of the water and killed 

at such plants as those at Peach Bottom and Three Mile Island.

During the 2002 drought, 34 Pennsylvania counties were 

designated as "drought emergencies;" another 31 were placed 

on "drought watch." Last fall, 53 were placed on "drought watch."

 In both instances, Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties (where 

Three Mile Island and Peach Bottom are located) were placed 

on the watch list. Yet both plants were exempted from water 

conservation efforts. Should nuclear power plants continue to 

be exempt from drought restrictions?


Cost of fuel

The price for uranium ore rose every month in 2007, peaking at 

$120 a pound. Processed nuclear fuel crested at $95 that year. 

This was the same "low-cost" fuel that sold for $7 a pound in 2001.

America imports 84 percent of its nuclear fuel from such dependable 

foreign allies as Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as Australia 

(when their mines aren't flooded). The price now rotates around 

$50 per pound. Why is America replacing a foreign oil dependency 

with an expensive, foreign nuclear fuel dependency?


Memory is a funny thing: It only works when activated. It's your wallet.

It's your rivers. It's your back yard.

 Eric Epstein is the chairman of Three Mile Island Alert Inc., a "safe-energy" 

organization based in Harrisburg.