Boston Readers respond to article on Nuclear Industry Growth

Boston Globe, Letters to the editor


Enormous risk for taxpayers


September 27, 2009

MARVIN FERTEL of the Nuclear Energy Institute is right about one thing: an Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the Waxman-Markey climate bill did indeed state that by placing a cost on carbon, the bill would encourage the construction of some 187 new nuclear reactors in the United States (“Nuclear must be part of energy equation,’’ Op-ed, Sept. 21).

You’d think such a competitive boon would be enough for the nuclear industry. But no, they also want taxpayers - rather than electric utilities - to take the financial risk of building new nuclear reactors. And with recent cost estimates for new reactors ranging from $9 billion (Turkey Point, Florida) to $15 billion (Bell Bend, Pennsylvania), that’s an enormous risk for taxpayers to take.


What Fertel doesn’t mention is that the Clean Energy Development Administration proposed in the Waxman-Markey bill is quite different from that proposed in the Senate energy bill. Waxman-Markey would require annual congressional authorization and oversight, wisely limit any single technology from receiving more than 30 percent of the bank’s capital, and place priority on the fastest, cheapest means of achieving carbon reductions.

By contrast, the Senate version would remove congressional oversight and authorization and instead allow a nine-member unelected board to give unlimited taxpayer loan guarantees for new reactor construction.

With a 50 percent default rate on nuclear loans predicted by the Congressional Budget Office, such a program would quickly spiral into a nuclear industry bailout that would make the auto industry bailout look like small potatoes.

Michael Mariotte 

Executive director Nuclear Information and Resource Service Takoma Park, Md.  




Consider impact first


September 27, 2009

THERE ARE at least five strong arguments against nuclear power being more than a minor part of the response to climate change (“Nuclear must be part of energy equation,’’ Op-ed):

There is no current or imminent plan for permanent disposal of high-level nuclear waste in the United States.

Addressing climate change through nuclear power means spreading nuclear technology worldwide. We already see how this leads to nuclear proliferation in places such as Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea. This also may heighten the risk of nuclear terrorism.

Unintended releases of radiation from nuclear power plants, while rare, can be catastrophic (witness Chernobyl), and may be more likely as nuclear spreads to countries with less experience with the technology than the United States.

Nuclear is not really carbon neutral. The mining and processing of uranium, the building of power plants, and their decommissioning release carbon. A full accounting must consider the complete life cycle.

Finally, but not least important, mining and processing uranium ore has had devastating consequences for workers and nearby communities, often indigenous peoples.

Before we jump on the nuclear bandwagon, we need to appraise all the impacts and consider other alternatives, such as solar and wind, that have substantially less downside.

Doug Brugge 


The writer was co-editor of the book “The Navajo People and Uranium Mining.’’