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Bush’s New Energy Plan Denounced by Massachusetts Citizens Groups
by Linda Setchell
19 Jun 2001
Modified: 21 Jun 2001
A diverse coalition of environmental groups, public health advocates and religious committees turned out for a rally today in front of the Department of Energy building to urge an overhaul in the Bush Adminstration's Energy Plan.
Calling for a smarter, cleaner energy policy than the one recently proposed by the Bush Administration, over 100 people turned out for a rally today in front of the Department of Energy’s building in Kendall Sq. The rally coincided with a public hearing held today by the DOE, which is seeking comments on the Bush Administration’s Energy Plan.
“Our message today is simple: the Department of Energy needs to get serious about supporting energy efficiency and clean, renewable alternatives,” remarked Phil Fitzpatrick of Clean Water Action.
The Bush Administration’s plan calls for an 813% increase in funding for coal research, while cutting solar energy research by 54% and wind energy research by 51%. “This energy plan is taking us back to the Dark Ages, while the rest of the world speeds into the 21st Century,” said Fitzpatrick.
Despite the Bush Energy Plan’s backwards trajectory, there appears to be strong support for increased emphasis on renewables such as solar and wind.
US Senator Kerry stated, “An energy revolution can begin today by discarding the failed policies of the past and embracing the possibilities of technology. By raising energy efficiency and increasing our use of renewables, we will protect the public’s health and our environment, strengthen our national security, and still bolster the economy.”
The Bush Energy Plan opens with the recognition that there is a “fundamental imbalance between supply and demand” currently defining the nation’s energy crisis. However, rather than recognizing the problems associated with the US fossil fuel dependency, the Bush administration proposes to plow ahead with an extensive plan for extending US reliance on fossil fuels.
Highlights of the plan include:
-Increasing extraction and reliance on domestic coal, oil and natural gas
-Increasing use of hydropower and nuclear sources
-Opening of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge for exploration
-Allocation of $2 billion over 10 years to fund clean coal technology research
The Bush Energy Plan’s perception of alternative energy options can be summed up in the following statement from the Plan’s Executive Summary, “Renewable and alternative fuels offer hope for America’s energy future. But they supply on a fraction of present energy needs. The day they fulfill the bulk of energy needs is still years away.”
It appears as if Bush’s Energy Plan intends to keep that day far in the future.
For more information about the plan or how you can submit comments to the Department of Energy contact Phil Fitzpatrick at 617-338-8131.
Nuclear Power - dirty, dangerous, expensive
by M. Lampert
lampert (nospam) adelphia.net (unverified)
21 Jun 2001
MASSACHUSETTS CITIZENS FOR____
29 Temple Place, Boston MA 02111 -  292-4821 ph *  292-8057 fax
148 Washington Street, Duxbury MA 02332 -  934-0389 ph*  934-5579 fax
June 19, 2001
The Department of Energy’s announcement stated that the recently released National Energy Policy (NEP) recommended a review of the current funding and performance of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency (EE) and Renewable Energy (RE) Programs. Public meetings, such as the one here in Boston, were scheduled to elicit comment to help with the review. Massachusetts Citizens for Safe Energy, a statewide public interest group with over 2,000 members, is pleased to have the opportunity to offer comment on the EE and RE programs.
1. Bias – EE/RE programs held to a different standard
All other energy sources mentioned in the NEP – nuclear power, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, “clean coal” technologies – should be required to undergo the same line of questioning, justification, and public meetings for their continued funding before receiving any DOE R&D money. If they fail to meet the standards for justification that are required for EE/RE programs, they should be immediately terminated. Each energy source should be held to the same standard.
2. Lack of visible advance public notice for hearing
There was little advance public notice of the Boston hearing and for the few that happened to become aware – a woefully short timeline to prepare.
3. Cost/Effectiveness Comparisons
The administration asked for cost/benefit comparisons in the NEP. They were not fully performed.
What is needed is a study of the cost savings that would result from the aggressive expansion of EE/RE compared to nuclear power and fossil fuels - using a target of 20% renewables by 2020.
“Fuzzy math” must be avoided in doing these calculations. Creative accountants know cost calculations can vary greatly. It depends what you count. The following, for example, must be factored into any analysis comparing nuclear power.
Cost of building a nuclear plant – capital costs.
Operations and maintenance and fuel costs
Waste disposal costs
Low level waste: cleanup existing sites-
search for future sites-
High level waste: total cost estimated to build one site, $49.2 billion estimated,
and more than one site is needed-
costs guarding waste site for millions years it remains toxic-
Transportation accidents to site, DOE estimates 260 accidents at
$620 million to clean up one small sized accident-
remediate existing sites
Accident remediation : Price Anderson limits industry liability to $7 billion, Chernobyl estimated to exceed $350 billion-
Air quality enhancement –
Uranium miners, workers and public’s diseases/ deaths-
Nuclear weapons and materials proliferation
An honest cost benefit analysis will clearly demonstrate that nuclear energy is far and away the most expensive way to generate electricity and EE/RE the cheapest.
Dept. of Energy’s Energy Efficient and Renewable Programs
There is nothing wrong, on paper, with the concepts behind each of DOE’s efficiency and renewable programs. But to work, they need proper funding. They need to be prioritized.
Unfortunately, this has not happened in the past and is not happening now. When comparing US government subsidies for nuclear, solar and wind, the nuclear power industry has received the majority (96.3%) of $150 billion in investments since 1947, according to the Renewable Energy Policy Project. That is $145 billion for nuclear reactors and $5 billion for wind and solar. Nuclear subsidies have cost the average American household a total amount of $1,411 (1998 dollars) compared to $11 for wind. Blowing our money in the wrong direction.
If the Bush administration made them a priority, EE/RE could become mainstream solutions to our long- term energy needs.
Lack of adequate funding
Back in 1991, the Deputy Secretary of Energy Henson Moore reported to then President George Bush,
Energy efficiency and renewables are basically the cleanest, cheapest, and safest means of meeting our growing energy needs in the 1990’s and beyond.
Instead of following this advice, the administration then and now has given the lion’s share of taxpayer subsidies to the “traditional” energy sources such as coal, oil and nuclear – all of which are proven to be dirty, dangerous and costly.
At the same time, the administration has dramatically curtailed funding for EE/RE programs. Energy efficiency R&D programs were slashed over 30% and renewable energy R&D programs by $136 million – nearly 50% in some cases. For a few specific examples in Bush’s 2002 DOE budget - funding for hydrogen technology slashed by 48.3%. Funding for biomass was cut 6.7%; geothermal research cut by 48.3%; fuel cell research cut by 14.3%; and solar cut by 53.7%.
This approach to our energy needs is backwards.
Instead, MCSE calls on DOE to support expanded funding for the renewable and efficiency programs. This can be accomplished by providing no new subsidies for nuclear power and fossil fuel and by phasing out existing subsidies by 2020, at the latest. It is simply a matter of priorities - the public’s welfare - health and pocketbooks - or the nuclear and fossil fuel’s corporate welfare.
Why did the budget turn out as it did? Bush, Cheney and the Secretary of DOE paid back their financial supporters - oil, coal, gas and nuclear power. Look at who was appointed by the administration to the energy “advisory team” - the team that came up with the NEP. It consisted of 62 people. 52 have present or past affiliation with the fossil fuel (36) or nuclear power (20) industry and contributed a total of more than $8 million to the Republican candidates in 1999-2000. Only one has primary expertise in energy efficiency and none experience in renewables.
Some important implications NEP –
Shortchanging efficiency and renewables, subsidizing nuclear and fossil fuels,
robbing our citizens’ pocketbooks, health/ safety and potential jobs
In outlining the President’s energy plan, Vice President Cheney stated that nuclear power should be expanded because it is a clean, safe and efficient way to meet our future energy needs. Nothing could be further from the truth.
1. Radioactive Waste: Far from being “clean,” nuclear power produces the “dirtiest” and longest-lasting contamination of any power source. The radioactive waste that nuclear power cannot avoid will be dangerous for hundreds to millions of years. There is no known way to safely store these wastes and no state wants to be the nation’s dumping ground. Neither do communities want radioactive waste transported over their roads and rails.
There have been in the US six so-called "low-level" radioactive waste dumps; all six have leaked. There is no repository for the mountain of “high-level” waste, the used fuel rods, now “temporarily stored” at our nation’s reactors.
Even if the current generation of nuclear reactors operates only until the end of current licenses, the Nuclear Waste Fund will be at least $12 Billion dollars short of what is required to provide long-term safe storage.
According to the Department of Energy, if more reactors are built to meet growing energy demands, the waste volume could increase to between 500,000 tons and 700,000 tons. As it is, Yucca Mountain is years behind schedule, and current cost estimates place the program above $50 Billion, if it’s ever completed. How much more will have to be collected from ratepayers if existing licenses are extended, or a new generation of waste producing reactors should come on line? Why is the public responsible for their waste, anyway, when other industries take responsibility for their own mess?
To comprehend the magnitude of the problem, consider the following.
During each year of operation, a 1,000 megawatt nuclear plant – no matter how advanced its design – produces as much long-lived radioactive poison as dose the explosion of about 1,000 nuclear bombs. The electricity is used but some of the poison remains radioactive for well over a 1000 years – more than 40 generations.
Evidence from the past 30 years establishes that exposure to low-dose radiation is considerably worse for health that we knew, and that the danger is proportional to dose, right down to zero dose. Of course poisons cannot hurt anyone if they are perfectly contained/isolated. Radioactive releases from proposed and current nuclear plants and waste facilities are very possible. No design can defeat the actions of an inside terrorist. None can seriously guarantee what will happen in 40 generations. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island were all caused by human error.
If ten new nuclear plants each operate for 30 years they would commit posterity to isolating (containing) additional radioactive poisons equivalent to the long lived poisons produced from exploding 300,000 Hiroshima bombs: 1000 bombs/year per plant * 10 plants * 30 years. The poison generated by just 10 plants would be 20 times more than all the long-lived radioactive fallout from all the atmospheric nuclear bomb tests conducted by the US, UK and USSR combined - about 13,000 Hiroshima equivalents ( based on Radioactive Heaven and Earth, The Health and Environmental Effects of Nuclear Weapons Testing In, On and Above the Earth, A Report of the IPPNW International Commission To Investigate Health and Environmental Effects of Nuclear Weapons Production and the Institute of Energy and Environmental Research, 1991,ISBN 1-85649-021-1,p.35).
2. Radiation Pollution: Nuclear reactors release radioactivity to the air and water as part of their normal day-to-day operation, not only in the event of an “accident” such as Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. Yet, there is no safe dose of radiation. Many studies have demonstrated that low, constant levels of radiation exposure can cause cancer and genetic mutations. The footprints of radiation-linked disease can be seen in communities surrounding our nuclear reactors, waste sites, reprocessing facilities and mines.
3. Risk of a serious accident: A basic point is that there is no guarantee that an accident will never happen. That is why the federal government requires emergency planning. It is argued, rather convincingly, that the risk of an accident is greater today than in the past. For example, plants are older and there is an increased threat of terrorism with nuclear power plants as potential targets.
4. Risks from a terrorist attack or inside saboteur The Physicians for Social Responsibility have called nuclear plants “land mines waiting to be stepped upon.” They are the “soft-underbelly” of national security and represent attractive targets to terrorist groups, Timothy McVeighs and other “nuts.”
Consider that a nuclear plant houses more than 1000 times the radiation as released in a Hiroshima sized atomic bomb. A single attack could bring about 100,000 deaths and the immediate loss of tens of billions of dollars in property loss. The land and property destroyed would remain useless for decades. Homeowner’s policies do not cover nuclear disasters. If one “nuke” were successfully destroyed, simply threatening additional attacks would instill the kind of terror sought after by terrorists
The insider sabotage problem can not be discounted, either. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a list of well over 120 acts of sabotage at US nuclear plants. Most were perpetuated by disgruntled employees working at every job level - including control room operators and security guards.
5. The Risk of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: Every year, every current US nuclear reactor, on average, produces enough plutonium to make 40 nuclear bombs. All of this must somehow be stored, safe from any potential terrorist. More reactors equal more threat.
6. Uneconomic: Even if radiation and plutonium were inherently safe, nuclear power still would not make economic cents. Nuclear power never was, nor ever will be, “too cheap to meter.”
A June 12,2001 study released by Public Citizen, Consumers in Nuclear States Pay 25 Percent More For Electricity analysis showed that in states that use nuclear power to generate electricity have significantly higher electric rates – on average 25% higher. The higher the state’s reliance on nuclear power, the higher their electric rates.
Building costs: It costs at least $5 to $7 BILLION dollars to build a nuclear power plant, many times over any original estimate given. Once built, nuclear power plants cannot compete.
Stranded costs: To make the new “deregulated” industry competitive, ratepayers, i.e., individual citizens, in 11 states are now being forced to pay billions in hidden, so-called "stranded costs", without which the price of electricity from a “nuke” would be so high that no plant could continue to operate in a competitive market. Pilgrim NPS, alone, cost Massachusetts’ ratepayers over a billion in stranded costs.
Price-Anderson Act Renewal: The Cheney-Bush energy plan will call for renewal of the Price-Anderson Act, which limits nuclear industry liability in the event of an accident. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, no licensee would build or operate a reactor if it were not shielded from the potential liability that could be accrued from a nuclear accident (upwards of $300 Billion in property damage and thousands of deaths and injuries). Vice President Cheney repeated this on May 15, 2001 in an interview with Reuters. Cheney stated that without the Price Anderson Act, “Nobody’s going to invest in nuclear plants.”
No other hazardous industry enjoys such liability protection—an indication of just how dangerous nuclear power is. A mature industry with a good safety record would not need the Price-Anderson Act.
The Price-Anderson Act limits total industry liability to about $7 Billion (some proposals have called for this number to be increased somewhat). This is far short of the potential. Taxpayers would have to make up the difference. Accidents involving reactors using MOX (plutonium-based) fuel, under the DOE’s proposed MOX program, would be substantially more severe than the same accident with a reactor using conventional uranium fuel. In addition, accidents at MOX-fueled reactors are somewhat more likely.
Waste disposal: As mentioned above, Yucca Mountain is years behind schedule, and current cost estimates place the program above $50 Billion, if it’s ever completed. Much more money will have to be collected from ratepayers if existing licenses are extended, or a new generation of waste producing reactors should come on line. The guess is that two high level waste sites will be needed. Millions more will be spent on futile searches for additional “low level” waste sites.
If we used just a portion of these monies for renewables (solar, wind, fuel cells) we would have plenty of electricity and very little wastes or health risks. Using the “yard stick” of economic feasibility, the nuclear option is a complete failure.
Anyone who recommends a "nuclear revival" has not reconciled the costs.
7. Unreliable: Nuclear power is not only expensive but also unreliable. When a large nuclear reactor goes down – and as they age, they will go down more often –large amounts of replacement power are needed – but not always available. Since the beginning of the 21st century, at least eight nuclear power plants have been forced to shut down due to equipment failures caused by aging - the well-kept secret behind California’s recent power outages.
8. Proposed Pebble-Bed Modular Reactor – untested, unsafe
A new nuclear technology to generate electricity called the pebble-bed modular reactor is getting considerable mention as the type of nuclear reactor most likely to be built in the United States in the future, most likely on present nuclear sites – Plymouth, Rowe, Seabrook, Vt. Yankee. Any idea that it is safe and economical should be put to bed, here’s why.
Fire can cause meltdown. Burning graphite caused Chernobyl. Industry claimed that Chernobyl would not happen here because our nuclear plants use far less graphite. But, each proposed pebble-bed reactor would use more highly flammable graphite than is presently used in all existing US nuclear power plants combined.
Plant workers, either by mistake or by design, can trigger an accident, such as those that occurred at nuclear reactors in Florida (St. Lucie), Illinois (Dresden), New York (Indian Point) and Alabama (Browns Ferry). Poor management can result in large off site radioactive releases, such as those that occurred at Pilgrim (MA) in 1982. Can some unexpected component failure cause fuel damage, as occurred in Michigan (Fermi Unit 1)?
Proponents of the pebble-bed reactor falsely claim that it is relatively cheap to build. Pebble-bed reactors achieve this “cost advantage” through a combination of subsidies and safety short cuts. The proposed reactor replaces the steel-lined, reinforced concrete containment structures used in our existing nuclear plants with a far flimsier enclosure. The NRC's own Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards criticized this as a "major safety trade-off."
As with any wall, reactor containment walls can be breached both from within and from the outside. Existing nuclear power stations have remarkably poor security records, and are prime targets for terrorist attacks - Timothy McVeigh. A fertilizer truck bomb could easily pierce through such a thin shell, exposing the public to millions of curies of lethal radioactivity: a true nuclear nightmare.
The proposed pebble-bed modular reactor has never been constructed or operated in the world. Consequently, its expected performance characteristics are highly speculative. It would be foolish to endorse a risky technology with unproven safety performance. Nuclear experiments belong in the laboratory, not in anyone’s backyard.
Conclusion: Extending the life of existing old and degrading reactors, and the birth of a new generation of reactors, may be the choice of the Bush Administration. It is the wrong choice; the rest of us have far better options – demanding that efficiency and conservation is funded and prioritized.
We could replace nuclear power by 2030 simply by properly funding renewables and efficiency plants – saving our health and pocketbooks
Bush-Cheney say that we need 1,300 new power plants by the year 2020. One plant a week for the next 20 years. This means more sickness from emissions, more risk, more toxic waste, higher electric bills, and EE/RE leadership overseas – fewer jobs.
Further, this figure is based on a misleading DOE report. It assumes no change in energy demands and continuing to underfund efficiency and renewables.
According to the 2000 Interlaboratory Working Group on Energy Efficient and Clean Energy Technologies – a recent working group reporting to DOE – implementing a comprehensive energy efficient strategies would result in a demand reduction of 24% from the business-as-usual consumption rates that would otherwise be reached by 2020. This would reduce the 1,300 new plant projection down to 700. And, using fully existing renewable energy technologies- hydrogen, fuel cell technology, wind turbines, photovoltaic modules, solar thermal and biomass – could increase generation by these renewable sources 75% by 2030.
This combination of demand reduction and increased usage of renewables would be enough to replace nuclear power by 2030 – making us safer and richer.
Loss of Jobs – leadership in efficiency/renewables overseas
Inconsistent and insufficient funding of renewable energy over the past twenty years has cost the United States its leadership role in, for example, solar and wind electric power industries.
Denmark and Germany presently produce the majority of wind electric power systems and Japan has overtaken the US in solar electric or photovoltaic production.
This is short sighted. The lack of R&D money is particularly damaging to Massachusetts’ technologically based economy.
We support the 20-20 plan outlined in Chicago and signed on by 23 Illinois environmental groups.
For the Nation:
1. A 20-20 plan which would result in 20% of all electricity generation from truly renewable energy resources (wind, solar, select forms of biomass) by the year 2020, to be accomplished by the adoption of a National Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS);
2. Doubling of federal support for energy efficiency and conservation;
3. No new subsidies for fossil fuel and nuclear power, and a phase out of existing subsidies by the year2020;
4. Actual US CO2 greenhouse gas reductions of 7% from 1990 levels should be achieved by 2010;
5. Emission reductions and caps on the 4 major fossil fuel pollutants: NOx, SO2, mercury, and CO2 by 2007; and retrofit or closure of “grand-fathered” coal plants that fail to meet modern emission standards by the year 2007;
6. No new nuclear plant construction;
7. Increasing vehicle fleet mileage for cars and light trucks to 40 mpg by 2010 and 65 mpg by 2020;
8. No drilling for oil or natural gas on sensitive public lands such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, on or under the Great lakes, or in the Banks off the Massachusetts’ Coast.
9. No renewal of current operating licenses for nuclear plants prior to the year 2020.
We especially hope that the mistakes of the past will be reversed so that clean, cheap and safe energy sources will be subsidized rather than nuclear - the dirtiest, most dangerous and costly.
We thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony and trust that the views expressed herein will be incorporated in the National Energy Policy so that the environmental, health and economic interest of our citizens are protected.
Sincerely on behalf of Massachusetts Citizens for Safe Energy
148 Washington Street, Duxbury MA 02332