We lost 88-2. - National Radioactive Waste Coalition

We lost 88-2.

Thanks to all who worked to stop this monumental disaster nuclear bill S870. Thanks to Rep Doggett and 12 others (in house in May) and Senators Markey and Sanders (in Senate June 18th) for voting No.

“Passage of this legislation will only increase the danger to people already living downwind of nuclear facilities from a severe accident or terrorist attack, and it will make it even more difficult for communities to prevent risky, experimental reactors from being sited in their midst.” 

Ed Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists.
Cooling Towers 4 (left) and 3 are shown on May 31 at the nuclear reactor facility at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Waynesboro, Georgia.
Cooling Towers 4 (left) and 3 are shown on May 31 at the nuclear reactor facility at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Waynesboro, Georgia. Mike Stewart/Associated Press

View the Press Statement from Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS):

Senate Nuclear Fetishists Take Lid Off of Pandora’s Box

19 June 2024

David Kraft, Director, NEIS

CHICAGO—In a lopsided 88-2 vote (with 10 not voting, including Sen. Richard Durbin), the Senate passed S.870 – the so-called ADVANCED Act, a bill which quite literally takes the lid off of the nuclear safety box, both domestically and internationally.

So proud and confident were the Senators in nuclear power’s promises, rather than being introduced as stand-alone legislation, the 93-page bill had to be snuck into the 3-page Fire Grants and Safety Act – a bill reasonably assured to pass at a time when huge parts of the nation are again in the process of burning to the ground.

Using the logic similar to that of an adolescent purchasing a first car (“If it’s red, fast, and a convertible – that’s it! What could go wrong?”), bill advocates trotted out the usual litany of at best contestable at worst discredited arguments for its passage:  nuclear is clean and green, is needed to fight the climate crisis, creates jobs, and is over-regulated.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the bill’s lead sponsor, (quite erroneously) stated, “Today, nuclear power provides about 20% (18.2% in 2022; 18.6% in 2023) of our nation’s electricity. Importantly, it’s emissions-free electricity (allowed to release radionuclides into the air and water, below regulatory limits) that is 24/7, 365 days a year. (except for outages and maintenance)”

While critics of the legislation warned of significant weakening of regulatory oversight built into the bill, John Starkey, director of public policy at the pro-nuclear American Nuclear Society, stated the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), “is a 21st century regulator now.”

That statement alone should send shivers up the spine, since that list would include: the FAA allowing Boeing to self-regulate in designing the 737-MAX, resulting in two crashes and hundreds of deaths, and the revelation that sub-standard parts have been manufactured into new planes; Norfolk Southern preventing desperately needed rail safety measures from passing in Congress, resulting in the East Palestine train disaster; and the federal pipeline regulatory agency PIMSA being asleep at the wheel, resulting in the Sartortia, Mississippi CO2 pipeline explosion.

Of course, the posterchild for abdication of regulatory obligation is the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  The 2012 National Diet of Japan report, “The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission” states clearly what happens when regulators become lapdogs:

“The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between government, the regulators, and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties.  They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents….We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual.” [p.16.]

If any of this sounds familiar – it should.  As the late great Yogi Berry would have remarked – deja vu, all over again.

Residents of Illinois – the most nuclear state in the U.S., which recently repealed its nuclear construction moratorium, opening the door to new reactors – might begin to feel some elevated distress, but – relax.  There’s nothing you can do about it, since homeowners are unable to obtain private insurance coverage against nuclear disasters.

Nuclear safety expert Dr. Ed Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists had this to say about the ADVANCED Act:

“It’s extremely disappointing that, without any meaningful debate, Congress is about to erase 50 years of independent nuclear safety oversight by changing the NRC’s mission to not only protect public health and safety but also to protect the financial health of the industry and its investors.  Just as lax regulation by the FAA—an agency already burdened by conflicts of interests—can lead to a catastrophic failure of an aircraft, a compromised NRC could lead to a catastrophic reactor meltdown impacting an entire region for a (many) generations.

“Make no mistake: This is not about making the reactor licensing process more efficient, but about weakening safety and security oversight across the board, a longstanding industry goal.  The change to the NRC’s mission effectively directs the agency to enforce only the bare minimum level of regulation at every facility it oversees across the United States.

“Passage of this legislation will only increase the danger to people already living downwind of nuclear facilities from a severe accident or terrorist attack, and it will make it even more difficult for communities to prevent risky, experimental reactors from being sited in their midst.”

The Biden Administration legislation of the past few years has lavished more than $7 billion on the development of experimental, still non-existent “small modular nuclear reactors” (SMNRs) as a way to fight climate change. Yet, only one design has passed NRC licensing muster to date, and these reactors will not be commercially available in sufficient numbers to have an appreciable effect on climate disruption until well into the 2030s – assuming the proposed designs actually work.

As alarming as the domestic implications of the ADVANCED Act are, the international implications can be devastating.  The Act fast-tracks the development of SMNRs, which nuclear industry companies intend to sell oversees.  Some of these reactor designs require fuel that is more highly “enriched” – just barely below weapons-grade concerns – than that used in contemporary reactors.  Currently, the only available source for this fuel – called “HALEU”, for “high assay low-enriched uranium” – is RUSSIA.  Another design, using a different fuel concept, requires specially refined carbon, the main source of which is CHINA.

It is not unreasonable to ask:  just where would SMNRs have been placed in, say – Mariupol, Ukraine?  Or in Gaza?  Or any of the other world hot spots?  Again, not an unreasonable line of questioning since a recent priority of the Biden Administration is to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia – where apparently the sun no longer shines, and journalists are hacked to pieces for covering such controversial topics.

Viable alternatives to nuclear expansion do exist: renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, and transmission improvements are ALL cheaper, quicker to implement, reduce carbon emissions, produce no radioactive wastes, create no nuclear proliferation issues, and, most importantly – ALREADY EXIST.  Nothing more needs to be invented; just implemented.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stated in December, 2023 that roughly 2,600 giga-watts (GW) of electric power projects – over twice the entire electrical use of the US, and roughly 27 times the entire output of all current US reactors combined.  The large majority of this backlog are renewable energy projects awaiting connection access to the aging transmission grid.  New EXISTING transmission technologies like reconductoring could double the capacity of the grid, creating greater ease of access for renewables and storage.

To summarize, The ADVANCE ACT:

•           kick-starts more radioactive releases and exposures using tax dollars;

•           spreads contamination to more places in the US and abroad;

•           ignores the potential increased harm from nuclear reactors large and small;

•           creates more intensely radioactive fuel;

•           provides less regulatory oversight;

•           exports nuclear tech and materials to other countries, and

•           allows foreign control of nuclear sites within our homeland.

Yet, the nuclear zealots continue to pour tax dollars into the nuclear power black hole by means of the ADVANCED Act.  This legislation was indeed a Trojan Horse – filled with killer bees. And they don’t make honey.

*                       *                       *

Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) was formed in 1981 to watchdog the nuclear power industry, and to promote a renewable, non-nuclear energy future.

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