Plant Vogtle, part II

Well, Tuesday certainly was a good day for the nuclear industry, especially here in Georgia.

Georgia Public Service Commission OKs Georgia Power’s Vogtle plant expansion beginning in 2011 but rejects proposal to lower customer bills.

Not only did Georgia’s Public Service Commissioners agree to have customers pre-pay for these new reactors, but they also rejected a  proposal that would have eased the burden on customers during the reactors’ first years of operation, by a 4-to-1 vote.

Does this not make the name “Public Service Commission” the biggest Orwellianism ever created?  Maybe not.  Lest we forget, Georgia’s House of Representatives approved a ‘deal’ by which the really huge users of power, those who might actually benefit markedly from a big grid project like a nuke, and who already pay substantially lower rates than the hoi polloi, are 100% exempt from the privilege of the Southern Company’s double-dipping.  Aren’t these ‘representatives’ supposed to be representing real human Georgians?  Ah yes, Orwell again.

In the whole Machievellian scene, the most chilling line, and yet another bow to 1984, came from commissioner Lauren McDonald, who asks  “Can we all agree that nuclear energy is green?”  As my redneck buddies would say, “Do what?”

Eric Epstein, whom we interviewed for our Three Mile Island commemorative project, and who heads the Three Mile Island Alert group and is a board member of the Sustainable Energy Fund, scoffs at this notion–‘somewhere between a disingenuous propaganda tidbit and an out and out lie.’ Beyond the issues of nuclear waste -which one can never dispose of- and the inevitable radiation risks attendant on running nuclear plants, he analyzes another set of facts that further illustrate that the  nuclear industry’s claim to ‘greenness’ is total bunk.

“There’s huge aquatic impact from nuclear power, not just water use, and it has to be factored into play. They emit pollution. Toxic, caustic. They emit green house gases. Is it to the degree of coal? No. But it’s still a contributing factor.   […] The(se) same people (who) complain about coal, are burning coal! Utilities that own the nuclear power plants also burn coal. The debate shouldn’t be between arsenic and cynanide. I reject that categorically. ‘You have to either have arsenic or cyanide’…It’s funny, because the industry says “oh my God, coal’s so dark”, but it’s like “dude! … you own the coal plant down the road!'”

Mary Olson, South East Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service would disagree as well.  Nuclear power is anything but green, and in particular, she brings up the issue of the misnomer ‘nuclear recycling’.  Nuclear reprocessing, which industry PR geniuses have taken to labelling ‘nuclear recycling’ so as to make it sound more ‘green’, is a highly toxic process which is only capable of rescuing 1% of the spent fuel.  And this measly 1% consists of Plutonium 239, which is primarily a superstar in its nuclear weapons” role, acting as a ‘trigger’ for every hydrogen bomb on earth.  It can run reactors, though of course the downside is double doses of cancers, double doses of other toxic side effects, and much higher helath and safety risks across the board.

Rosalie Bertell, an epidemiologist who founded the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, states that even plants that, unlike TMI, have suffered no accidents, constantly release radioactive liquids, solids, and gases into the environment, effluents which the industry does not monitor and which are nevertheless demonstrably responsible for debilitating and lethal health effects, ranging from cancer to heart disease to chronic anemia.

I would respond to Commissioner McDonald’s definitely disingenuous and quite possibly hypocritcal question with another query:  “which of these incontrovertible aspects of nukes are the green aspects to which you refer?”  The damage to the water supply, the ill-named ‘nuclear recycling’ program, or the long-term health effects of anyone living anywhere near a nuclear plant?

I can only conclude by repeating:

True enough, we face stark choices about energy.  And we may have little option, at some juncture, other than to rub the nuclear lamp again and hope that the genie their turns out to be friendlier than we feared.  At the very best, we will be buying the new reactors at Plant Vogtle at a cost that is dear but about which we have little choice.  And that’s at the very best.  At worst, and much more likely, given even more copious data that the discerning can see, we are signing a death warrant for unknown legions of our children and grand children, all to enrich the already fabulously wealthy.

And they’ve managed to get us to pay in advance.  It’s crazy, at the best.

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