NIRS is launching a new campaign today, called #NuclearIsDirty. Over the next twelve weeks, we will be rolling it out through a series of online events, publications, and social media forums. #NuclearIsDirty is a forum to inform the public of the real environmental impacts of nuclear power, from the mining of uranium and production of reactor fuel, all the way through to the long-term storage and management of radioactive waste.
The rollout series will follow the story of that nuclear fuel chain, combining technical information with testimony from real people whose communities are affected. As you know from our commentary and advocacy in the pages of GreenWorld, NIRS is committed to a nuclear-free, carbon-free world, and strong action on global warming and climate justice. We believe the transition to 100% renewable energy is not just possible, it is necessary.
The human and environmental costs of nuclear power are not abstract. They are not an “accident,” though so-called accidents are what most people think of. As Mary Olson’s reports from Japan over the last few weeks show, real people are hurt by nuclear power. Real communities are destroyed. Whole regions can be devastated–environmentally, economically, and socially. And while nuclear plant disasters like Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island are the most dramatic and well-known examples, they are just the tip of the iceberg.
So when the nuclear industry mounts an expensive public relations campaign to label nuclear power as “clean” energy, that is no joke. But why launch #NuclearIsDirty now?
The five-year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster–and the upcoming thirtieth of Chernobyl–makes for appropriate timing. But the real reasons are much more important and immediate.
We need to end the myth of “clean nuclear power.” For the last two years, GreenWorld has monitored a new wave of efforts to bail out and prop up nuclear power. The industry’s objectives are primarily financial: subsidizing their increasingly uneconomical power plants against competition from cheaper and cheaper renewable energy sources. That has included both attacking renewable energy programs, as well as proposing new subsidies for old reactors.
This has proven a pretty tight needle for nuclear lobbyists to thread, and has not met with much success, so far. Strong opposition from renewable energy supporters and cost-sensitive energy consumers has blocked most of the industry’s subsidy proposals from moving forward so far. But the industry is playing a long game, working to change perceptions of nuclear power, at least in the minds of policymakers.
One of the consistent messages they are pushing is that nuclear power is “clean energy.” They are repeating it over and over again, in op-eds, press releases, and through paid spokespeople. It’s a tried and true PR strategy: if you tell a lie often enough and long enough, people will start to believe it. And if you are looking for a good fig leaf for a corporate bailout in the era of climate change, they are betting this is a good one. There are signs that the industry’s message is starting to take hold: when Exelon introduced its nuclear bailout bill in Illinois last year, it labeled the subsidy scheme a “Low-Carbon Energy Standard.”
But fast forward 12 months later, to the nuclear subsidy proposed in New York. It is embedded in the governor’s proposed Clean Energy Standard, along with a 50% by 2030 renewable energy goal. The state is trying to justify the policy by stating that it can’t meet its carbon emissions goals if any of the state’s reactors close before 2030, and describes nuclear power as a “bridge” to clean energy.
That’s the real reason for the #NuclearIsDirty campaign. You can’t build a “bridge” to clean energy on top of radioactive waste. Nuclear power is too expensive and too slow to solve the climate crisis, but it is also too dirty and too dangerous to justify. If countries choose nuclear as a climate solution, they are also choosing to target communities for everything that goes along with it: uranium mining and milling, radioactive discharges and leaks, radioactive waste … and of course, nuclear disasters. All of this adds up to mountains of long-lived and poisonous waste, leaching into groundwater; spilling into rivers, lakes and oceans; venting into the air; contaminating the land; and being ingested by humans, animals, and plants alike. That is the real story of nuclear power. And it has to be told.
This week, we are leading with a national telebriefing on the U.S.’s worst nuclear disaster: the Church Rock uranium waste spill in 1979. It will feature presentations by key experts and activists working with the largely Native American communities still affected by the spill of 1,000 tons of uranium mill tailings waste:
· Uranium mining expert Chris Shuey of the Southwest Research and Information Center
· Leona Morgan, community organizer and activist with Dine No Nukes
· Tommy Rock, environmental consultant and Dine No Nukes member
You can get all the details and register for the briefing here.
Please attend the events, share them with your friends, and support the campaign.
March 15, 2016
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