Nuclear energy is dirty energy.To call nuclear power “clean” is an affront to justice, science, human rights and common sense. Nuclear power releases toxic radiation on a routine basis and has a substantially higher carbon footprint than renewables. Nuclear reactors require immense quantities of water and rely on a vast and polluting nuclear fuel chain simply to function, threatening human health and contaminating the environment. Bailing out aging nuclear power plants in the American Jobs Plan will only stall progress in the fight against climate change by squandering our best chance at transforming our energy system with cleaner, safer, renewable options.
Nuclear power is a waste of money in the fight against climate change.The proposed inclusion of a $100 billion nuclear bailout in the American Jobs Plan would slash the budget for solar, wind, and other renewable energy. We cannot continue to let nuclear energy block the growth of solar, wind, and other clean, safe, renewable energy sources that are the only real solution to climate change.
Nuclear power is unjust.From mining, milling, enriching, transporting, reprocessing, and storing radioactive fuels and waste, in addition to the risks of catastrophe and radioactive releases involved in operating nuclear reactors, the harms of nuclear power oppress marginalized communities along race, class, and gender lines. In a report issued in May, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council expressed opposition to nuclear power, noting that nuclear projects would not “benefit a community.” (from NIRS fact sheet on Nuclear Bailouts in the American Jobs Plan)
Nuclear Power Is DeadMultiple issues in Europe are highlighting the case against nuclear power: the weaponizing of nuclear reactors, as seen at Zaporizhia in Ukraine; over half of France’s reactors shut down because of overheated rivers, corrosion damage, and staff shortages; the ever growing amount of nuclear waste; the colossal expense to construct and operate nuclear plants; inflexibility of supply, etc.
Too Slow, Too Expensive, Too DirtyNuclear energy is not a climate solution, because all new nuclear reactors take 10-19 years or more between planning and operation, and costs 4-5 times per kWh as new wind or solar energy.
There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. All plants also emit from the water vapor and heat they release. This is in contrast with solar panels and wind turbines. “Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security” (by Mark Jacobson, Stanford University):
Industrial PromotionThe nuclear power industry spends a large amount of money on lobbying, campaign contributions, and advertising in its efforts to manipulate the public’s concerns about the climate crisis and energy insecurity, so that it can promote nuclear power as “clean energy.”
In reality, nuclear energy is a dirty, dangerous, and expensive form of energy that poses serious risks to human health, national security, and U.S. taxpayers.
“Nuclear Energy is Dirty Energy” – Nuclear Information & Resource Service
Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive: The Truth About Nuclear Power” – Physicians for Social Responsibility
Climate change and nuclear power: An analysis of nuclear greenhouse gas emissions – Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen report link [PDF]
Cost overruns are common.Plant Vogtle in Augusta, Georgia, is expected to cost $30.34 billion, not including the $3.68 billion that original contractor Westinghouse paid to the owners after going bankrupt, which would bring total spending to more than $34 billion.
When it comes to building a nuclear power plant in the United States—even of a well-known design—the total bill is often three times as high as expected. Using a new analytical approach, the researchers delved into the cost overrun from non-hardware-related activities such as engineering services and labor supervision. Tightening safety regulations were responsible for some of the cost increase, but declining labor productivity also played a significant role. Analyses of possible cost-reduction strategies show potential gains from technology development to reduce materials use and to automate some construction tasks. Cost overruns continue to be left out of nuclear industry projections and overlooked in the design process in the United States.”Nancy W. Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative News , 25 Nov. 2020
France’s experience shows the flaws.France is proving that nuclear power is not the reliable 24/7 energy source that it claims to be. Fully-fledged renewables are faster, cheaper, and lower risk than nuclear power, which has become even more expensive. Even as the cost of solar and wind energy generation, as well as battery storage, plummets by the year—in 2020 alone onshore wind costs declined by 13%, and those of utility-scale solar photovoltaics by 7%—the bill for new nuclear sites continues to soar. The price differential means that renewables generate many more times the electricity per dollar invested than does nuclear, and thus they decrease emissions by a greater factor, too.
Renewable Costs Down, Nuclear Costs Up“In economic terms, renewables continue to pull away from nuclear power, over the past decade the cost estimates for utility-scale solar dropped by 89 percent, wind by 70 percent, while nuclear increased by 26 percent.”—Antony Froggat, coauthor, “World Nuclear Industry Status Report” (WNISR2020)
Quoted in Nuclear Energy—The High Cost of a Dying Industry, Energy News Today 6 October 2020, Johnna Crider https://newsforenergy.com/coal/nuclear-energy-the-high-cost-of-a-dying-industry
Many Stages, All with DangersThe many stages of the entire nuclear fuel chain, from uranium extraction to resulting wastes, require resources and create radioactive contamination at every facility along way. In regions with multiple sources of pollution, communities are impacted by many combined factors that include health problems, increased pollution and environmental contamination, increased traffic and risks of accidents, economic liabilities, etc. These issues are not limited to those specific to a particular nuclear project, but include the full spectrum of issues in a given community.
In its report Considering Cumulative Impacts (1997) [PDF] the Council on Environmental Quality quotes the definition of cumulative impacts given in federal law: “the impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions” (40 CFR ~ 1508.7).
Unpredictable consequences are likely.Undoubtedly, the consequences of human activities will vary from those that were predicted and mitigated. Projecting cumulative effects in planning any sort of project is the only way to effectively avoid or minimize adverse consequences, essential to developing appropriate mitigation and monitoring its effectiveness. This is perhaps especially true with nuclear energy, with its long-lived radioactivity. https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/nepapub/nepa_documents/RedDont/G-CEQ-ConsidCumulEffects.pdf
A long process with no clear endingDecommissioning is the process of dismantling closed nuclear power plants and removing radioactive waste while lowering the site’s residual radioactivity to safer levels. Traditionally, decommissioning takes decades to complete. Unfortunately, there is no regulatory requirement to conduct comprehensive, objective assessments of site contamination nor are there adequate clean-up standards to remediate the contaminated sites.
Emergency Planning/AccidentsWhen nuclear accidents happen, they can be extremely disastrous.
There have been far more nuclear accidents and incidents than most people realize.
There are numerous applications of nuclear energy that use radiological sources that can cause uncontrolled radioactive emissions.
Detailed posts of nuclear accidents between 2011 and 2019, including many Fukushima updates.
Other accidents have been related to nuclear weapons.The U.S. military uses the term “Broken Arrow” to refer to an accident that involves nuclear weapons or their nuclear weapons components, but does not create the risk of nuclear war. Since 1950, the Defense Department has reported 32 “Broken Arrows”. However, there are many other incidents involving nuclear arsenal that don’t make that list.
And we are woefully unprepared.Are you in a nuclear evacuation zone? Are you prepared?
Emergency Preparedness: Nuclear emergency-preparedness campaign, 1999–2019.
Principles of Environmental JusticeDelegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held on October 24-27, 1991, in Washington DC, drafted and adopted 17 principles of Environmental Justice. Since then, The Principles have served as a defining document for the growing grassroots movement for environmental justice.
How Uranium Becomes Nuclear FuelUranium goes from ore to waste through the nuclear fuel cycle. After mining, uranium concentrate is separated from uranium ore at uranium mills or from a slurry at in-situ leaching facilities. It is then processed in conversion and enrichment facilities, which increases the level of U-235 to 3%–5% for commercial nuclear reactors, and made into reactor fuel pellets and fuel rods in reactor fuel fabrication plants. Nuclear fuel is loaded into reactors and used until the fuel assemblies become highly radioactive and must be removed for temporary storage and eventual disposal.
The Dangers of Tritium.Nuclear facilities emit very large amounts of tritium, the radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Tritium binds with organic matter to form organically bound tritium with long residence times in tissues and organs. The Hazards of Tritium, ianfairlie.org
All ionizing radiation is harmful.Ace Hoffman: Book, “The Code Killers” – Why DNA and ionizing radiation is a dangerous mix [PDF]
Gender is a major factor in determining who suffers harm from exposure to ionizing radiationRadiation is more harmful to girls and women genderandradiation.org/basics
Established health organizations continue to minimize radiation’s health risks.
IndependentWHO exposes the World Health Organization’s lies
Hanford Site: the Most Toxic Place in AmericaKarl Grossman interviews Joshua Frank, managing editor of Counterpunch, who wrote Atomic Days, The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America. The Hanford Site, a nuclear production complex set up by the Manhattan Project along the Columbia River in the State of Washington, “has produced nearly all the radioactive fuel used in the nuclear arsenal of the United States”, is “laced with huge amounts of radioactive gunk”, and “is a ticking time bomb that could erupt at any given moment, creating a nuclear Chernobyl-like explosion, resulting in a singular tragedy that would be unlike anything the United States has ever experienced”. The costs of cleaning up Hanford “keep escalating” with the U.S. Department of Energy and are currently estimated anywhere between $316 billion and $662 billion. “Atoms for Peace” is nothing but pronuclear propaganda. The greatest risks associated with the nuclear fuel cycle are weapons proliferation and related risks, such as military strikes on nuclear plants. The nuclear industry and its supporters have developed an elaborate set of tactics and myths to trivialize the proliferation risks.
Nuclear power is NOT necessary for “national security”The nuclear power industry has long maintained that it has no connection whatsoever to nuclear weapons proliferation, but they are now arguing that it deserves public support, saying that a strong nuclear power sector needs to be maintained in western countries so that they can maintain a capability to constrain the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Their logic is disingenuous and unconvincing.
“The connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons have always been very close and are largely kept secret. Most governments take great pains to keep their connections well hidden.
“The civil nuclear power industry grew out of the atomic bomb programme in the 1940s and the 1950s. In Britain, the civil nuclear power programme was deliberately used as a cover for military activities.
“Military nuclear activities have always been kept secret, so the nuclear power industry’s habit of hiding things from the public was established right at its beginning, due to its close connections with military weapons.”
NRWC Video: Nuclear Waste on the Frontlines – False Solutions and Guiding Principles
NRWC Briefing March 31, 2022
EESI Congressional briefings:Toward an Evidence-Based Nuclear Energy Policy: What Congress Needs to Know About Nuclear Decommissioning, Radioactive Waste, and Nuclear Energy as a Climate Strategy
BACKGROUND INFORMATION FOR THE EESI CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING: TOWARDS AN EVIDENCE-BASED NUCLEAR ENERGY POLICY: Gaps in Research, Regulation, Policy, and Practice in the U.S. Nuclear Industry, and What Policymakers Can Do to Bridge Them March 30, 2021
What Congress Needs to Know About Pending Nuclear Waste Legislation November 13, 2020
Decommissioning: A New Era in the U.S. Nuclear Power Industry; a Critical Need for Congressional Oversight May 13, 2019
Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants: What Congress, Federal Agencies and Communities Need to Know July 16, 2018
Price-Anderson ActIn 1957, the United States Congress passed the Price-Anderson Nuclear Indemnity Act in an effort to support the spread of nuclear energy. As countless insurance agencies had refused to insure nuclear power plants against potential damages and accidents, the Act established so-called “risk funds”—paid by the nuclear power plant operators—to compensate those affected by nuclear accidents. In 2011, these funds held over $11.6 billion. As of 2019, the NRC reported this balance to be ~$12.9 billion. environmentandsociety.org/tools/keywords/price-anderson-nuclear-indemnity-act
Fact Sheet on Nuclear Insurance and Disaster Relief Funds [PDF]
Spent nuclear fuel reprocessing is a complex chemical process that dissolves spent nuclear fuel in acid and separates its various constituents: uranium, plutonium and highly radioactive isotopes known as “fission products.”
There has been renewed interest in reprocessing, partly based on false claims by the reprocessing industry that the technology simplifies the nuclear waste disposal problem by reducing the hazard and volume of waste. These claims are contradicted by recent data from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which show that reprocessing greatly increases the total volume of radioactive waste, compared to direct disposal of spent fuel.
Reprocessing would not reduce the need for storage and disposal of radioactive waste. However, it would make it easier for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons materials, and for nations to develop nuclear weapons programs. Commercial-scale reprocessing facilities handle so much of this material that it has proven impossible to keep track of it accurately in a timely manner, making it feasible that the theft of enough plutonium to build several bombs could go undetected for years. A reprocessing facility would become a dump for the largest, most lethal source of high-heat radioactivity in the United States and possibly the world.
Reprocessing is dangerous, dirty and expensive. We are better off investing in renewable energy and conservation, rather than pouring billions of dollars into this costly and very risky endeavor.
Nuclear energy is created when neutrons collide and split uranium atoms (fission), an ongoing process (chain reaction) controlled by neutron-absorbing “control rods.” This fission process produces energy that is used to heat water to about 520°F (271°C). The steam from the hot water is used to spin turbines, which are connected to generators, in turn producing electricity.Uranium is the main fuel for nuclear reactors. It is one of the least plentiful minerals, but its radioactivity makes it a plentiful supply of energy, 300 million times that of coal. However, the danger comes in terms of the length of time that uranium stays radioactive—Uranium 238, the most common form, has a “half-life” (the time until half of its radioactivity decays) of 4.5 billion years. Uranium mining is done with a process similar to coal mining, with both open-pit and underground mines. U-238 must be converted to U-235 to power a reactor; it can also be processed into plutonium, which is used by the military industry. The U-235 is further processed into U-308 and shaped into small pellets. These are packed into 12’ rods, which are then bundled together into fuel assemblies and used in the reactor core. Most reactors in the United States use ordinary “light” water as a coolant, hence the facilities are located near large bodies of water from which they draw massive amounts of water. Other coolants, such as deuterium (“heavy water”), helium, liquid metal, or sodium, may also be used.
Originally, “spent” fuel that has been used in a reactor was to be reprocessed into new fuel. However, as one of the byproducts of the reprocessing is plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, that plan was ended for security reasons back in the mid-1970s. (Reprocessing is also more expensive than fuel from new uranium).
Radioactive waste continues to build up at reactor sites across the country: first, for years in cooling pools, using electricity to circulate water, and then, indefinitely, in steel canisters inside concrete casks. ucsusa.org/resources/how-nuclear-power-works accessed 15 Jan. 2022
Small modular nuclear reactors: under 300 megawatts electric output, supposedly factory-built modules.Since the AP 1000 fiasco, these have been the nuclear industry’s new reactor focus until the recent emergence of falsely-labelled “advanced” reactors (which are more accurately labelled speculative reactors). Speculative reactors include both light water and non-light water technologies. Speculative reactors can be larger than 300 megawatts.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is certifying another small modular nuclear reactor (SMnR) design by NuScale, it was announced on Friday, July 29.This is the seventh approved for use in the United States and the first that can be constructed in off-site and moved to the location at which it will be operated. It is a fairly traditional boiling-water design, planned to be run without an operator. The first site in the works is the so-called Carbon Free Power Project at Idaho National Labs, expected to go on line in 2030.
[Former] Senior Vice President of New Plants and Major Projects Jeffrey Benjamin “had first-line responsibility for Westinghouse’s nuclear reactors worldwide.” He was charged, according to a news release, “with sixteen felony counts including conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud, and causing a publicly-traded company to keep a false record.”
The U.S. has more than 80,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants, growing by about 2,000 metric tons each year.The Department of Energy is responsible for the storage and disposal of radioactive waste, including 90 million gallons from nuclear weapons programs. Although most radioactive waste around the world is stored in thick casks, in the U.S., thin-walled canisters are the norm.
More than 60 years of commercial nuclear programs has produced radioactive materials that will remain hazardous to humans and the environment on a time scale that far exceeds the existence of human civilization.Greenpeace’s report on nuclear waste concludes that this is a “global crisis.”
Report on Safer Radioactive Waste Storage Regarding the storage of spent nuclear waste, NRWC advocates for hardened on-site storage (HOSS). This interim report commissioned by NRWC member organization, Citizens Awareness Network (CAN), sets forth a strategy for robust storage of US radioactive “spent” fuel. This strategy should be implemented as a major element of a defense-in-depth strategy for US civilian nuclear facilities. In turn, that defense-in-depth strategy should be a component of a homeland-security strategy that provides solid protection of our critical infrastructure.
Climate change exacerbates safety issues; rising sea levels will affect coastal nuclear plants.This is the case at a nuclear waste site in the Marshall Islands as well as at commercial reactor sites such as San Onofre.
Fun Fact: India’s Kudankulam plant was hit by a cyberattack in 2019. Public information on the incident indicates the intrusion did not hit the plant’s control systems or other safety systems, but….
Nuclear reactors are in many locations throughout the world—about 10% of the world’s energy comes from about 440 power plants. Process controls in these reactors continue to transition from analogue to digital, from specialized software to more general, increasing the vulnerability to cyber attacks. With 30 countries having operational reactors, and 50 new reactors under construction, this is a global problem, with concerns related to increasingly complex issues of safety, security (both physical and cyber), and nuclear nonproliferation and safeguards. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) first included cyber requirements in the early 2000s, later issuing their Cyber Security Rule 10 CFR 73.54 that was fully implemented by 2017.
TerrorismTotal system risk analysis is important for protecting reactors; one such framework is the Integrated Cyber/Physical Impact Analysis developed by Sandia National Labs. Fully exposed for aerial strikes, nuclear power plants are “pre-deployed weapons of mass destruction.”
There has been evidence of several instances of terrorist plants to attack nuclear facilities, from Belgium to the United States. Experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists have pointed out serious flaws in NRC security regulations and their enforcement. Despite the changes that the NRC has put into place after 9/11, some of these concerns remain unaddressed. U.S. nuclear plants are still not as secure as they can and should be.
A watchdog organization, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), states that security at U.S. nuclear weapons complexes is inadequate and that hundreds of tons of weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium could be stolen, sabotaged, or even detonated.
Transportation of spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste shipments are very dangerous cargoes and highly symbolic targets. They are also a danger to the transportation infrastructure, to the public health and to the long term economic viability of the location(s) where an accident and/or terrorist attack may transpire.
If either the Yucca dump or any interim storage facility is approved, thousands of truck and train shipments would move dangerous radioactive waste across the country, by everyone’s backyard. Transportation routes would go through 43 states. Department of Transportation regulations require highway shipments of nuclear waste to take the most direct Interstate routes, even if these routes traverse densely populated metropolitan areas.
No rhetoric used by the industry and/or DOE to obscure this reality can change this fact.
The more severe an accident, the more likely that radioactive material would be released to the environment. A low speed accident could unseat a valve or damage a seal, releasing radioactive particulates to the environment. The same event could crack the brittle metal tubing around the fuel. According to the American Petroleum Institute, heavy truck accidents occur about 6 times each million miles traveled. With thousands of truck shipments, at least 15 accidents are expected each year.