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A Way Around The Federal Nuclear Power Fix

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Indeed, that is central to the scheme concocted in the late 1940s and 1950s by those seeking to promote atomic energy. They came out of the Manhattan Project, the World War II program to build nuclear weapons. They sought after the war to continue and expand their nuclear work. They would keep building weapons but atomic bombs don't lend themselves to commercial spin-off--they can't be sold. So there would be a limit in constructing atomic and hydrogen bombs. Thus this "nuclear establishment"--officials and scientists of the multi-billion dollar Manhattan Project and the project's corporate contractors, notably General Electric and Westinghouse--sought to perpetuate the endeavor with other uses of atomic energy, especially nuclear power plants.

The Manhattan Project in 1946 became the Atomic Energy Commission, to be given   extraordinary powers, particularly with the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, by a U.S. Congress that the "nuclear establishment" found (then and now) easy for it to manipulate. This included federal jurisdiction over the issue of radioactivity, as noted by Judge Murtha.

A licensing system for nuclear power plants was devised to give an illusion of democratic process. Hearing officers, many of whom would come from the national nuclear laboratories which sprang up with the Manhattan Project, would be called "judges." In fact, the hearings have been kangaroo courts--consistently approving atomic projects. The NRC, like the AEC before it, has been an unabashed booster of nuclear power. The system is a sham.

Like, in the 1960s, learned well about the impossibility of making change when a government is dominated by a special interest.   He was deeply involved in efforts to stop New York State public works czar Robert Moses from building a four-lane highway on Fire Island, a slender barrier beach south of Long Island. The road would have devastated the famed nature and communities on Fire Island.   Moses--the subject of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Power Broker-- had such huge power in New York State that stopping his plan through the state couldn't happen, concluded Like and other highway opponents.

So, instead, a campaign to create a Fire Island National Seashore was launched--to use the power of the federal government to stop Moses.

A Citizens Committee for a Fire Island National Seashore was formed with Like as its counsel. It was chaired by Maurice Barbash, also a lover of Fire Island and Like's brother-in-law. By 1964, it had led in getting a Fire Island National Seashore established and the Moses road stopped.

Two decades later, Like and Barbash flipped the strategy when it came to Shoreham --and LILCO's other proposed Long Island nuclear plants. A Citizens Committee to Replace LILCO--with a state public power entity--was created with Like its counsel, Barbash its chairman.

  State power would be used to stop the nuclear assault on Long Island.

The Long Island Power Act created a foundation for preventing this plan from moving ahead and also committed the state agency it created, the Long Island Power Authority, to developing clean, safe, renewable energy for Long Island.

  In 1989, LILCO abandoned Shoreham because of the Long Island Power Act. It sold Shoreham to LIPA for $1. It was then decommissioned as a nuclear facility. Also helping greatly with this outcome were continuing anti-nuclear demonstrations on Long Island, legal action by Suffolk County against LILCO under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations   (RICO) Act, the refusal of Suffolk and New York State to adopt or implement a federally-required evacuation plan for the plant (after both governments concluded evacuation of heavily-populated Long Island would be impossible in the event of a major nuclear accident), and other legal, political and activist challenges.  

Federal nuclear promoters were extremely upset. U.S. Energy Secretary John S. Herrington declared at a Nuclear Power Assembly in Washington that "the Shoreham plant must open!"   He asserted: "If it doesn't, the signals will be the low point in this [nuclear] industry's history. If it does, we are going to begin a brand new era."

            Well, it didn't open.

            In recent times, trying to use global warming as an excuse (although the nuclear "cycle" of mining, milling, fuel enrichment and the rest of it contributes significantly to global warming), the federal government and the nuclear industry has tried for what it calls a "revival" of nuclear power.

            The Fukushima Daiichi disaster has threatened that effort. And, not incidentally, the reactor at Vermont Yankee--and the one which had been at Shoreham--were both General Electric Mark I reactors, the same as those that exploded and released many thousands of tons of radioactive poisons at Fukushima.

For the federal government and nuclear industry to allow Vermont Yankee and other U.S. nuclear plants to operate for 60 years is inviting disaster. The NRC has now given 20-year "license renewals" to more than half of the 104 U.S. nuclear plants--turning a deaf ear to strong state and local opposition. Nuclear plants have been long seen as having an operating life of no more than 40 years, after which their metal components would become embrittled by radioactivity and they'd be far more prone to accidents. The NRC is also considering extending the 60 year extension period to 80 years. Meanwhile, the claim of nuclear promoters that the new nuclear plants they seek to build (and the NRC has started to approve) are "inherently safe" is completely false. They, like the Fukushima plants, like Chernobyl, like Vermont Yankee, like all nuclear power plants, are inherently unsafe.

Importantly, nuclear power is not necessary. From solar to wind to wave power to tidal power to bio-fuels to geothermal to hydropower and on and on, safe, clean, renewable energy technologies can provide all the power we need.

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www.karlgrossman.com

Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury and host of the nationally syndicated TV program Enviro Close-Up.

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