Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time to consider the Nuclear facts

Just thank Paul Gunter the next time you fill up
by Kevin Sowyrda Contributor
Thursday Jun 12, 2008

You want to know who to send a Hallmark to in thanks for the present energy crisis, which may soon make the "malaise" and gas rationing of the Carter years seem like an economic stroll in the park? No problem - just address your envelope to one Paul Gunter, who in 1976 glued together a rag-tag group of misinformed radicals and dubbed them the Clam Shell Alliance.

All 1000 or so of the shellers succeeded in putting nuclear power on the back burner in New England, using propaganda, misinformation, fear mongering and naked media manipulation - to such a flawless and permanent affect that I’m thinking, in retrospect, that they must have infiltrated the ’70s via a time machine from the Bush White House. Or maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Dr. Who.

But before the Karl Roves of the world were anybodies, the Clam Shell Alliance invented the shady tactics of manipulating public opinion and they are long overdue the credit they so richly deserve for a modern day America that is completely dependent on polluting fossil fuels. It’s all so painfully ironic when one considers were it not for the propaganda, we could have had safe, clean and abundant nuclear energy and the more robust economy that would have been the fringe benefit.

The clam shellers reached their apogee in April of 1977 when, in full military fashion, they stormed the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, then under construction on New Hampshire’s Atlantic coastline. You would have thought they had taken the Bastille and their hyperbole was effective in indoctrinating an impressionable public that the expansion of nuclear power equaled Armageddon.

While the nuclear power industry in this part of the United States has yet to fully recover - Gunter’s army even succeeded in bankrupting the plant’s builder, Public Service of New Hampshire - Seabrook is cranking out more-than-ever needed electricity today, keeping the lights on for about 900,000 households, according to their web page. And Paul Gunter and his vocal minority were wrong regarding their doomsday predictions delivered via bullhorn in Eastern New Hampshire. According to the World Association of Nuclear Operators, Seabrook’s safety record is unblemished, and when I toured the facility I found the security at the plant to
be nothing less than overwhelming.

But Gunter and his ilk clearly succeeded in making their long term mark, which you can see at the gas station today. The public was scared, as it can so easily be frightened, and in the aftermath of the guerilla advertising tactics of groups like the Clam Shell Alliance, we all sat back on the petroleum cushion just like Gunter and his cabal wanted, perfectly content to damage the environment more than any China Syndrome could have.

Now, the Gunters of the world have disappeared. I’ve yet to see them giving commentary on Exxon Valdez or the Department of Energy statistic that in 1999 alone electric power plants puffed about two billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air, complimented by 19 million tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides - all the delightful ingredients for global warming.

And this is to say nothing of waste oils that dirty the oceans with more than 700 million gallons of oil each year.
Ah, yes, the virtues of keeping all those evil nuclear plants segregated in France.

And speaking of France, that’s where they’re belly laughing at us Americans: Nearly 80 percent of the French power grid emanates from third generation nuclear power facilities, leaving their petrol products much more free for automobiles. France has 59 nuclear reactors and consequently the cleanest air in Europe. What they don’t have is a lot of New Englanders having panic attacks because there will be no way to afford heating oil this winter, unless Joe Kennedy can quickly clone himself about 10,000 times before October.

Simply put, we’ve screwed ourselves royally. As per American tradition and protocol, the smallest minority with the biggest mouth set the nation’s agenda. Most lawmakers went into the fetal position when they saw the impact in the polling data. Your typical Joe Politician didn’t dare speak out to educate the public to the real facts, so the Paul Gunters of America discovered they had amassed power completely disproportionate to what should have been the reality of their shoddy research and inability to appreciate clean-energy technology.

And what is this new, clean technology commonly referred to as third generation nuclear power? As I’m still not the provost at M.I.T., my description will probably be less than perfect. But simply put, the new reactors are as different from those first built in the U.S. as a 2008 Toyota Prius is from Henry Ford’s original model T. They are more fuel efficient and vastly superior in safety.

If Governor Deval Patrick wants to put his name on the political map, and more importantly save us all from ourselves, he’ll begin an immediate public-private partnership to expand nuclear power in Massachusetts and debate - head on - the Paul Gunters of the world who will no doubt come out of retirement so as to keep us all misinformed. But I pray his years of fame are over. Given present fuel prices, the public may finally be willing to listen to the real facts about nuclear power and follow the lead of the French

1 comment:

Gunter said...

Gunter responds

Thanks for the credit, Kev, I'm so flattered. But I have to say you are clueless. I'm curious where you got the idea to write this slur and if somebody paid you?

First of all, the rumor of my disappearance and "coming out of retirement" is grossly exaggerated as I am still happily opposing nuclear power development, both nationally and internationally, as I have been since moving to the Washington DC area in 1991.

As for starting the Clamshell Alliance, for the record, the clams were formed in July 1976 from a broad based coalition as a consensus-based New England-wide non-violent movement to oppose Seabrook construction thru the establishment of participating affinity groups. There were many echelons of founders and leaders and rotating responsibilities. It remains the most egalatarian effort I have ever participated in.

As for the feeble attempt to make a connection between nuclear power and today's price at the gas pump, it has nothing to do with me or even the nuclear industry's financial meltdown that began in 1978--not just by protests but more by the scandalous billions of construction cost overruns and decades behind in completion schedules.

The real connection is this so-called "renaissance" of nukes is in fact an effort by nuclear corporations to break in on the nuclear powered-fossil fuel industry.

Yes, the "Clean Air Industry" is looking to sell reactors, to among others, Saudi Arabia, so the House of Saud can increase the export of their carbon emissions-rich oil empire and get some nuclear weapons to boot. Or how about another proposal to construct as many as 19 new nukes in Northern Alberta to power the dirtiest of all fossil fuels: the extraction of oil from the tar sands.

As for your cheerleading the French Connection, the last time I checked, the USA was still supposed to be a free market enterprise country. Your example of France demonstrates that it takes governments not markets to build and operate nuclear power plants.

The cost of new reactor construction will make the Seabrook debacle look like a Filene's bargin basement sale.

Moody's Financial Investors Service Report from June 2, 2008 now projects new nuke construction costs to exceed $7000/kilowatt (or roughly $8 billion for a Seabrook equivalent). Other financial projections (the one's filed under penality of perjury, that is) have new reactors costing up to $12 billion per unit. Seabrook Unit 1 came in somewhere over $6 Billion and bankrupted 4 utilities (that was up from the $990 million for two units claim made in the early 70's). How was that for a piece of Public Service Company of New Hampshire "misinformation"?

Moreover, if you are going to advocate for socializing our energy policy like France we all would be better off directing it into an emerging renewables and efficiency where cost is dropping rather than to global corporate welfare for those most costly radioactive waste polluters and plans for US taxpayers to subsidize the construction of French government owned AREVA designs here in the US.

I am wondering if you are old enough to remember the phoney oil crisis of 1973-1974 that Nixon hyped to launch his "Project Independence" scheme to build 1000 nuclear reactors in the US by 2000.

Kev, there are only 104 in the US (and that much less nuclear waste for which there remains no scientifically accepted long term management plan.)

I as well as other Clamshell Alliance members will proudly take credit for displacing that much nuclear waste which you and other atomic cheerleaders would pone off on future generations without one watt of electricial benefit.

But before you start spouting off about carbon emissions---remember that the Coal-Oil-Nuclear industry are all part of the same CON job hedgemony. The nuclear industry has even been chaired by coal tycoons like Anthony Early, Jr. of DTE Energy which boasts being a top manager and marketer of mountain top removal and global climate change emissions.

As for your concept of the security of Seabrook it must have been shovelled to you by Florida Power and Light or the Nuclear Energy Institute. Right?

If you were to take time to read public documents available today through NRC you find that Seabrook was never designed or constructed to resist an aircraft strike ala 9/11---as it the case for all current US reactors.

You would read that the NRC and industry, in fact, seek to exempt Seabrook and other reactors from an aircraft impact hazards analysis as is currently in a NRC rulemaking process to require new design construction to include at least some aircraft crash resistant qualities. So the real security situation is more akin to a "Don't Look, Don't Tell" policy.

As far as cooking up great nuclear
"facts" it's really hard to top "too cheap to meter" and the "peaceful atom."

BTW, here is my address so you can keep those cards and letters coming and you can put in a tax deductible charitable contribution; it will go to a good cause.

Paul Gunter, Director
Reactor Oversight Project
Beyond Nuclear at NPRI
6930 Carroll Avenue Suite 400
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Tel. 301 270 2209