The Ecologist

Which can you trust to tackle America's toxic legacy of crumbling nuclear plants? Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Artwork: DonkeyHotey via Flickr (CC BY-SA).
Which can you trust to tackle America's toxic legacy of crumbling nuclear plants? Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Artwork: DonkeyHotey via Flickr (CC BY-SA).
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Bernie and Hillary - speak out on America's dying nuclear reactors!

Harvey Wasserman

8th February 2016

America's crumbling nuclear power plants, dozens of them built to the design that spectacularly failed at Fukushima, must be closed down to prevent catastrophe, writes Harvey Wasserman. So let's hear Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton speak out on the topic and make it a core issue in the Presidential race!

What we really need now are focused, persistent campaigns to bring these rogue nukes down before they blow up. Every one of them has the power to kill millions, irradiate entire sections of the globe and bankrupt us all.

As the key Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire approaches tomorrow, America's nuclear power industry is in accelerated collapse.

The few remaining construction projects in the US and Europe are engineering and economic disasters.

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders may address this in broad terms. But as a nation we must now focus on the 99 dying US reactors that threaten us all every day. In terms of our national survival, this is what Sanders and Clinton really must discuss.

Fukushima still dumps huge quantities of radioactive water into the Pacific every day. The site is out of control. The myth that US-made reactors can't explode has been buried forever. Three melted cores are still missing.

Especially among young children, health impacts in the region are devastating. Two dozen General Electric clones of General Electric's Fukushima Unit 1 Boiling Water Reactor now operate in the US. They all need to shut.

Meanwhile the extreme success of Germany's Solartopian Energiewende makes it clear the world can indeed run entirely on renewables. The central electric grid is no longer sustainable. All German nukes will be done by 2022.

Germany's great green community-based assault on King CONG (coal, oil, nukes and gas) is ahead of schedule and under budget. Clean energy prices are plummeting along with climate impacts.

Worldwide reactor construction has sunk into economic chaos. Russia, China, India and several smaller countries are still talking about building new reactors. This is an issue of grave concern for all of us. But the radioactive road signs bode badly for them all.

Nuclear sinks as renewables soar

France's Areva, once the industry flagship, is in a shambles, along with EDF that has been forced by the French government to take it over to stave off bankruptcy. Reactor projects in Finland and at Flamanville, France, are billions over budget and years behind schedule. So are the two each in South Carolina and Georgia, where the local economies stand to be devastated by gargantuan cost overruns.

Detroit Edison wants to stick the people of Michigan with the enormous up-front costs of a proposed new construction fiasco at Fermi 3, which could bankrupt an already shaky state economy.

It will take years more of dedicated activism to make sure the lessons of these failed projects are understood everywhere. But in the meantime, above all, we fear the 99 US reactors that crumble as we speak:

1. The infamously lax Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) warns that Pilgrim, south of Boston, can't meet even the NRC's absurdly loose safety standards. Entergy may shut it down rather than pay to fix it up. The two candidates should demand they do it now.

2. Indian Point Unit 2, near New York City, has been operating without a license since September 2013. The Unit 3 permit expired at midnight on 12th December 2015, but the NRC permitted its continued operation while its renewal application is under way, a process that could take years. Days later it suffered an unplanned closedown which the company blamed on "an electrical disturbance on the non-nuclear side of the plant", the fourth in 2015. Just a few days ago radioactive groundwater contamination with tritium was discovered. Both must shut immediately.

3. The shield building at Ohio's Davis-Besse is literally crumbling. First Energy wants Ohio's Public Utilities Commission to hand it a $3 billion bailout. This may be the world's most decrepit nuke. It should have shut a very long time ago.

4. Exelon is begging the Illinois legislature for massive bailouts at five money-losing, increasingly dangerous reactors. That should be denied.

5. Entergy's FitzPatrick in New York is losing millions, as is nearby Ginna. Both must go.

6. California's Diablo Canyon reactors sit atop an interconnected web of 12 known fault-lines. They are 45 miles from the San Andreas, less than half the distance of Fukushima from the seismic trench that destroyed it. They are in violation of state and federal water quality laws. They're being propped up by a corrupt Public Utilities Commission. They need to close.

... and that's just for starters.

When does it end?

Through the rest of this presidential campaign, we can expect the Democrats to broadly endorse a green-powered future, and - we must hope - question the sanity of nuclear power.

Thanks to decades of hard campaigning by the global grassroots No Nukes movement, that's no longer hard to do. Even Donald Trump has made rumblings about shutting Indian Point. Even Ohio's Gov. John Kasich is posturing as a friend of renewables, an industry he's done his best to decimate.

Berrnie Sanders has been an outspoken opponent of nuclear power both in his home state of Vermont, and across America (see video, below). His campaigning may also have helped achieve a wonderful result: the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in December 2014.

But what about Hillary Clinton? Several internet searches have failed to find any recent expressions of concern, or anything else, about the Indian Point nuclear reactors that are just 40 miles north of Manhattan Island, New York, her former Senatorial base - even though it's in deep trouble with radioactive releases and unscheduled cut-outs. Both units are running with no NRC licences.

And when Hillary was Senator, back in 2004, she was, as Jeffrey StClair wrote on CounterPunch, "about reserved as Pataki on Indian Point, issuing robotic requests for more studies but refusing to call for the plant's closure."

But then as he went on to point out: "Of course, Hillary's ties to Entergy are almost primal. The Little Rock-based Entergy Corporation, which once employed John Huang, the infamous conduit to the Lippo Group, was one of Bill Clinton's main political sponsors, shoveling more than $100,000 into his political coffers from 1992 to 1996."

What we really need now are focused, persistent campaigns to bring these rogue nukes down before they blow up. Every one of them has the power to kill millions, irradiate entire sections of the globe and bankrupt us all.

In the big picture, Clinton and Sanders could start with a demand to remove the federal insurance that protects these radioactive relics from liability when the inevitable melt-downs arrive. Hillary could also back Bernie's call to force the NRC to stop blindly doing the will of nuclear industry.

But they can help us most by addressing these dying nukes by name in the Democratic Primary debates, and by joining us in court and on the barricades to get them buried before they kill again.

Which is most likely to do that? You decide for yourself. But the smart money has to be on Bernie.



Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at

This article was originally published on CounterPunch. Updates & additional reporting by The Ecologist.


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