Demystifying Nuclear Power
Atomic Power and a Just Transition for ‘Host Communities’
By Maggie Gundersen &
In the United States (U.S.), where largest amount of atomic power reactors in the world are located, Pilgrim in Massachusetts, Indian Point outside New York City, Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Diablo Canyon in California, and most recently Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania have recently announced their intent to close in the near future. While the shutdown of American nukes is good for our economy as well as the planet’s environment, decommissioning is a costly and complicated process that takes a toll on the local communities that hosted these giant facilities. When a nuclear power reactor shuts down, an incredible amount of work must be done to ensure a just, smooth financial transition for the local economy and also to create long-term viable storage for its toxic radioactive waste, which the U.S. Government has failed to provide. In addition to hosting the physical radioactive carcass of the power reactor for decades, the local community must restructure its economy to make it more diverse and self-sufficient as well as creating a more healthy and sustainable energy future.
Unfortunately, the usually small and economically stifled cities and towns, often referred to as ‘host communities’ to these atomic power reactors are not always given a voice at the table when it comes to deciding plans for their future – yet they are the true stakeholders. Fairewinds has continuously monitored and reported upon the challenges and defects of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor and the lack of stakeholder respect given to its Windham County host. When it came time to close reactor in 2014, the Vermont Legislators and State Officials found themselves having to stand up to both Entergy (Vermont Yankee’s parent corporation), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) the alleged federal regulator for the nuclear power industry, for the Vermont’s own State’s rights and for the rights of all Vermont citizens.
The real question for all nuclear power plant host communities is: who is protecting and advocating for the rights of the ratepayers, for the level of decontamination at the site, nearby aquifers and watersheds, and an orderly economic transition for all the people in the impacted surrounding communities? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), while the controlling interest in radiological standards and decommissioning processes on each site, does not examine or consider any of these critical human rights issues. All the environmental justice and human rights issues of assuring ongoing open access to clean air, safe water, and uncontaminated food from the remaining carcass of a shutdown atomic power reactor falls upon local and state governments throughout the US. Vermont is leading the way in creating an open and transparent process for local communities to self-advocate in creating a safer and more transparent decommissioning process and transition to a safe and permanently uncontaminated dismantlement of these highly radioactive nukes.
By opening a wide dialogue as we all advocate for an open and transparent decommissioning process, we believe the U.S. can shed its title of founding nuclear energy and instead become a global leader in cleaning up the mess we started. By following Vermont’s of paying close attention to the interests of our local governments, ratepayers and host communities, we all will begin to achieve just and safe transitions from the glut of toxic radioactive nuclear power plant carcasses coming our way as atomic power continues to become economically unviable.
It is Fairewinds’ goal to help communities work together to achieve a safer transition in their energy futures by shifting energy paradigms to an economically feasible and environmentally compatible model for the health and survival of our species and our planet.
Reuters - Wind, solar surpassed 10 percent of U.S. electricity in March: EIA
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has announced that the combined power of wind and solar accounted for more than 10% of the total electricity generated in the U.S. in March, up 3% from the 2016 average. As more states realize the benefits of investing in renewable technologies, the steady growth of the clean energy sector is happening at a phenomenal rate proving that these technologies are a sound investment for a reliable and clean energy future and American jobs. With more growth projected, wind and solar production is a prominent part of our nation’s supply of electricity. These increases in wind and solar continue move the U.S. closer to a more economically viable and sustainable energy future.
Following the shutdown of South Korea oldest atomic power reactor President, Moon Jae-in promised to end all plans for new atomic reactors and phase out the existing nuclear power plants by investing in renewable technologies instead. In his own words, Moon said “the new government shall consider the nuclear safety issue as a national security agenda,” and made clear the safety of the South Korean people are a top priority. By committing to increase its renewable energy capacity, South Korea is ensuring a safe and secure energy future as it reduces its reliance on foreign energy and fuel imports.
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