Confused about what the election means for the future of America’s energy systems? Maggie and Arnie Gundersen were recently featured on Project Censored Radio with Hosts Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips to discuss exactly that. Listen as Maggie and Arnie examine the future of nuclear power reactors from a business perspective and show that new nukes just don’t make economic sense. Mickey queries Maggie and Arnie about their take on Donald Trump’s foreign policy stance regarding nuclear armament of Japan and other U.S. allies, the possibility of atomic warfare, and the spread of nuclear radiation around the globe. Radiation knows no borders.
AG: Hi. I’m Arnie Gundersen for Fairewinds Energy Education. Thanks for listening. Maggie and I were interviewed recently for Project Censored. It’s a West Coast radio show. And they were interested in our opinion of what would be the impact on nuclear power with the recent changes coming up in Washington. But before we go there, it’s that time of year again when we ask for donations. We love what we do but that doesn’t mean that Fairewinds can move forward without contributions from listeners like you. Please head over to Fairewinds.org and make a donation. And now without further ado, here’s Project Censored.
M: We are joined by Arnie Gundersen and Maggie Gundersen of the Fairewinds Energy Education out of Burlington, Vermont. Arnie and Maggie Gundersen, what are some of the things you’re focusing on regarding Trump’s presidency, energy policy and nuclear power? And I know you’re working on something there on nuclear power and CO2 smoke screens, so you’re doing a lot of different things. Can you talk to our listeners a little bit?
MG: Yes, we’re happy to. Thank you so much for having us on. There are a number of things with Trump’s new energy plan that he is talking about. And he is saying that he doesn’t care about CO2 and that’s not an issue for him. But when we look at the other things he’s saying about finances, he says he’s a businessman and he wants to make America great again. Well, then, it’s renewables. It’s 100 percent renewables because the nukes are overpriced, we can prove that. Building new nukes costs more money; it’s financially not feasible. And adding to that, if he goes into the cost of drilling new shale and drilling new oil and mining coal, it’s prohibitive compared to creating jobs in the renewable sector.
AG: It used to be that back in the old days, before Tuesday, November 8th, the nuclear industry was pitching itself as the savior for climate change and the only way to prevent global meltdown was to build nukes and keep the existing ones running like Diablo Canyon has made the case that the world needs Diablo Canyon to keep running because of carbon dioxide. But now you’ve got the Trump administration that’s saying there is no such thing as global warming. That’s a real dilemma for the nuclear industry. If the Trump administration sticks to its guns on that, that there is no such thing as global warming, the logical conclusion is that all of these old nukes should shut down because they’re too expensive. What they’ve been lobbying for is this carbon credit, and I can’t see how the Trump administration can give a carbon credit when it doesn’t believe there’s such a thing as global warming.
M: That certainly is a perplexing issue to think about with new plants and then Trump’s belief that global warming isn’t happening. And it seems that he’s really supporting the oil industry, he’s invested in that in many ways and the pipeline going across North Dakota he’s got a piece of. So all of that is a conflict of interest for him. Do you think, though, there’s a possibility that he may have advisors that will be not only supportive of nuclear energy and link it to the overall use of nuclear power, but just ignore what he believes now? Do you think that’s a possibility?
MG: (3:36) I don’t think we can conjecture on that but I would say he talks about his intention to bring jobs back to America and stop the off-shoring act for corporations overseas and putting money overseas and he is committed to stopping NAFTA and TPP. So if that’s true, then nuclear plants – all the reactors themselves, the vessels and big turbines and all the pieces of heavy equipment are manufactured overseas. We don’t have that capability. It would take decades to build it, where in a very short time, we can have new plants for solar and for windmills built here in the U.S.
AG: Just a fer-instance, we can build solar cells and batteries right here in the States. So if you really believe in building a job-based economy in the United States, why would you want to send all that money to China or Japan or Korea, who are the only 3 countries that can build a nuclear reactor now. There’s typical conflicts in his policy but I don’t think it plays out well for nuclear power. I’m sure the nuclear industry is trying to change its tune, but for the last 8 years, they’ve been singing one tune. It’s hard to learn a new one.
M: We’re speaking with Arnie Gundersen and Maggie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education. You can learn more at Fairewinds.org. That’s F-a-i-r-e-w-i-n-d-s. Arnie and Maggie Gundersen, you talk a little bit on your website and recently about something called mixed oxide or plutonium and nuclear fuel for nuclear weapons proliferation. We’ve seen Trump already signal his interest in working with Abe, the conservative leader in Japan, also with South Korea. Can you talk a little bit about that?
AG: Yeah, it’s really frightening. What happens is, every nuclear reactor that runs on uranium creates plutonium. Right now, Japan has enough used fuel – spent nuclear fuel – to build 1,000 plutonium nuclear bombs, and South Korea has enough for probably 100. What Trump said back when he was campaigning is that he thought it would be a good idea to counter the North Korean threat if the South Koreans and the Japanese made their own nuclear bombs. And then he also said, America’s got all these nuclear weapons; why don’t we us them. So it’s a frightening situation, (1) from a proliferation standpoint. He just said that our allies should be building nuclear weapons instead of being under our umbrella; and (2) he’s suggesting that it’s okay to nuke somebody in war, which we haven’t done since 1945.
M: Maggie Gundersen, do you want to jump in here?
MG: One of the things he’s talked about is a clean America that he believes in conserving our wonderful natural resources and beautiful natural habitat, and he swears that the Trump administration is firmly committed to that. So if that’s true, then you’re not going to want to use nuclear at all, and not want nuclear weapons, because radiation knows no borders. That’s one of our taglines on our site and we’ve done a lot of work on this. We have testing data from all over the world that shows the path that Fukushima Daiichi releases made, going around the earth three times in the atmosphere. And if he nukes someone in another country, that’s only going to come back into our air, our food, our water. There’s no way to stop that. The radiation isotopes don’t say, oh, we’re at the border now, gee, we can’t cross that line.
M: (7:18) So Arnie Gundersen, let’s wrap up with a segment here. We have a few minutes remaining and I want to have you tell folks what are you doing at Fairewinds Energy Education right now given the looming Trump presidency and the transition, as the transition team comes together. We’re certainly seeing a return to pro-fossil fuels, mining, carbon and of course nukes will be back on the table and we have an aging nuclear power structure here, and we’re dealing with someone who just doesn’t believe all of the science behind global warming.
AG: Starting about a year and a half ago, Fairewinds started to push this issue of the nuclear power industry claims that yeah, we’re awfully expensive but we don’t release carbon dioxide. And we showed pretty clearly that that’s what we call a smokescreen. In fact, the money to build the power plant and the time it takes to build the plant is a lost opportunity. That money could better go to renewable sources and the worldwide nuclear industry wants to build a thousand nuclear power plants in the next 35 years. That’s a nuclear plant every 12 days for 35 years. And the cost of that program – for a quarter of that cost, you can get the same amount of generation out of renewables. So our point is, let’s forget about the probability of a disaster or mining on Native lands. But the real issue is money. These things don’t make sense. So if Trump really is the businessman he claims to be, going down nuclear power is like throwing money down a black hole.
MG: And on top of that, we’re looking – what we’re moving forward to at Fairewinds is focusing on decommissioning. And to do it right, to protect our waters, our food supply, the aquifers, the rivers from the leaking plants. As he said, they’re aging, they’re aging drastically and we want a clean solution. And that means focusing on putting away the waste, taking the plants down and decommissioning properly and moving to clean energy.
AG: In the next 10 years, as many as 30 nuclear power plants are going to shut down because they just don’t make economic sense. And what are we going to do with them? There’s no real plan to protect the community. Diablo Canyon is a great example of forward-sighted policy where they’re trying to protect the community and they’re trying to protect the workers, at the same time they’re trying to divest from a 40-year-old nuclear power plant.
M: Arnie Gundersen, Maggie Gundersen, it’s always good to have you on the Project Censored show. Fairewinds Energy Education, the website is Fairewinds.org or FairewindsEnergy – you can email them as well at Maggie or Arnie@fairewindsenergy.org to find out more about what they are doing. And I have to say it’s always a pleasure to have you on the Project Censored show because you talk to us about these important issues regarding nuclear power and nuclear energy and nuclear weaponry in ways that the corporate media will never do. And of course, we have two major stories in our top 10 in the 2017 book this year on carbon dioxide levels, and another on Fukushima – another update on Fukushima with no end in sight, and we certainly will look forward to having you both back on the program to talk more about that as the Trump presidency settles in. So thanks so much for coming back to the Project Censored show.
MG: Thank you, Mickey, and thanks to everyone at Project Censored. We really appreciate it. Bye.
M: That was a conversation with Arnie Gundersen and Maggie Gundersen of the Fairewinds Energy Education Organization. We were discussing energy policy and nuclear power in a Donald Trump presidency.