Dear Friends and Readers,
In a previous email I informed some of you that the Senate economic stimulus bill appropriates $50 billion to new nuclear power plants. Since then I have learned that Senator Kit Bond is in fact a member of the Appropriations Committee, and also that this will not be introduced to the full Senate until sometime this coming week.
Therefore, I urge you, if you have not already done so to write and/or call him to let him know that the use of nuclear power is a defunct and expensive idea which few people support anymore. You should have time to do this for the next week, but the sooner the better.
Below is my version of a letter with links to further info.
Dear Senator Bond:
The news that the Senate Appropriations Committee has added fifty billion dollars ($50,000,000,000) to it's proposed stimulus package for the building of new nuclear power plants shocked and disappointed me. Perhaps the Committee is not adequately informed about nuclear power. It would take years to get around to doing this even if it were a good idea.
The facts are that even the study done by Congress itself shows that nuclear power is extremely expensive. Given the additional dangers of accidents it only presents us with further environmental and security dilemmas for our own and future generations.
The nuclear industry will, of course, tell a different story. Here in Missouri we are concerned with keeping the "no construction work in progress" (No-CWIP) provision in Missouri law so that Ameren UE does not imagine that it can add another power plant by charging its customers for an advance loan. This would be on top of a recent rate increase. The idea that the Federal Government would subsidize new nuclear plants is essentially the same thing, leaving a burden of debt that can perhaps never be repaid, dragging us down further. You are surely aware that the problem of storing spent nuclear waste remains unsolved. The only permanent storage solution proposed is Yucca Mountain, a venture too dangerous for towns and cities on the route there and for the tribal nations living near the mountain.
Even the newest thinking that existing nuclear waste can possibly be reused is simply conceptual at this point. How much more would it add to cost? In all my reading on the subject the only sources that support more building of nuclear power plants are ones from inside the nuclear industry. And other writers suggest that even the most conservative estimates of total costs could be less that the ultimate reality.
So-called "clean coal" is in essentially the same position-- there really is no such thing yet as "clean coal" and we will need to replace the coal power plants we already have with passive and renewable power sources. In the House Recovery Bill that was just passed 2.4 billion dollars are appropriated to carbon capture technology. From what I have read this is an iffy proposition. Comparing our own to European efforts to reduce carbon based air pollution, which contributes to climate change, we would be better off changing to the available passive sources, e.g. wind and solar. Some success has been achieved with hydro devices as well which are minimally intrusive to the environment.
The realized use of corn as a biofuel has demonstrated that it is also more expensive and polluting than was first predicted. At least it does not leave radioactive waste behind, but farmers who want to plant fields of biofuel are now looking into switch grass and other more efficient plant sources. This is an emerging science, not one that is established with well tested outcomes. Renewable fuels are an improvement over mining which further decimates the environment.
What we need right now are community based manageable alternatives that provide long term and acceptable solutions. This description usually refers to solar and wind power, which are already emerging in Missouri. But additionally using different building specifications including tighter insulation and more efficient use of square footage, with built-in passive energy capture and biologic additions such as roof gardening will be an already proven route to decreasing domestic energy consumption. Also we must retrofit buildings in our existing urban areas, as recommended by Van Jones and some social justice organizations. If such projects were subsidized by the stimulus plan now in Congress they could probably be in place relatively quickly, with ready labor in neighborhoods that were underemployed before the current depressed economy. Retrofitting rental properties that are Section 8 eligible is covered in the House Bill, and I support this proposal.
It is also essential that we increase green spaces and local gardens, something that has already been initiated in urban Missouri as well. Providing support for these sorts of efforts, helping neighbors to help their neighbors by planting vegetable and permaculture gardens, makes infinitely more sense, since it is based on readily initiated and time worn actions. These ideas could be implemented by nonprofit efforts or by local small businesses that would also spring up quickly if loans were available. They would add longer term jobs to the already conceptualized infrastructure repair projects.
One more area of concern is mass and distance transit. Both Kansas City and St. Louis could use funds to complete planned light rail projects. Also backing up passenger and freight rail would make far better sense economically and ecologically than new development of highways. To me it would be worthwhile to add a public information campaign that would promote rail over private automobile for distance travel.
Please discuss these ideas carefully with your fellow Senators of either party. We must address the economic crisis that is continuing, but certainly we have choices about how to do that. Wasting the money, even if it is only freshly printed paper, would be foolish. Most of the ideas I have presented will create jobs as well as reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Nuclear power and coal of any sort belong to the previous century.
Thank you for your attention to these issues, and for your work on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Undoubtedly it is difficult to stay up to date on every issue without a great deal of information input.