the nuclear power industry get for playing footsie with the "greens"
on global warming? A knife in the back, it looks like. The greens now are
saying that emission-free nuclear power may actually contribute to climate
After decades of having its growth entirely stymied by anti-nuclear
environmentalists, the industry decided to help the greens lobby for global
warming regulation in hopes of easing opposition to the expansion of nuclear
power. Companies like Exelon, FPL Group and NRG Energy, for example, helped the
greens form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) — a coalition of big
businesses and green groups that has been leading the charge on Capitol Hill
for global warming regulation.
But as the saying goes, when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.
A case in point is the proposed addition of a third reactor at the Calvert
Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in southern Maryland. The greens formed a group
euphemistically called the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition (CSEC) to oppose
the new reactor. Members of the CSEC are hardcore anti-nuclear activists
including the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Maryland Public Interest Research
Group (PIRG), the Maryland Green Party and the Chesapeake Physicians for Social
A June 2007 report by Maryland PIRG lays out the standard
anti-nuclear objections against the proposed reactor, including that nuclear
plants are expensive to build, radiation is inherently dangerous, uranium
mining is environmentally destructive, and that nuclear waste "remains
dangerous for thousands of years and no nation on earth has developed an
acceptable solution for safely disposing of it."
But in this era of global warming hysteria, the standard arguments
apparently aren't working.
Maryland's Gov. Martin O'Malley — who is well-regarded by environmentalists
for consuming and metabolizing the green Kool-Aid on global warming — supports
the Calvert Cliffs expansion. O'Malley apparently realizes that Maryland needs
the electricity given the fact that the state is facing rolling blackouts on
summer days starting as early as 2011. Moreover, nuclear power is
emissions-free, another plus for Maryland's warmer-in-chief. His support is
even more remarkable since he recently barred the installation of wind turbines
on public lands.
The governor's picking nukes over wind must have sent the greens into
meltdown. So in response, the desperate greens came up with a bizarre new
argument: nuclear power causes global warming.
That's right, nuclear is the latest form of "dirty" energy. How
can that be, you ask? Nuclear power doesn't produce greenhouse gases, does it?
Well, not directly, the greens argue. But nuclear power "worsens climate
change," says prominent environmentalist Amory Lovins in a new paper, because it diverts money away from
alternative energy and efficiency efforts that would otherwise reduce
greenhouse gas emissions. Adding insult to injury, Lovins also says that
nuclear power is "grossly uncompetitive, unneeded and obsolete" and
"weakens electric reliability and national security."
The head of Maryland PIRG picked up on Lovins' line of thinking, telling
Carbon Control News (Aug. 8) that "efficiency programs and renewables such
as wind and solar can provide more carbon-abatement per dollar while avoiding
the downsides of nuclear power."
The movement to block the Calvert Cliffs plant also has an international
component. Greenpeace has taken its anti-nuclear jihad to Flamanville, Finland,
where a private utility company is currently building a European Pressurized
Reactor (EPR) — a safer, more reliable and cheaper next-generation reactor. But
Greenpeace has alleged technical and safety problems with the EPR and
misconduct in the Finns' safety approval process. Though the Finnish regulatory
authority has rejected the misconduct claims, it nevertheless announced that it
plans further studies on the EPR's safety.
This, of course, has delighted the opponents of the Calvert Cliffs expansion
since the reactor that has been proposed to be built is an EPR.
And the greens aren't just going after the Calvert Cliffs plant, they are
turning their sights on the entire nuclear industry. No doubt this is a direct
result of the industry's effort to expand in the wake of global warming
hysteria, which has taken the form of more than 20 applications to the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Agency for new plant licenses.
Lovins claims "the nuclear industry's sales pitch is false" and
that "the supposed nuclear revival is a carefully manufactured illusion
that seeks to become a self-fulfilling prophecy." The Natural Resources
Defense Council has a "fact sheet" on its web site entitled "New
Nuclear Power Plants Are Not a Solution for America's Energy Needs."
Environmental Defense ominously intones on its web site that, "Serious
questions of safety, security, waste and proliferation surround the issue of
nuclear power. Until these questions are resolved satisfactorily, Environmental
Defense cannot support an expansion of nuclear generating capacity."
The World Resources Institute says, "And while it can be argued that
the actual risks of nuclear power are far lower than the perceived risks, and
that coal-fired power plants have killed a far greater number of people than
nuclear energy, most communities do not want nuclear plants nearby."
While the nuclear industry has no reason to expect better treatment from
activists like Lovins, shouldn't it get at least a little friendly lip service
from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the World
Resources Institute — its lobbying partners in USCAP? Instead, these groups are
happy to exploit the influence and resources of the likes of Exelon, FPL Group
and NRG Energy to promote global warming regulation, but then feel no
compunction about trying to tear down the partners it exploited.
Is the industry OK with such two-facedness? Will anyone complain or drop out
of USCAP? We'll see.
Meantime, it's ironic and disturbing that the nuclear industry can figure
out how to safely and productively harness the power of the atom, but it can't
figure out that lobbying with the enemy is a bad idea.