2018 - 11 - 28 Union of Concerned Scientists Issues Deeply Flawed Report on Nuclear Energy and Climate Change

While the Union of Concerned Scientists continues to do much excellent work, its position on how nuclear technology fits into the climate change picture is deeply flawed. San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) is extremely troubled by the positions taken by UCS in its recent report on Nuclear Power and Global Warming.

Below are the points upon which SLOMFP strongly disagrees.

UCS: “The federal arm of the government charged with nuclear power safety—the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)—should require that any new nuclear plants be designed to higher safety and security standards than existing plants.”

SLOMFP: Leopards do not change their spots, and the NRC cannot be expected to change its ways. The entire history of the NRC shows that the agency is a prime example of regulatory capture. It has consistently put the interests of the nuclear industry before the safety of the American people.

Furthermore, “higher safety and security standards” cannot be assumed to provide for safety and security, given the realities that characterize all nuclear generation:

  • Nuclear generation entails fission;
  • Fission creates radioactive elements that do not exist in nature, some of which are lethal to living beings for hundreds of thousands of years;
  • No plan to isolate these radioactive wastes from the biosphere for that length of time exists.

UCS: “The NRC should strengthen its security requirements for operating nuclear plants so they are able to defend against all plausible attackers.”

SLOMFP: Yes the NRC “should” do so, but it won’t and most likely it can’t, given that the range of plausible attack modes is expanding in this digital age.

Any meaningful upgrade to security would cost so much money that plant owners would object, and the so- accommodating NRC must be expected to agree with them.

The industry and the NRC have a history of looking in the rear view mirror, of rethinking safety standards only AFTER an accident or a mishap. Thinking ahead and being proactive are not patterns we have seen.

UCS: " The NRC should enforce its existing regulations, including those on fire safety, and develop new regulations that fully reflect the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident.  It should also require that reactors upgrade their safety equipment in response to updated assessments of environmental hazards such as earthquakes and floods.”

SLOMFP:

  • The NRC has added many requirements since Fukushima, but not all are enforced in all plants. And how do you prove they are sufficient?  
  • Fire safety regulation enforcement at Diablo has been laughable.
  • The NRC has not learned all its lessons from the ongoing Fukushima disaster. It has ignored 90% of the critical seismic and geological findings of Gordon Thompson and David D. Jackson as presented in appeals by SLOMFP. (See https://mothersforpeace.org/ and input those two names in the search box for details.)

UCS: “Congress should establish financial incentives for power plant owners to purchase safer reactor designs and make safety upgrades by increasing the liability of the nuclear industry for a nuclear accident. It should increase the federal liability limit to take into account the likely costs of an accident.”

SLOMFP:

  • Yes, Congress should, but most likely it never will. And until that is accomplished, the idea is a moot point.
  • Better insurance is a worthy goal, but PREVENTION of a catastrophe is the primary goal.

UCS: “The NRC or Congress should require that nuclear waste be transferred as quickly as practicable from spent fuel pools to dry casks. “

SLOMFP: Unless and until this important requirement is put into place and enforced, this proposal cannot be used to justify continued operations.

UCS: “The United States should reaffirm its ban on reprocessing of nuclear waste, and cancel its program to use plutonium-based fuel in power reactors.”

SLOMFP: Unless and until this important requirement is put into place and enforced, this proposal cannot be used to justify continued operations.

UCS: “The United States should continue research and development of nuclear power technologies that do not entail reprocessing, with a focus on enhancing safety, security, and waste disposal, and reducing water use and cost.”

SLOMFP:

  • The U.S. should declare that nuclear energy is not needed and has not been shown to be safe. Alternative sources of energy are available.
  • All nuclear facilities should be shut down within a few years.
  • Absolutely no new nuclear plants of ANY design should be allowed. 
  • By definition, all current and any future nuclear technologies create dangerous elements that do not exist in nature and that can be used to create lethal weapons.