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Obama’s Excellent Atomic Omission


Two lethal words went thankfully unspoken in President Obama’s address to the nation this week—atomic energy.

Unfortunately, two others—“clean coal”—were included.

An increasingly desperate reactor industry just tried to sneak a $50 billion loan guarantee package into the stimulus bill. But for the third time since 2007, it got beat by a powerful national grassroots movement and key Congressional leaders.

Nuke pushers now want reactors painted “green” in a renewable standard Congress may soon set.

Hordes of radioactive lobbyists will swarm around that and new energy and global warming legislation. Every obscure sentence in those bills will be targeted for hidden handouts. Unfortunately, some money may already have slipped through from previous Bush-Cheney maneuvering.

EDF, the French national utility, wants to force its nukes into the American market. With Wall Street unwilling, Areva—the EDF front company—would use French tax money here as in Finland, where a new reactor project is already years behind schedule and billions over budget.

In Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Maryland, Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin and elsewhere, the industry wants to tax ratepayers for reactor construction in advance. In Florida and Georgia, rates are already soaring. A Missouri utility is trying to overturn a 1976 public referendum banning such scams.

Obama’s position has been largely opaque. Close to pro-nuke Illinois utilities in his early days, he has never renounced the technology. But he’s firmly opposed Nevada’s Yucca Mountain high level repository, whose failure—after fifty years—leaves the industry with no solution to its waste problem.

Energy Secretary Stephen Chu has made pro-nuke rumblings. But the critical component—massive federal funding—has not materialized. So we green energy advocates held our collective breath when Obama promised to “invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.”

In his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination, Obama included nuke power. Now the reference is gone. Let’s hope that signals an end to all taxpayer funding for this catastrophic failed technology.

Unfortunately, Obama did mention “clean coal,” which—like “safe nukes”— does not exist. On March 2, there will be non-violent civil disobedience against a coal burner in the nation’s capital. This welcome action follows in the tradition of mass occupations at the Seabrook (NH) and other reactor construction sites since 1976.

Back then, grassroots organizations like the Clamshell Alliance developed a Solartopian vision of a world totally free of fossil fuels and atomic power. The plan was born in part at a “Toward Tomorrow” energy fair in Amherst, Massachusetts that featured wind power pioneer William Heronemus and efficiency guru Amory Lovins.

A green-powered Earth means ending both fossil and nuke power, to run totally on solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, non-food-based biofuels and other true renewables, with increased efficiency and restored mass transit.

Like stashing nuke waste in an earthquake zone surrounded by dormant volcanoes, as at Yucca Mountain, carbon sequestration for coal is unworkable, unacceptable—and unnecessary.

The upcoming march against that coal burner will be ushered along by three decades of anti-nuke activism. Let’s hope it prompts Obama to omit that clean coal oxymoron from his next speech—and from all proposed government funding.

HARVEY WASSERMAN, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at He can be reached at:



Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at

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