FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Blow to Nuclear Power in Chicago

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

As the world media filled with the victory of Barack Obama, a defeat for atomic power in his own back yard sent a Solartopian message to the new administration.

In the Chicago-area communities of Oak Park, Berwyn and Riverside, voters approved by well over two-to-one a referendum asking that “our elected officials in Illinois take steps to phase out nuclear power in the state, replacing it with renewable sources such as wind and solar.”

The three communities currently rely on atomic power for some 75% of their electricity, which is supplied through Commonwealth Edison, a subsidiary of Exelon, America’s largest nuke owner. With 11 operating reactors, Illinois has more reactors than any other state.

But 31,586 (68.3%) voters approved the referendum, versus 14,676 (31.7%) opposed.

Atomic energy will be one of the most critical issues the new administration will face. Obama was criticized by eco-advocates for taking campaign donations from Exelon. Both he and Vice President-elect Joe Biden expressed campaign support for atomic power.

But their stance was moderated by Obama’s insistence that atomic power be “safe,” and by his ads he ran in Nevada opposing the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump. Some 80% of Nevada citizens oppose that project, whose projected cost now runs about $100 billion.

By contrast, John McCain vehemently advocated the quick construction of some 45 new reactors. He derided the moderation of Obama’s reactor advocacy, pointing with pride to his own naval service on nuke-powered vessels.

But the issue of how to finance such a “nuclear renaissance” now overshadows all the rhetoric, and will define the technology’s future.

A strong lobby with a slick, expensive pubic relations campaign is now pushing new nukes here. New ratepayer-based reactor financing is now being shoved through state public utilities commissions in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and possibly elsewhere, with tens of billions in potential liability.

But Wall Street has given thumbs down to a technology that can’t compete with Solartopian sources like wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and other green energies.

The future of new reactor construction thus depends on massive federal and state subsidies. In the fall of 2007, the industry inserted into a Congressional energy bill a package of loan guarantees meant to provide $50 billion in taxpayer-backed funds to build new reactors.

Reactor projects fail about 50% of the time, and such a package could have stuck taxpayers with a massive liability. A national grassroots campaign led in part by NukeFree.org and musicians Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash helped defeat the package. Not a single major national environmental organization supported the guarantees.

This fall an even larger federal loan plan, offering virtually unlimited funds, was on its way to the US Senate. Pushed by McCain, it could have provided a half-trillion dollars in new taxpayer guarantees to build just the 45 reactors McCain proposed.

But when Wall Street collapsed, the federal bank bailout made the idea of taking on still more huge financial liabilities untenable.

As Barack Obama takes office in January, green power advocates will again argue that along with questions of terror and error, radioactive waste and ecological harm, nuke power is far too expensive to compete with Solartopian green power.

The clock is ticking very fast on the idea of new nukes. With projected construction times of a decade or more, new reactors cannot begin to deliver energy for many years after the installation of competing green sources, whose comparative costs continue to drop.

So this small but strong Chicago-area vote for a Solartopian future sends a very clear message. A powerful new nuke lobby will be pushing hard from Day One of the new administration.

But in today’s financial and political climate, atomic energy cannot compete. A green-powered planet is the only one that will sell on both Main Street and Wall Street.

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

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail