Alec BaldwinSpecial to the USA TODAY Network
The closure of any of the remaining utility reactors in the U.S. (and around the world) should be cause for celebration. I have worked with various environmental groups since the early 1990s in opposition to utility reactors. These include Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, Radiation and Public Health Project and Riverkeeper.
Since the defunct Long Island Lighting Company was able to torment and gouge its rate payers by building, commissioning, decommissioning and eventually closing and disassembling its failed Shoreham project on Long Island, I have been keenly interested in the games public utilities have played in their ceaseless quest to sell nuclear power as clean and safe. The lies that have been told are mind-numbing. The assertion that nuclear power is clean is outrageous. The mining of uranium alone is horrifically toxic. Furthermore, fuel rods don’t grow on trees. They are processed at facilities that use tremendous amounts of energy and release significant amounts of carbon.
Nuclear power is neither clean nor safe. And one does not need a Fukushima-, Chernobyl-, or 3 Mile Island-magnitude event to come to that conclusion. Some of the problems with nuclear power are widely known and have been from the beginning, such as spent fuel disposal, an issue that remains unaddressed to this day. Such concerns have been accepted and, typically, overlooked out of our need to produce the enormous amounts of power with which we run our economy. Over the years, other challenges developed, such as the potential for terrorist and cyber attacks on operating reactors and spent fuel in storage. Both contain highly lethal levels of radiation, meaning that a successful attack could devastate a massive area.
The U.S. and the world will not conquer its dependence on fossil fuels in 25 years, but at least New York state has decided to do it by 2050. The need to rapidly eliminate that dependence will drive increasing innovation and ever lower prices for renewable energy. Renewables will form the basket of resources that will power the world. Coal (too dirty) and nuclear (too expensive and too dirty) will die first, followed by fracked gas and oil. Shutting down the toxic sites (both through decommissioning and decontamination) will cost staggering amounts of money. The prospect of properly handling the eventual closure of every nuclear utility reactor in America seems overwhelming. But that process, a necessary one, can only begin with results like we see in Buchanan. The reactor’s owners have worked hard to stoke fear in the area; fear of increased rates, fear of increased carbon emissions, fear of power shortages. As the facility’s fate was sealed, one could expect anything from the industry, manifesting their own fear that the age of nuclear power is in the end game stage.
Indian Point 3 is closing. Let’s raise a glass to everyone who was brave and worked hard to make that happen. Let’s push renewables to their outermost boundaries. Every public works project. Every government office, school, college, hospital, train station, airport — you name it. Let’s not simply turn off nuclear power suppliers. Let’s turn on renewables in a way that will remind us, daily, what an awful idea nuclear energy was all along.